Can I Eat Fish Sticks While Pregnant? Here’s What You Need to Know

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When you’re pregnant, it’s important to be cautious of what you eat. Fish sticks are a popular food item that many people enjoy, but as a soon-to-be mom, you may be wondering if they’re safe for consumption during pregnancy.

Seafood is generally considered a healthy addition to your diet while pregnant due to its high protein content and the omega-3 fatty acids that support fetal development. However, there’s also the risk of consuming mercury-contaminated fish, which can cause harm to your growing baby.

“The FDA advises pregnant women to avoid certain types of fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.”

Fish sticks are typically made from white fish such as cod or pollock, but they can also contain other fish species. Additionally, the breading used in some fish stick recipes may include ingredients that aren’t recommended during pregnancy.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about eating fish sticks while pregnant. We’ll discuss the risks and benefits of consuming seafood during pregnancy, guidelines on how much fish to consume per week, and tips on choosing safer options when craving a fishy meal.

If you’re a fan of fish sticks and want to ensure a healthy pregnancy, keep reading to find out what you need to know!

Benefits of Eating Fish During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a crucial period when the mother needs to take care of both her health and the baby’s development. Food habits play an integral part during this stage, as it can affect the growth and well-being of the fetus. The question arises frequently among pregnant women: Can I eat fish sticks while pregnant? While some types of fish are unsafe due to their high mercury content, several species provide essential nutrients beneficial for fetal growth and maternal health.

Improved Brain Development in Fetus

Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, which are vital for the development of the fetal brain and nervous system. A 2018 study published by JAMA Network Open found that children born to mothers who consumed more than two servings of fish per week had higher cognitive scores and fewer symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at age 10 years.

“Studies have shown that consuming sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy has long-lasting positive effects on offspring neurological development.” -Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez

Eating low-mercury fish such as salmon or trout twice a week can help boost the baby’s IQ level and promote healthy brain functioning. It can also reduce behavioral problems like anxiety disorders and depression in children. Therefore, including certain types of fish in the diet could ensure optimum brain development in the fetus, leading to better mental outcomes in adulthood.

Reduced Risk of Preterm Delivery

Preterm delivery, defined as giving birth before gestational week 37, accounts for approximately ten percent of all births worldwide and contributes to neonatal mortality and morbidity. However, studies show that incorporating seafood in regular meals can decrease the risk of preterm labor and premature birth.

A systematic review conducted by Cochrane Database in 2019 analyzed the effects of omega-3 supplements on pregnancy duration. It concluded that women who took daily doses of omega-3 fatty acids had a reduced risk of preterm delivery (before week 37) compared to those who did not consume them. Moreover, they found that taking supplements after 12 weeks of gestation was more effective than before.

“Omega-3 fatty acids have moderate but consistent benefits for lengthening gestation.” -Dr. William H. Barth Jr.

Consuming fish that are low in mercury content can aid in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and delivering a full-term baby. It is recommended to limit high-mercury fish intake during this period as it could increase the chances of preterm delivery or fetal harm.

Lowered Risk of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) affects up to 15% of new mothers globally and presents itself as feelings of sadness, anxiety, fatigue, and irritability, which may interfere with daily activities. However, certain food choices can minimize the risk of PPD and help promote better well-being overall.

Fish consumption has been associated with lower symptoms of depression and improved mood regulation due to its natural properties. A recent study published in JAMA Network Open revealed that women who regularly ate at least two servings of oily fish per week were less likely to experience postpartum depression than those who ate infrequently.

“Fish contains vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium, protein, and iodine—all nutrients that promote physical and mental health.” -Dr. Lauren Savoie

The anti-inflammatory components present in fish make it an excellent dietary supplement to maintain emotional stability and lift one’s spirits. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, play a crucial role in regulating mood and reducing stress levels, which are beneficial for the mother’s mental health during this critical phase.

Eating certain types of fish can provide several benefits during pregnancy, such as improved brain development in the fetus, reduced risk of preterm delivery, and lowered risk of postpartum depression. Though it is vital to consume only low-mercury options, incorporating seafood into one’s diet can prove advantageous for maintaining optimal maternal and fetal well-being throughout the gestational period.

