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

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During pregnancy, women often have to be more cautious with the food they eat as it affects their health and that of their unborn child. One such concern is whether or not eating fish sticks during pregnancy is safe.

Fish sticks are a common and convenient food item found in many households. They are made by coating small pieces of whitefish in bread crumbs and then frying them until crispy. While they may seem harmless, pregnant women should be aware of certain things before indulging in this popular dish.

“Choosing the right kind of fish while pregnant can help ensure your baby develops properly. Consuming mercury-rich seafood like tuna and swordfish can lead to developmental issues.”

The type of fish used in fish sticks contains varying levels of mercury which can negatively impact fetal development. Moreover, how they’re cooked also matters as deep-frying adds extra fat and calories which isn’t ideal for expectant mothers who need to maintain a healthy diet.

In this post, we will take a closer look at the safety of eating fish sticks while pregnant. We’ll explore what nutrients and potential risks are associated with consuming them and provide some helpful alternatives if you decide to skip out on them altogether.

Benefits of Eating Fish During Pregnancy

Rich Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish is known to be an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for the development and growth of the fetus. These healthy fats help in building the cell membranes in the brain and nervous system, reducing inflammation, and improving vision.

In addition, omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial in preventing mood disorders such as postpartum depression during and after pregnancy. According to a study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who consume fish regularly throughout their pregnancy have 25% less risk of experiencing symptoms of depression compared to those who don’t consume fish.

Some of the best varieties of fish that you can safely enjoy during pregnancy include salmon, canned light tuna, sardines, tilapia, shrimp, pollock, cod, catfish, and trout. Be sure to avoid high-mercury species such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish as these can negatively impact fetal development.

Boosts Brain Development in the Fetus

The human brain becomes fully developed by the age of three years old, with most major structures already present in late pregnancy. Consuming fish while pregnant helps boost optimal brain function and cognitive development in the fetus due to its richness in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

DHA is a type of long-chain fatty acid that plays an integral role in the normal functioning of the brain and nerves. It is largely obtained through diet, particularly fish consumption like salmon and tuna.

“Research shows that babies born to women who ate more fish during pregnancy had better motor and communication skills at eight months than those whose mothers ate no fish,” says Dr. Edward R. Newton, obstetrician-gynecologist.

Lowers Risk of Preterm Birth and Preeclampsia

Preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation. It is one of the leading causes of infant mortality in the world as these babies are not yet fully developed. Research shows that pregnant women who eat fish have lower rates of preterm labor than those who don’t consume it.

Preeclampsia is a dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and damage to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. A study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who consumed fish weekly had an almost 40% decreased likelihood of developing this condition compared to those who didn’t eat fish at all.

Improves Maternal Mental Health

Pregnancy can be physically and emotionally challenging for many women, especially first-time mothers. Nutrient-rich foods like fish help regulate mood and reduce anxiety and depression during pregnancy.

“The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish—and even in fish oil supplements—have properties that may help support good mental health,” according to registered dietitian Trista Best.

Furthermore, incorporating fish into your regular diet has been shown to improve sleep quality, increase energy levels, decrease inflammation throughout the body, and regulate hormonal balance, ultimately leading to a healthy and happy pregnancy.

Consuming fish while pregnant provides numerous benefits for both the mother and baby’s health. However, it should be done safely by selecting low-mercury options and avoiding high-risk varieties. Always consult with your healthcare provider before making any significant dietary changes to ensure the safety and well-being of you and your unborn child.

Potential Risks of Eating Fish Sticks While Pregnant

For pregnant women, consuming a healthy and balanced diet is essential. It not only ensures their well-being but also contributes to the health and development of their growing baby. Fish sticks are a popular snack, but can they be consumed during pregnancy? Let’s explore the potential risks associated with eating fish sticks while pregnant.

High Sodium Content

Fish sticks contain high amounts of sodium, which can increase blood pressure levels. For pregnant women, high blood pressure can lead to complications such as preeclampsia. Additionally, consuming food that has a high salt content can cause water retention in the body, further increasing the risk of having high blood pressure. Therefore, it’s best for pregnant women to limit their intake of salty foods, including fish sticks.

“A study shows that prenatal exposure to a high-salt diet may contribute to abnormal development of blood vessels in the placenta” – American Heart Association

Presence of Mercury and PCBs

Fish sticks are usually made from different types of fish, some containing higher levels of mercury and PCBs than others. Mercury can damage the nervous system of a developing fetus, leading to developmental delays and impaired cognitive function. Ingesting PCBs, on the other hand, can result in skin rashes and immune system dysfunction in newborns. Health experts recommend avoiding certain types of fish that contain high levels of these toxic substances or limiting one’s consumption to no more than two servings per week. However, determining the levels of mercury and PCBs in fish sticks can be challenging due to variations in manufacturing processes and ingredients used.

