Eating fish during pregnancy provides important nutrients for you and your developing baby. However, you need to be mindful of potential contaminants in some types of fish. So can you enjoy fish sticks while pregnant?
With some key considerations, eating fish sticks in moderation can be part of a healthy pregnancy diet. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about eating fish sticks when pregnant.
Key Takeaways: Eating Fish Sticks While Pregnant
- Fish are an excellent source of protein and omega-3s that support fetal brain and eye development. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 8-12 ounces of low mercury fish per week during pregnancy.
- Fish sticks are made from fish fillets, usually pollock or haddock. These are low mercury fish that are safe in the FDA recommended amounts.
- Check fish stick ingredients and avoid those listing high mercury fish like tuna, tilefish, shark, or swordfish.
- Opt for fish sticks made from wild-caught fish over farmed. Wild fish contain more omega-3s and less contaminants.
- Eat a variety of fish, including those lower in mercury like salmon, tilapia, shrimp, anchovies, sardines, and canned light tuna.
- Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145°F to kill any potential parasites, viruses, or bacteria present.
- Limit albacore (“white”) tuna to 6 ounces weekly and avoid raw fish due to infection risk.
The Benefits of Eating Fish During Pregnancy
Fish and other seafood provide key nutrients that can nourish you and your growing baby during pregnancy. Here are some of the top benefits:
Excellent Source of Protein
Fish are an lean, high-quality source of protein. Getting adequate protein is crucial during pregnancy to support fetal growth and development as well as maternal health. Fish sticks can help you meet the increased protein needs during pregnancy.
Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s like DHA and EPA found primarily in fatty fish offer important benefits for pregnant women. They support fetal brain, nerve, and eye development and may lower the risk of preterm birth. Most people don’t get enough omega-3s, so eating fish like salmon or fish sticks made with fatty fish can help increase intake.
Provide Vitamins and Minerals
Fish provide many vitamins and minerals that pregnant women need more of like vitamin D, selenium, iodine, calcium, iron, and zinc. Fish sticks made from fish like pollock are a source of these vital nutrients.
Associated with Healthy Birth Weight
Some research indicates that eating fish regularly during pregnancy, especially oily types like salmon, is associated with lower risk of low birth weight or small for gestational age babies. Fish stick intake can help promote healthy fetal growth.
May Benefit Child Development
Consuming omega-3 rich fish during pregnancy and lactation may benefit children’s cognitive function, eye health, fine motor skills, and reduce risk of allergies and asthma based on some studies. More research is needed.
Fish Stick Ingredients and Nutrition Info
Fish sticks can be a quick, convenient way to get more fish in your diet during pregnancy. Here’s what’s typically in them and their nutritional value:
Fish sticks are made from fish fillets that have been formed together, battered, breaded and frozen. Common fish types used are:
- Pollock: mild white fish, popular choice for fish sticks
- Haddock: white, flaky fish similar to cod
- Tilapia: mild, affordable farmed white fish
- Cod: versatile white fish with delicate flavor
- Halibut: firmer white fish, costlier
- Salmon: fatty fish with orange hue
The fillets are combined with starch or flour, eggs, seasoning, and breading. Be sure to check the ingredients list and avoid any fish sticks containing high mercury fish.
The nutrition of fish sticks can vary based on the fish type used and preparation method. A typical 3-4 ounce serving of baked fish sticks provides:
- 120-160 calories
- 15-25 g protein
- 2-10 g fat (healthy omega-3s in fatty fish)
- 10-15 g carbs
- 20% DV selenium
- 10% DV calcium
- 8% DV iron
- 6% DV vitamin B12
- 4% DV vitamin D
So fish sticks offer protein, omega-3s (if made with fatty fish), and various vitamins/minerals. Amounts are for baked fish sticks, deep fried would be higher in calories and fat.
Mercury Levels in Different Fish
When eating seafood during pregnancy it’s important to choose fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, a heavy metal that can harm fetal development. Some fish have naturally higher mercury levels based on their biology and diet.
Here are the mercury levels of common fish types:
Low Mercury Fish
- Canned light tuna
Moderate Mercury Fish
- Canned albacore tuna
High Mercury Fish
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Bigeye tuna
Many fish sticks are made from low mercury fish like pollock, haddock, or cod. But always inspect the ingredients list to ensure they don’t contain any high mercury fish, especially for store-bought frozen varieties.
FDA Fish Consumption Advice While Pregnant
The FDA provides guidelines on how much fish is safe to eat during pregnancy based on mercury content:
- 8-12 ounces per week of a variety of low mercury fish. So this is the recommended amount of fish sticks and other low mercury fish to eat.
- You can safely consume 6 ounces per week of albacore tuna. It’s moderate mercury but still okay in moderation.
- Avoid tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel due to their very high mercury levels. Also don’t eat any raw fish due to infection risk.
Following this advice allows you to gain the benefits of fish intake while limiting mercury exposure. The omega-3s and other nutrients far outweigh the minimal mercury risk of fish like pollock or salmon.
Farmed vs Wild-Caught Fish Sticks
You’ll also want to consider whether the fish used in fish sticks is farmed or wild-caught. Here’s how they compare:
Wild-Caught Fish Benefits
Fish that are caught in their natural habitats like salmon, pollock, or tuna offer some advantages:
- More omega-3s: Wild fish eat other fish and algae, boosting their omega-3 content.
- Less contaminants: They have lower levels of pollutants like PCBs, dioxins, and antibiotics.
- No artificial colors/additives: Farmed fish are sometimes fed artificial pigments to achieve a certain look.
So wild-caught fish provide more natural nutrition for pregnancy. But they are more expensive and some types are overfished.