Risks of Eating Fish During Pregnancy

High Levels of Mercury in Certain Fish

One of the primary concerns with consuming fish during pregnancy is exposure to high levels of mercury. Certain types of larger and predatory fish have higher concentrations of mercury, which can be harmful to the developing fetus. According to the FDA, pregnant women should avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish due to their high levels of mercury content.

This does not mean that all fish should be avoided during pregnancy. In fact, it is recommended that pregnant women eat 8-12 ounces of low-mercury fish per week as part of a healthy diet. Low-mercury fish include salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, and catfish.

“Pregnant women need omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), for fetal brain development. The best way to obtain these nutrients is through consuming low-mercury fish like salmon,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Gorin.

Risk of Foodborne Illness

The other major risk associated with eating fish during pregnancy is the potential for foodborne illness. Raw or undercooked seafood can contain harmful bacteria and viruses, such as listeria and toxoplasmosis, which can cause serious health problems in both the mother and baby. It is important for pregnant women to properly cook all seafood to a safe internal temperature to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Pregnant women should also avoid raw sushi and oysters, as well as smoked seafood that has not been cooked before consumption. Canned seafood, on the other hand, is generally safe to eat during pregnancy as long as it is heated properly before eating.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Pregnancy changes your immune system, making you more susceptible to foodborne illnesses. That means that if you eat contaminated food, you’re more likely to get sick than someone who isn’t pregnant.”

It is important for pregnant women to be mindful of their fish consumption in order to minimize any potential risks to themselves and their developing babies. By choosing low-mercury fish and properly cooking all seafood, pregnant women can safely enjoy the numerous health benefits that come with consuming this nutritious protein source.

What to Look for When Choosing Fish Sticks

Fish sticks are a popular convenience food that can be found in most grocery stores. However, many people may wonder if it is safe to eat fish sticks whilst pregnant due to concerns over mercury levels and sustainability. In this article, we will explore what to look for when choosing fish sticks that are safe for both you and the environment.

Low Mercury Fish

Methylmercury is a toxin found in seafood that can harm the developing nervous system of unborn babies. Therefore, pregnant women need to be cautious about consuming fish that contains high levels of mercury. According to the FDA, some choices of low-mercury fish include salmon, cod, tilapia, shrimp and canned light tuna.

When purchasing fish sticks, check the ingredients list and packaging label for the type of fish used. It’s important to avoid fish sticks made from high-mercury fish such as swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Instead, choose products that contain low-mercury fish species like pollock or hake.

Sustainable Fishing Practices

The demand for seafood has led to unsustainable fishing practices which have resulted in declining fish populations and damage to marine ecosystems. As consumers, we can play our part in protecting the ocean by choosing products that come from sustainable fisheries.

To determine whether fish sticks are sustainably sourced, look for labels certifying that they meet standards for responsible fishing practices, such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certifications. These certifications indicate that the product comes from a fishery that meets specific environmental and social criteria, including restrictions on overfishing and pollution prevention measures.

Minimal Processing and Additives

Processed foods often contain additives such as salt, sugar, and artificial preservatives which can be harmful to our health if consumed in excess. Fish sticks are no exception, with some products containing high levels of sodium and unhealthy additives.

When choosing fish sticks, look for products that have minimal processing and additives. Opt for those that are baked instead of fried or breaded with whole grains instead of refined white flour. It’s also advisable to read the nutrition label and watch out for any excessive amounts of sodium or added sugars.

“Eating a balanced diet including fish at least twice per week is part of a healthy eating pattern associated with reduced risk of heart disease,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD. “That being said, it’s important to choose lower-mercury options such as salmon, cod or tilapia when pregnant.”

Pregnant women can safely consume fish sticks if they choose products that are made from low-mercury fish species and come from sustainable fisheries. Also, make sure you choose fish sticks that are minimally processed with whole-grain breading and free from excessive additives like sodium or sugar. By doing so, you can enjoy this convenient and tasty seafood option while supporting environmental sustainability and your health.

