New Seafood Advice for Moms-To-Be and Breastfeeding Moms in the Works

Sometimes it takes nutrition policy a little while to catch up to the science. Today we are happy to report that decade-old seafood advice for pregnant and breastfeeding moms from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on its way to getting a much-needed update.

The 2004 version of the draft advice was widely misinterpreted as a warning—not good because fish is so rich in powerhouse pregnancy nutrients, including omega-3s! Now, FDA is working to clear the waters with newly-released draft seafood advice that clearly encourages expectant and new moms to eat 2-3 servings of fish each week for optimal baby brain development.

This draft advice is based on more than 110 studies that look at what happens when pregnant women eat fish—including both the good stuff like omega-3s and concerns about mercury. At the end of the day, it’s clear that pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat a variety of seafood 2-3 times a week, to help mom and baby meet needs for essential omega-3s without introducing concerns. For more information, check out  these reviews: WHO/FAO Joint Expert Consultation on the Risks and Benefits of Fish Consumption; USDA/DHHS 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans; Draft Report: A Quantitative Assessment of the Net Effects on Fetal Neurodevelopment from Eating Commercial Fish (As Measured by IQ and also by Early Age Verbal Development in Children).

While fish is packed with a number of good things for moms and babies like protein, iron, and B vitamins, seafood is really one of the only naturally-rich sources of omega-3s called DHA. DHA is a building block for baby’s developing brain—the omega-3s found primarily in seafood comprise more than half of a newborn baby’s brain. And, the amount of omega-3 DHA in a baby’s brain triples during the first three months of life.

For most pregnant women–who eat on average about half a serving of seafood a week–this advice means it’s time to quadruple the amount of fish they eat. That’s right, most pregnant and nursing women need to eat four times the amount of seafood they currently eat to meet nutrient needs.

So, how can moms-to-be fit plenty of fish in their diets? Try these easy tips:

  • Try frozen, canned or pouch fish, convenient options that are just as healthful as fresh seafood.
  • Take recipes you already know and replace the usual protein with fish. It’s as simple as turning beef burgers into salmon burgers, chicken tacos into tilapia tacos and cheese quesadillas into canned tuna quesadillas.
  • Try eating tuna or crab salad on whole wheat bread, pita or whole grain crackers with some of these creative and craveable mix-ins like:
    • Avocados
    • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
    • Diced apples, grapes, celery, carrots or jalapeno
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Dried fruit, like cherries or cranberries

For more easy and tasty seafood recipes, check out this meal planner and these sample menus.