- I Went Pescetarian and I’ll Never Go Back — Here’s How It Revolutionized My Life
- 1. I lost 20 pounds
- 2. I became much less anxious
- 3. I suddenly had way more energy
- 4. It made my skin and hair shinier than before
- 5. I learned how to feed my body what it needs
- 6. I discovered cultures who excel at eating healthy
- This is what all pescetarians want you to know
- Want to give it a try? Here’s how to get started
- I Ate a Pescatarian Diet for 14 Days and This Is What I Found
- Do pescatarians only eat seafood as a protein source?
- What do pescatarians eat?
- What are the benefits of a pescatarian diet?
- Are there any downfalls to the pescatarian diet?
- So, what did I notice from my pescatarian journey?
- What is the Pescatarian diet?
- What can you eat on the Pescatarian diet?
- Can you lose weight on the Pescatarian diet?
- A Pescatarian diet meal plan
- What are the benefits of a Pescatarian diet?
- What are the cons of a Pescatarian diet?
- What Happens To Your Body When You Go Pescatarian
- A Guide To Pescetarian Meal Prep For Weight Loss
- Why a Pescatarian Diet Can Assist Weight Loss
- Healthy Pescatarian Meal Prep Tips
- Create a Weekly Meal Plan
- We asked dietitian Emer Delaney for her view…
- What Is a Pescatarian Diet and Is It Healthy?
- The Different Kinds of Vegetarians
I Went Pescetarian and I’ll Never Go Back — Here’s How It Revolutionized My Life
Growing up, my dietary staples included any combination of bread, cheese, and chicken you could concoct. I shocked my friends and family when I decided to try and cut my staple food groups out of my diet and go full-on vegetarian.
As an active adult, I didn’t feel I could sacrifice the protein and energy that I’d been convinced meat gave me. My brother, six years into a pescetarian diet, dared me to try to source my protein from fish. It was this dare that changed both my diet and my life.
1. I lost 20 pounds
Pescetarians get to try tons of healthy new dishes. | Charles Brutlag/iStock/Getty Images
I noticed I was losing weight a few weeks into my switch. Seafood is a low-calorie, concentrated protein source which is exactly what your body needs to lose weight.
However, I soon realized it wasn’t just the fact that I’d replaced meat with fish, but what I chose to pair the fish with. I found that salmon and tuna tasted best on salads, wraps, and alongside vegetables. This was a sharp departure from the french fries and pasta I’d paired my hamburgers and chicken with in the past.
Next: Good for the body and mind
2. I became much less anxious
Your body will appreciate the boost in nutrients. | Gbh007/iStock/Getty Images
Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have proved effective in combating depression and anxiety. The NIH reported a significant inverse correlation between the intake of fish and depression.
Being able to understand how to healthily fuel my body actually helped my mindset. I felt the natural assistance that omega-3 acids were giving me and acquired a greater peace of mind.
Next: It gave me a boost!
3. I suddenly had way more energy
You’ll be enjoying light meals that won’t weigh you down. | DeeNida/iStock/Getty Images
In the beginning, I had to map out how I would source my protein and what would come from fish versus other food. Dairy, legumes, and vegetables served as additional protein sources. I noticed a spike in energy and found I had more stamina during workouts.
This energy came from eating plant-based proteins rather than falling victim to processed chicken and red meat, lunch meats, and various tuna and chicken salads.
Next: Two side effects I didn’t expect
4. It made my skin and hair shinier than before
You’ll notice an improvement in your hair’s health. | /iStock/Getty Images
Low-fat diets severely deprive your body of the nutrients it needs to grow healthy skin, hair, and nails. I noticed within weeks that my hair felt stronger and fuller and my skin shinier.
Omega-3s and fish oils are to thank for these improvements. The omega-3s in fish are the perfect type of healthy fat that nourishes your skin and hair without ruining your diet.
Next: It made me take notice.