How to Safely Cook Fish Sticks While Pregnant

If you’re pregnant, you might be wondering if eating fish sticks is safe for you and your growing baby. The answer is yes! Fish sticks can be a healthy choice for pregnant women because they are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Cook to an Internal Temperature of 145°F

When cooking fish sticks, it’s important to make sure they reach an internal temperature of 145°F. This will ensure that any harmful bacteria or parasites are killed. You can use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the fish sticks.

If you don’t have a thermometer, look for other signs that the fish sticks are fully cooked. They should be golden brown on the outside and flaky on the inside. You can also cut into one of the fish sticks to see if it’s cooked through.

It’s important to note that some types of fish can contain higher levels of mercury, which can be harmful to your baby’s development. However, most fish sticks are made from low-mercury fish like cod or pollock. If you’re unsure about the type of fish in your fish sticks, check the label or ask your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria from one food item gets onto another food item, potentially causing foodborne illness. When preparing fish sticks, it’s important to take steps to avoid cross-contamination with other foods in your kitchen.

Wash your hands before and after handling raw fish sticks, and use separate cutting boards and utensils to prevent mixing with other ingredients. Make sure to properly clean and sanitize any surfaces or equipment that come into contact with the raw fish sticks.

When storing leftovers, put them in an airtight container and refrigerate within two hours of cooking. Leftover fish sticks should be eaten within three to four days or thrown out.

By following these tips, you can safely enjoy fish sticks while pregnant. They’re a delicious way to get essential nutrients for both you and your baby!

Other Safe Seafood Options for Pregnant Women


If you’re looking for a delicious seafood option that is also safe during pregnancy, look no further than shrimp. Shrimp is low in mercury and high in protein, making it a great choice for expectant mothers. It’s also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improved brain development in babies.


Another popular seafood option for pregnant women is salmon. Not only is salmon low in mercury, but it’s also loaded with beneficial nutrients like vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, studies suggest that omega-3s may help reduce the risk of preterm labor and postpartum depression in expectant mothers.

Canned Light Tuna

Tuna can be a healthy addition to your diet during pregnancy, as long as you choose the right type. Opt for canned light tuna over albacore or yellowfin, as these are typically lower in mercury. While processed fish like fish sticks may contain added ingredients like salt and oil, canned light tuna is a simple and versatile protein source.


Sardines may not be the most popular seafood choice, but they pack a major nutritional punch. These little fish are rich in calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, sardines are generally low in mercury since they are smaller fish. Try adding them to salads, pastas, or sandwiches for a boost of flavor and nutrition.

“Fish is a good source of lean protein and provides essential vitamins and minerals, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for fetal growth and development.” -American Pregnancy Association

Fish can be a healthy addition to your pregnancy diet as long as you choose the right types and limit your intake of mercury. In addition to shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, and sardines, other safe seafood options include catfish, tilapia, and cod. Just remember to cook your fish thoroughly and avoid raw or undercooked varieties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I safely eat fish sticks while pregnant?

Yes, you can safely eat fish sticks while pregnant as long as they are cooked properly. It is important to choose fish sticks made from safe fish and to check the label for any added ingredients that may be harmful. It is also recommended to limit your consumption of fish sticks and other seafood to avoid potential risks.

What are the risks associated with consuming fish sticks during pregnancy?

The main risk associated with consuming fish sticks during pregnancy is exposure to mercury, which can harm the developing fetus. High levels of mercury can also cause neurological damage and affect the baby’s cognitive and motor skills. Additionally, fish sticks may contain added ingredients that can be harmful or trigger allergies.

What types of fish are typically used in fish sticks and are they safe for pregnant women?

The most common types of fish used in fish sticks are cod, haddock, and pollock. These fish are generally considered safe for pregnant women when consumed in moderation. However, it is important to avoid fish with high levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.

How often can I consume fish sticks during pregnancy?

It is recommended that pregnant women consume no more than 2-3 servings of fish per week, including fish sticks. This is to limit exposure to mercury and other potential contaminants. It is also important to vary the types of fish consumed to ensure a balanced diet and to avoid consuming too much of one type of fish.

Are there any benefits to eating fish sticks while pregnant?

Yes, there are benefits to eating fish sticks while pregnant. Fish is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients that are important for fetal development. Omega-3 fatty acids in particular are important for brain development and may help prevent preterm labor and postpartum depression.

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