The Best & Worst Fish for Pregnant Moms to Eat

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Stocking up your fridge while pregnant can be a hard task. Aside from battling the urge to eat everything in sight -- or, for the unlucky others, to throw up over everything in sight -- many expectant moms are extremely hesitant when it comes to enjoying certain foods, including fish, in fear it could harm the baby. Hopefully some of those worries can be put to rest, as the FDA released new guidelines on eating fish while pregnant that will give moms-to-be a boost in both omega-3 fatty acids and confidence while shopping at the grocery store.

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While the new advice from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does reiterate previous recommendations for pregnant women to consume 8 to 12 ounces of fish low in mercury each week, the FDA has created a chart that breaks down what types of fish are good for expectant moms, which hopefully will demystify concerns about eating fish while pregnant and empower more pregnant women to choose the right items while shopping.

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As it stands, half of pregnant women consume less than two ounces of fish per week. That's remarkably lower than the recommended amount (remember, 8 to 12 ounces a week is ideal), and as a result, they are missing out on the many nutritional benefits that fish provides. 

In an effort to encourage moms-to-be to make more room for fish on their plates, the FDA has created this easy-to-follow chart that puts 62 fish into the following categories: "best choices" (two to three servings per week), "good choices" (one serving a week), and "fish to avoid" that aren't recommended for consumption due to high levels of mercury. The FDA is urging all grocery stores and retailers to post this chart in clear view so shoppers (i.e., moms-to-be who are hangry) can make more informed decisions about the best fish to buy.

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Here's a breakdown of the categories:

"Best Choices" (two to three servings per week): anchovy, Atlantic croacker, Atlantic mackerel, black sea bass, butterfish, catfish, clam, cod, crab, crawfish, flounder, haddock, hake, herring, lobster (American and spiny), mullet, oyster, Pacific chub mackerel, perch (freshwater and ocean), pickerel, plaice, pollock, salmon, sardine, scallop, shad, shrimp, skate, smelt, sole, squid, tilapia, trout (freshwater), tuna (canned light; includes skipjack), whitefish, whiting

"Good choices" (one serving per week): bluefish, buffalofish, carp, Chilean sea bass/Patagonian toothfish, grouper, halibut, mahi mahi/dolphinfish, monkfish, rockfish, sablefish, sheepshead, snapper, Spanish mackerel, striped bass (ocean), tilefish (Atlantic Ocean), tuna (albacore/white tuna, canned and fresh/frozen), tuna (yellowfin), weakfish/seatrout, white croaker/Pacific croaker

"Choices to Avoid" (too high in mercury): king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish (Gulf of Mexico), tuna (bigeye)

What's interesting to note is that close to 90 percent of the fish eaten in the US are in the "best choices" category, which should make expectant moms breathe a sigh of relief.

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Having this chart will likely be a godsend for so many pregnant women who've felt too nervous to eat fish. And what's even more awesome about this resource is that it's also intended for breastfeeding mothers and parents of small children, as the FDA notes these groups should also enjoy the nutritional and developmental benefits of eating fish. (The FDA advises young kids should only eat fish once or twice a week, so please speak to your pediatrician about serving sizes and recommendations specific to your child.)

Feel the sudden urge to add fish to your weekly dinner menus? Have at it! (So long as the fish you want to eat got the thumbs-up, of course.)

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