5. I learned how to feed my body what it needs
Doing research on where your seafood comes from doesn’t have to be difficult. | LarisaBlinova/iStock/Getty Images
My largest concern with eating meat was how little I knew about how it was raised. Pescetarianism requires its own abundance of research, but I’ve found that I have an easier time finding options that are free of industrial pollutants (like mercury) and come from less pressured habitats.
Inquiring about what came in my meals at restaurants (chicken broth is a key ingredient to watch out for) also helped teach me about the different ingredients I put into my body. I needed to avoid any poultry and meat products. As a result, I ended up with a ton of information about what was in my food at restaurants and the grocery store.
Next: Who else is trying this diet?
6. I discovered cultures who excel at eating healthy
A fish dinner with an ocean view. | Santorines/iStock/Getty ImagesI soon became intrigued with countries and cultures that could be considered “pescetarian.” The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional recommendation that’s based on the dietary patterns of 1940s-1950s Greece and Southern Italy. This diet encourages moderate intakes of seafood and very low intakes of red meat and poultry.
The Japanese are known for their longevity of life — on average, nobody in the world lives longer than Japanese women. This is partially a result of the traditional Japanese diet, which consists of plants, fish, and vegetables. A study by the BMJ proved their diet plays a crucial role in life expectancy.
Next: How you can get started
This is what all pescetarians want you to know
Pescetarians get to choose from many delicious fish options. | Maria_Lapina/iStock/Getty Images
We know that the label sounds like a newfound religion. The definition of “pescetarian” is simple: a diet that consists of no other meat but fish. This means no poultry, red meat, or byproducts of the two.
Many people argue that you won’t get enough nutrition from a pescetarian diet, but this is far from true. Similar to vegetarians, pescetarians must pay more attention to where they get their protein from. Vegetables, fish, legumes, and fruit all have more than enough nutrients to satisfy your daily intake requirements if you prepare them in a healthy way.
Next: Interested? Here’s what you need to know.
Want to give it a try? Here’s how to get started
It’s time to give your diet a seaside upgrade. | JackF/iStock/Getty Images
When I first adopted a pescetarian diet I noticed all of the ways that sourcing my protein from fish was helping my mind and body. However, I had little scientific research to back up my claims. Janis Jibrin’s book The Pescetarian Plan proved a great tool for my dietary switch. Jibrin is the lead dietitian for TheBestLife.com, a diet and fitness site created by Oprah’s trainer Bob Greene. While her credentials are incredibly impressive, her realistic approach was what helped me to wholeheartedly adopt pescetarianism.
Wade Migan’s Pescetarian Diet is another great book for those considering pescetarianism. Consult your doctor or nutritionist before making any significant dietary changes to ensure they’re appropriate for your health concerns.
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I Ate a Pescatarian Diet for 14 Days and This Is What I Found
If you think there is something fishy about a pescatarian diet, you’re right.
By definition, a pescatarian (or pescetarian, with an e) is one who eats similar to a vegetarian diet, yet also includes seafood, but does not include red meat or poultry. Whether or not the pescatarian diet includes dairy or eggs varies by person; however, it is worth noting that most major vegetarian organizations, including The Vegetarian Society, do not recognize pescatarians as true vegetarians.
To clear up any confusion: a pescatarian is NOT a vegetarian, and a vegetarian is NOT a pescatarian.
Do pescatarians only eat seafood as a protein source?
Hardly. While most experts recommend seafood 2 – 3 times per week, pescatarians generally eat seafood up to once a day, along with other protein sources, such as tofu, edamame, yogurt, cheese, and eggs at other meals. Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are also exceptional protein sources.
I personally would also recommend supplementing a pescatarian diet with a protein shake, such as our BioTrust Low Carb, as all-natural sources of protein.
What do pescatarians eat?
Here is a quick breakdown of the pescatarian diet:
- Make at least 50 percent of your meal vegetables (or 50 percent fruit at breakfast).
- Add a little healthy fat, such as olive oil, nuts, or avocados, when sautéing vegetables or dressing salads.
- Fill one-fourth of your plate with high-quality protein.