“Large predators such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish contain high concentrations of mercury” – Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Risk of Food Poisoning

Just like any other food, fish sticks can harbor harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to such infections due to the changes in their immune system during pregnancy. Contrary to popular belief, cooking fish sticks thoroughly does not guarantee the elimination of all harmful pathogens. Therefore, it’s crucial for pregnant women to follow proper food safety measures when handling and preparing fish sticks.

“Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that is found in some ready-to-eat foods including deli meats and hot dogs, is known to present risks to fetuses” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

May Contain Additives and Preservatives

Fish sticks often contain various additives and preservatives that improve their taste, quality, and shelf-life. Some common additives include monosodium glutamate (MSG), which may trigger migraines and digestive problems in some people, and sodium tripolyphosphate, a chemical that enhances water retention. Other added ingredients, such as fillers, binders, and enhancers, may also be present in fish sticks. While these substances pose no direct harm to pregnant women or their growing baby, they do raise concerns about the overall nutritional value of the food. Consuming processed and highly refined foods regularly can lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor maternal health outcomes.

“While sodium phosphates significantly increase the moisture content of meat products, its consumption in excessive quantities can increase the risk of osteoporosis” – Journal of Health Science

Consuming fish sticks while pregnant may pose potential risks to both the mother and her developing fetus. Pregnant women should consult with their doctor or a registered dietitian before incorporating fish sticks into their diet and opt for healthier and safer seafood options such as salmon, tuna, and shrimp, which are rich in essential nutrients and low in environmental contaminants.

Safe Fish Options for Pregnant Women

Fish is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids that benefit your overall health. However, if you’re pregnant, you need to be cautious about the types of fish you eat due to their potential mercury content. High levels of mercury can harm your baby’s developing brain and nervous system.

In general, it’s recommended that pregnant women consume 8 –12 ounces (about two average meals) per week of a variety of seafood low in mercury. Here are some safe fish options:


Salmon is an excellent choice as a part of a healthy diet for expecting mothers. It contains low levels of methylmercury, which makes it safe to include in your diet during pregnancy. Additionally, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential for fetal development and have been linked to improved cognitive function later in life.

“Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Eating Fish Safely” – The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


Another great option for pregnant women is rainbow trout. Rainbow trout has less than a quarter of the amount of mercury found in canned white tuna. Canned or fresh, it’s a tasty addition to any meal. Trout is high in vitamins A, D, and E with minerals such as zinc, calcium, iodine and iron making this fish nutritionally rich!

“Which Fish Are Safe to Eat?” – March of Dimes


Don’t underestimate the tiny sardine! These small fish pack a big nutritional punch with high levels of vitamin D, omega-3s, calcium, and protein while also being very low in mercury. They work well as a snack or added to your favorite salad.

“Safety Advice about Eating Fish for Pregnant Women” – NHS (National Health Service)
  • When buying fish, choose lean fillets
  • Avoid large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish which have higher levels of mercury
  • Cook fish thoroughly until it’s flaky throughout

Incorporating safe fish options into your diet is important during pregnancy to provide the necessary nutrients for fetal development while avoiding any potential harm from consuming high levels of mercury found in certain types of fish. Follow these guidelines, consult with your doctor and enjoy a healthy pregnancy!

How to Properly Prepare Fish Sticks During Pregnancy

When it comes to eating fish while pregnant, there are certain precautions you should take since some types of fish contain high levels of mercury that can be harmful to the developing fetus. However, fish sticks made from low-mercury fish such as cod or pollock can be a tasty and convenient way to incorporate seafood into your diet during pregnancy.

Bake Instead of Fry

Frying fish sticks may result in a crispier texture but it also adds unnecessary calories and unhealthy fats to your meal. Baking the fish sticks is a healthier cooking method which preserves more of the nutrients in the fish, making it an excellent alternative for pregnant women who want to maintain a balanced diet. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C), line the baking tray with parchment paper, place the frozen fish sticks on the tray, and bake them between 15 to 20 minutes depending on their size until golden brown.

Choose Low-Sodium and Unbreaded Options

The breading and seasonings on various brands of fish sticks usually increase the sodium content, so look for options with lower sodium per serving – preferably less than 300 mg. You can also buy unbreaded fish sticks if you crave more control over what goes into your dish when preparing it at home. Add your own seasoning blend like lemon pepper, garlic powder, or paprika for added flavor.

Avoid Eating Leftovers

Pregnant women are vulnerable to foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses found in contaminated foods. Consuming leftover fish sticks can put you at risk of ingesting dangerous toxins that have accumulated because of leaving the food out at room temperature, so avoid letting the fish sit out after cooking or reheating, and always consume it while it’s fresh.