Farmed Fish Benefits
Fish raised in regulated aquaculture systems offer their own pros:
- Less likely to contain mercury and other toxins
- Available year round at lower cost
- Some provide omega-3s if fed fish oils
- Have a lower carbon footprint when responsibly raised
So with good oversight and management, farmed fish like tilapia can also be a sustainable choice. Look for aquaculture certifications.
When purchasing fish sticks, opt for wild-caught versions if you can find them, especially those made with salmon or pollock. But both farmed and wild fish can be healthy options when following fish consumption guidelines.
Cooking Fish Sticks Thoroughly
No matter the source, it’s important to cook fish thoroughly when pregnant to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Follow these tips:
- Cook fish sticks until the flesh is opaque throughout and separates easily with a fork.
- Fish should reach an internal temperature of 145°F to kill potential parasites, bacteria or viruses.
- Frozen fish sticks just need thorough heating since the freezing process kills parasites. But cook refrigerated fish sticks thoroughly.
- Oven-bake, pan fry, or air fry instead of microwaving to ensure even cooking. Microwaving can create cold spots.
- Discard any leftovers after 3-4 days. Don’t reheat fish sticks more than once.
Proper cooking provides protection against many contaminants and helps fish sticks be a healthy part of your pregnancy diet.
Top Pregnancy-Friendly Fish Stick Recipe Ideas
Incorporating fish sticks into quick, balanced meals is easy with recipes like these:
Baked Fish Sticks Tacos
Bake or air fry fish sticks until hot and flaky. Serve in warm corn tortillas or lettuce wraps topped with Fresh pico de gallo, avocado, and Greek yogurt lime crema. Sweet potato fries on the side make it complete.
Fish Stick Sandwiches
Enjoy fish sticks on whole grain bread, buns, or bagels topped with tartar sauce or Greek yogurt dill sauce and shredded lettuce for crunch. Have with soup or salad.
Fish Stick Sheet Pan Meals
Bake fish sticks with seasoned veggies like brussels sprouts, broccoli, and potatoes or carrots on a sheet pan. Easy 30-minute meal.
Fish Sticks with Quinoa Pilaf
Heat up fish sticks and pair with quinoa cooked in broth and mixed with sauteed spinach, tomatoes, peas, and Greek feta cheese.
Fish Stick Banh Mi
For a Vietnamese sandwich, place fish sticks in a split baguette with pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and sriracha mayo.
So get creative with healthy toppings, sides, and global flavors! Fish sticks can definitely be pregnancy-friendly.
Top Tips for Eating Fish Sticks While Pregnant
Follow this advice for safely enjoying fish sticks during pregnancy:
- Stick to fish sticks made with low mercury fish like pollock, cod, or salmon in recommended amounts.
- Opt for wild-caught over farmed when possible for more omega-3s.
- Cook fish sticks thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145°F.
- Eat a variety of low mercury fish like canned light tuna, tilapia, and shrimp.
- Limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week due to moderate mercury.
- Check labels and avoid fish sticks listing fish high in mercury like tuna, swordfish, shark.
- Don’t eat any raw fish due to the risk of parasitic infections. Stick to cooked fish.
- Practice good food safety and consume leftover fish sticks within 3-4 days.
Following this practical guidance allows you to make fish sticks part of a healthy, well-rounded pregnancy diet that provides benefits for you and baby!
Frequently Asked Questions about Fish Sticks and Pregnancy
Q: Are frozen fish sticks safe to eat when pregnant?
Frozen fish sticks from reputable brands and stores are generally safe for pregnancy as long as they are fully cooked. The freezing process kills any parasites and bacteria. Just be sure to inspect the ingredients list and confirm they don’t contain high mercury fish before purchasing. Cook frozen fish sticks thoroughly until hot and flaky.
Q: Can you overeat fish sticks while pregnant?
It is possible to overdo it on fish sticks, so stick within the recommended weekly amounts of low mercury fish, which is 8-12 ounces. Eating fish sticks or other low mercury fish more than this is not necessary and could increase mercury exposure.
Q: What are the best fish for fish sticks?
The best and safest fish for fish sticks during pregnancy are low mercury options like pollock, cod, haddock, tilapia, or salmon. All provide lean protein, healthy fats, and vitamins/minerals. Just check labels and avoid fish sticks containing high mercury fish like tuna, swordfish, or mackerel.
Q: Are fish sticks healthy in pregnancy?
Fish sticks can be a healthy part of your pregnancy diet because they provide beneficial protein, omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals. Just be mindful of the ingredients, mercury levels of fish used, choose wild over farmed when possible, and cook thoroughly. Enjoy as part of an overall balanced diet.
Q: Can you microwave fish sticks while pregnant?
Microwaving fish sticks is not recommended during pregnancy as it can create cold spots where bacteria could survive. Oven-baking, pan frying, or air frying fish sticks ensures even cooking to a safe internal temperature. If reheating fish sticks, oven-bake or pan fry them instead of microwaving.
The Takeaway on Fish Sticks and Pregnancy
During pregnancy you and your growing baby benefit from getting more fish in your diet due to the protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals it provides. Fish sticks made from low mercury fish like pollock, tilapia, or salmon can be a healthy option when consumed in recommended amounts.
Opt for wild-caught fish sticks when possible and always cook thoroughly to 145°F. Pair fish sticks with nutritious sides and top with veggies or sauces to add flavor. Limit high mercury fish like albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week and avoid raw fish.
By following the latest dietary advice, you can safely enjoy fish sticks as part of balanced pregnancy nutrition that nourishes you and baby!