- Enjoy one-half cup of whole grains and/or other starchy foods (like sweet or white potatoes) four or five times a day.
What are the benefits of a pescatarian diet?
For starters, I would argue that the pescatarian diet is kind of the best of both worlds. It is a happy medium between a plant-based diet and a Mediterranean diet that provides all of the essential micronutrients and macronutrients needed for optimal health, body composition, and performance.
If you have followed my articles for any length of time, you will notice I am not a huge fan of eliminating any one particular food group, unless of course you have a health concern or allergy/sensitivity that dictates otherwise.
The pescatarian diet is a little different in that while it does NOT include steak, chicken, or poultry, it does include fish, which technically is a meat, so there really isn’t an elimination of any whole food group.
In addition to this, a pescatarian diet has been shown to:
- Lower bad cholesterol
- Raise good cholesterol
- Support mental wellness
- Help manage body weight (by stabilizing blood sugar and increasing satiety)
- Reduce the risk for obesity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and cardiovascular disease
Are there any downfalls to the pescatarian diet?
If you are a red meat and potatoes kind of person, then you may not be too keen on the idea of going pescatarian; however, there are certainly some alternatives that will satisfy your hunger.
Because a pescatarian diet includes a high amount of seafood, there may be a higher risk of exposure to certain toxic chemicals, including mercury, lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). Reports have found that nearly half of the fish being sold in America today are actually less expensive, potentially harmful fish that have been deliberately mislabeled as a higher quality, more sought-after fish.
These cheaper substitutes are fed inferior food, which negatively affects their omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content and are frequently riddled with contaminants, toxins, and allergens, which can also cause potential health problems.
My recommendation would be to find a reputable source for obtaining your seafood, and if possible, shop local.
So, what did I notice from my pescatarian journey?
My regular diet consists of BioTrust Low Carb Protein shakes as well as MetaboGreens 45X as my supplements. I generally consume these as my morning meal replacements. On occasion, I will have a cup of black coffee, but I have been limiting those recently—not for any particular reason other than I have been so busy that by the time I get around to taking a sip, the coffee is cold, and I just put it aside. That combined with the fact that I have been consuming MetaboGreens first thing in the morning, which provides me with enough energy to get up and go, so I am not looking elsewhere for a boost.
My whole foods meals usually include a healthy balance of the following:
- Copious amounts of dark, leafy green vegetables and seasonal vegetables
- Quinoa, rice, beans, and tubers
- Grapefruit, various berries, avocados
- Chicken is my primary source of protein
- Seafood is my secondary source of protein
- Red meat is usually consumed once or maybe twice a week
- Pork is rarely in my diet, but it is not ruled out.
By implementing the pescatarian diet, I basically removed chicken as my primary source of protein and replaced that with seafood. I opted for fish, mainly, as I live in a coastal community where I can visit local fishermen bringing their fresh catch right from the ocean.
I decided to keep dairy and eggs out for this experiment, just because my regular diet does not typically include very much of these foods anyway, so it wasn’t really too important for me to add those in.
I also consume a TON of vegetables, so it wasn’t a far stretch for me to load up my plate with vibrant, colorful veggies along with some healthy fats.
My 14-day meal plan looked a little something like this:
To break my fast: MetaboGreens 45X mixed with 8 ounces water
Breakfast: Harvest Plant Based Protein Shake with 8 ounces water
Lunch: Heaping handful of raw spinach with grilled salmon (topped with avocado and a balsamic drizzle)
Snack: Bell pepper strips with hummus
Dinner: Shrimp lettuce wraps (faux tacos)
I generally included fish in at least one of my meals each day; however, sometimes seafood was consumed for both lunch and dinner. I had crab cakes, scallops, and shrimp several times. There are so many ways to prepare shrimp that you really can’t go wrong with this as a main ingredient. One of my favorites is to whip up some zoodles (zucchini noodles) and toss them in with lightly sautéed lemon and garlic shrimp. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
One thing I immediately noticed during this meal plan was that I was not experiencing any hunger or cravings throughout the day. I was very satiated and not looking through the cabinets for something to graze on mid-afternoon as I often found myself doing with my regular meal plan.