Thoroughly Cook the Fish Sticks

Cooking fish to a proper internal temperature is crucial for food safety as well as retaining its nutritional value. Make sure that the temperature inside the thickest part of your cooked fish sticks reaches 145°F (63°C) before consuming them. Cooking the fish thoroughly helps destroy any potential bacteria, parasites, or other contaminants that may harm your developing child.

“Fish can be an important source of protein and other nutrients during pregnancy, but it’s essential to choose safe options and prepare them properly to avoid ingesting harmful toxins.” – American Pregnancy Association

While some types of fish should be avoided during pregnancy because they contain high levels of mercury, low-mercury fish like cod, pollock, tilapia, and salmon are safe to eat in moderation. Fish sticks made with these types of fish offer many benefits without compromising your health or your baby’s growth.

As long as you follow these guidelines, you can still indulge in your seafood cravings by preparing fish sticks at home that will provide you all the necessary nutrition and minimized risks. Eating healthy meals while pregnant ensures not only your optimal health but also your baby’s success in developing healthily.

Consulting with Your Doctor About Eating Fish During Pregnancy

Pregnancy comes with many questions, and one of the most common is whether or not it’s safe to eat fish. While fish can be a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, some types of fish may contain high levels of mercury or other harmful substances that could be dangerous for pregnant women.

Discuss Fish Consumption with Your Obstetrician

If you’re pregnant and wondering about your fish consumption, the best place to start is by talking to your obstetrician. They can help you understand the risks associated with various types of fish and make recommendations based on your individual health and dietary needs. It’s important to be open and honest with your doctor about what you’ve been eating to ensure they have all the information necessary to provide the best guidance.

Your obstetrician may recommend limiting your intake of certain types of fish during pregnancy, such as those that are high in mercury or contaminated with pollutants. They may also suggest incorporating other types of fish into your diet that are low in these potentially harmful substances, like salmon or tilapia.

Get Regular Prenatal Check-Ups

Regular prenatal check-ups are essential throughout pregnancy, but they can be especially important when it comes to monitoring your diet and overall health. During these appointments, your healthcare provider will monitor your weight gain, blood pressure, and other vital signs, as well as perform routine tests to ensure everything is progressing as it should be.

If you’re concerned about how much fish you can safely consume during pregnancy, be sure to bring this up at your appointment. Your doctor may want to increase the frequency of your appointments or provide additional testing to track your mercury levels if you’re consuming larger quantities of fish than recommended.

Follow Any Dietary Restrictions Provided by Your Doctor

If your doctor advises you to avoid certain types of fish while pregnant, it’s important to follow their guidance. While it may be tempting to indulge in a favorite seafood dish or sushi roll, sticking to the recommended guidelines will help ensure that you and your growing baby stay healthy.

In addition to avoiding specific types of fish, your obstetrician may also recommend taking a fish oil supplement if you’re not getting enough omega-3s in your diet. They can provide guidance on how much of these supplements are safe to take during pregnancy and make recommendations based on your individual needs.

“During pregnancy, aim for two servings of fatty fish per week to get all the omega-3 fatty acids you need.” – American Pregnancy Association

Eating fish sticks while pregnant falls under the larger umbrella of consuming fish during this time. As with any type of fish, it’s important to discuss their consumption with your healthcare provider. Whether or not it’s safe largely depends on the specific ingredients used and whether they contain high levels of mercury or other harmful substances.

To play it safe, stick to eating small amounts of low-mercury fish such as salmon, shrimp, tilapia, sardines, and catfish. And always remember to thoroughly cook any fish before eating it to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. With guidance from your healthcare provider and some common-sense precautions, enjoying fish in moderation during pregnancy can be a healthy part of your prenatal diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to eat fish sticks while pregnant?

Yes, it is generally safe to eat fish sticks while pregnant. However, pregnant women should be mindful of the type of fish used in the fish sticks and the frequency of consumption, as some fish may contain high levels of mercury which can harm the baby’s development.

What types of fish are commonly used in fish sticks?

Common types of fish used in fish sticks include cod, haddock, pollock, and tilapia. These fish are typically low in mercury and safe for pregnant women to consume in moderation.

Can eating fish sticks while pregnant affect the baby’s development?

Consuming fish sticks while pregnant in moderation is unlikely to affect the baby’s development. However, pregnant women should be cautious of consuming too much fish due to the risk of mercury exposure, which can harm the baby’s neurological development.

Are there any precautions I should take when eating fish sticks during pregnancy?

Pregnant women should limit their consumption of fish sticks to 2-3 servings per week, choose fish sticks made with low-mercury fish, and ensure that the fish is cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F to avoid foodborne illness.

What are some alternative options to fish sticks for pregnant women who want to consume seafood?

Pregnant women can safely consume a variety of seafood, including shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, and catfish. These options are low in mercury and provide essential nutrients for both the mother and baby.

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