Another thing I noticed immediately was that I seemed to be more attentive and focused. For lack of a better way to put this, I found I was more present in my everyday life. I was able to complete more tasks at work, which allowed me to have more free time for other projects.
One thing worth noting is that I also lost 9 pounds in the 14 days I was consuming a pescatarian diet. Coming off the holidays, I had indulged a little bit more than I typically would on my regular diet, so maybe I had a few extra pounds to lose, but I certainly wasn’t looking to deprive myself or go on a strict diet to do so. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the extra couple of pounds I had put on quickly vanished along with a few more just by making a few tweaks to my regular meal plan.
I suppose it isn’t too shocking considering fish is high in protein but low in calories, which makes it an attractive option for dieters and folks who want to build lean muscle mass without increasing body fat.
I would recommend this type of meal plan for anyone who is looking to enjoy the nutritional and culinary rewards of seafood, as well as the omega-3 fats which markedly reduce triglyceride levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and metabolic disorders. Or if you are looking to take a break from red meat, poultry, or pork for yourself and/or the planet. Or perhaps you have been a vegetarian or a vegan and have felt limited in your diet and are looking for additional ways to optimize your protein intake. I found the experiment surprisingly easy, enjoyable, and effective.
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The Pescatarian diet is on the upswing as more and more of us turn to a diet free from meat and fewer animal products.
A Pescatarian diet is a red and white meat free diet, that includes fish recipes and seafood – as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Research suggests eating less meat is better for your health and can help you live longer. Avoiding red meat also has added environmental benefits, so more people than ever are limiting their meat intake and opting for the Pescatarian or even a vegan diet.
What is the Pescatarian diet?
The Pescatarian diet is a diet free from red meat, poultry and pork, but you are allowed to eat fish and seafood.
The word ‘pescatarian’ is a mix of the Italian word ‘pesce’ meaning fish, and the word vegetarianism. So, a Pescatarian diet includes lots of vegetarian recipes, but with the addition of fish. It is also very similar to the Mediterranean diet.
What can you eat on the Pescatarian diet?
Pescatarian’s can eat any kind of fish or seafood, including salmon, tuna, prawns, and lobster.
Pescatarian’s also can consume any vegetable, fruit, legume, potato, rice, pasta, bean, pulse and nut.
Like vegetarians, Pescatarian’s also eat dairy and eggs, including cheese, yoghurt and milk.
Why not try our fish with peas dish – a perfect light and easy dinner
Can you lose weight on the Pescatarian diet?
Strictly speaking, the plant-based diet is not designed to help you lose weight. However, plant-based diets can aid weight loss. You may see drastic weight loss results if you follow a diet such as the 3-day Military diet, or the 5:2 diet, however these diet plans are not meant for the longer.
Rather, the pescatarian diet promotes a sensible and healthy eating lifestyle. Though, you will be consuming far more vegetables than meat, and vegetables tend to have fewer calories and less fat. So, you’ll be eating a diet naturally lower in calories and fat intake.
Other tips to lose weight while on the pescatarian diet are avoiding frying your fish in oil, rather opt for healthier methods such as grilling or steaming your seafood.
A Pescatarian diet meal plan
If you are looking for inspiration for meat-free meals, we have put together some of our favourite pescatarian diet meals to get you started. They are cheap, simple and can be prepared in no time. The list includes creative curries, meat-free pasta bakes and delicious breakfast ideas.
Eggs Florentine with spinach and smoked salmon
Pancakes with strawberries and coconut cream
Sprouted amaranth porridge with grilled banana
Broccoli and salmon pasta
Carrot and butternut squash soup
Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 Goan fish curry
Spinach feta and olive frittata
One-pot tuna pasta puttanesca
Creamy spinach and haddock fillets with rice
Joe Wicks’ lentil Bolognese is a veggie twist on the classic spaghetti Bolognese, and it’s perfect for those who are trying to cut down their meat consumption
What are the benefits of a Pescatarian diet?
Following a Pescatarian diet has great health benefits.
A Pescatarian diet is easier to follow compared to a vegetarian diet, as you can be sure you will be consuming enough protein.
Consuming fish, especially fatty fish, such as Albacore tuna, wild salmon, mussels and anchovies, provided increase omega-3 fatty acid intake.
Omega-3s are great for the body having many health benefits such as improving eye health, fighting depression, and promoting brain health during pregnancy.
People who consume fish also have lower blood pressure and better circulation, as well as fewer heart problems.
People who eat more fish and less meat are likely to protect people against cancers affecting the colon and bowel.
Plant-based diets are also good for anti-inflammation and reducing the risk of diabetes and obesity.
What are the cons of a Pescatarian diet?
You’ll be pleased to know, there are hardly any drawbacks to the Pescatarian diet.
However, fish does contain high levels of mercury, and for this reason pregnant women, breast-feeding women, and women planning to conceive should limit their intake.
High levels of mercury can have a negative effect on our nervous systems.
Fish to avoid with high levels of mercury including king mackerel, swordfish, shark and tuna.
The NHS advises consuming three to four portions of fish a week, the rest of the week you could opt for vegetarian meals.
Like all diets, it is important to ensure you are receiving the right nutrients.
The lack of red meat from your diet may mean you could lose sources of iron, therefore be sure to include vegetables and beans in your diet that are high in iron, such as kidney beans, spinach and broccoli.
If you are worried about the changes you are making to your diet it is good to contact your GP beforehand.
April 2015 Issue
The Pescetarian Diet
By Judith C. Thalheimer, RD, LDN
Vol. 17 No. 4 P. 32
Adding fish and seafood to a vegetarian eating plan can create the healthful diet clients crave.
Pesce, the Italian word for fish, is being associated with people who add aquatic animals to a vegetarian diet. Pescetarians (sometimes called pesco-vegetarians) eat freshwater and saltwater fish and shellfish in addition to the fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, eggs, and dairy vegetarians typically consume. While it isn’t known how many people follow a pescetarian eating pattern, interest in the impact this diet has on its followers appears to be rising. The combination of the known benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle with the proven health effects of omega-3-fatty-acid-rich fish makes pescetarianism a potentially powerful ally in the interplay between nutrition and long-term health.
Who Are Pescetarians?
“Pescetarians are a diverse group,” says Debra King, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, CEO of Crown Consulting and Web editor for Vegetarian Nutrition. “In my experience, they’re usually very health-conscious individuals. They’re looking to take control of their health through the food choices they make.” For some, pescetarianism may be a stepping stone on the way to true vegetarianism, or a compromise for vegetarians who feel the need to add a protein source readily available in business or social settings.
“People who have health problems or want to lose weight may try pescetarianism,” says Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, author of The Pescetarian Plan. “They’ve read about the detrimental health effects of red meat and the benefits of plant-based diets and omega-3 fatty acids in fish, and are looking for a convenient and doable way to make healthful choices.”
Components of the Diet
“The pescetarian diet is similar to the traditional Mediterranean diet: plant-based, with fish serving as the primary animal protein,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian and author of Plant-Powered for Life. Like a Mediterranean eating pattern, a healthful pescetarian diet is loaded with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. “It can be Mediterranean-style,” Jibrin says, “but one could just as easily have a Nordic- or Japanese-based pescetarian diet. It’s an extremely flexible way to eat. Also, most pescetarians, like vegetarians, include both dairy and eggs in their diets.”
Jibrin emphasizes the wide variety of aquatic life available to pescetarians, all of which she says are low in saturated fat and rich in other nutrients. “Shellfish like mussels, oysters, and clams are loaded with minerals,” Jibrin says. “Oysters may be the most zinc-rich food on the planet, with one 4-oz serving providing about seven times the daily zinc requirement. Four ounces of mussels cover about 45% of the DV of iron and a whopping 144% of the DV of selenium to fuel the body’s antioxidant system. That same amount of clams provides about one-quarter of most people’s calcium requirement, as well as a day’s worth of selenium.” Other forms of seafood shouldn’t be overlooked. “Shrimp and squid are nutritious, but they’re high in cholesterol,” Jibrin says. “Since the jury is still out on the impact of dietary cholesterol on our arteries, I continue to recommend these seafood options in moderation.”
While some people may choose a pescetarian diet over vegetarian to maximize their intake of the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel, there are many freshwater and saltwater fish varieties available. “Eating two servings of fatty fish per week will go a long way toward providing a good omega-3 to omega-6 ratio,” Jibrin says, “but all fish are lean choices, allowing the calorie conscious to eat a larger protein serving than would typically be possible with meats and poultry, or add more sides for the same calorie count.”
Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, mentions other nutritional benefits of fish and seafood, including the vitamin D in fatty fish and the calcium in fish eaten whole, such as anchovies. “Getting enough vitamin B12 on vegan and some vegetarian diets can be problematic,” Kris-Etherton says. “Seafood is not only a lean protein, it’s also a source of vitamin B12.”
“There’s definitely evidence that a dietary pattern like this favorably impacts chronic disease,” Kris-Etherton says. In 2013, an analysis of the Adventist Health Study-2 reported that the mortality rate was lower among pescetarians when compared with nonvegetarians.1
“In addition, the study found that pescetarians had lower levels of blood cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as risk of diabetes, blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome compared with nonvegetarians,” Palmer says. “They even have a lower carbon footprint.”
While few studies look specifically at pescetarianism, Jibrin says there are “boatloads of relevant studies” on the similar Mediterranean diet, vegetarianism, and the benefits of eating fish. “Lower risk of heart disease, less dementia and depression, smarter kids, lower rates of type 2 diabetes and cancer—the potential benefits are truly impressive,” Jibrin says.
One of the key health-promoting components of a pescetarian diet is the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish (particularly fatty fish). “There are many good epidemiologic studies showing that higher consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of heart disease,” Kris-Etherton says.
“Collectively, the evidence to date strongly suggests benefits of fish/seafood and marine omega-3 fatty acids for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.” Data from the Cardiovascular Health Study indicated that in older adults, higher dietary intake of DHA and EPA (the long-chain fatty acids found in fish) may lower the risk of fatal heart attacks, and that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood are associated with a lower incidence of congestive heart failure.2,3 “Some recent controlled clinical trials in patients with heart disease haven’t demonstrated a beneficial effect of fish oil,” Kris-Etherton notes. “For secondary prevention in coronary patients, modern pharmacotherapy appears to be of greater benefit over marine omega-3 fatty acids.”
Other research shows that eating fish may be good for the brain as well as the heart. “A long-term study in the UK that children born to women who ate at least 12 oz of fish per week during pregnancy had higher IQs and better social, fine motor, and communication skills than kids whose moms ate fewer than 12 oz, and a study by Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging found that over a four-year period, Chicagoans aged 65 to 94 who had at least one fish meal per week had a 60% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who rarely or never ate fish,” Jibrin says.
“It’s not just the presence of fish. It’s the presence of all those plant foods, too,” Palmer says. “This is a huge aspect of the health benefits seen in this diet style.” In a 2009 study, Fraser and colleagues concluded, “There is convincing evidence that vegetarians have lower rates of coronary heart disease, largely explained by low LDL cholesterol, probable lower rates of hypertension and diabetes mellitus, and lower prevalence of obesity. Overall, their cancer rates appear to be moderately lower than others living in the same communities, and life expectancy appears to be greater.”4 A study on the effects of a vegetarian diet on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes concluded that all variants of plant-based diets, including pescetarian, were associated with a substantially lower risk of type 2 diabetes and lower BMI than nonvegetarian diets.5 “It makes sense,” Palmer says. “As you increase your intake of plant foods, decrease your intake of red and processed meats, and prioritize fish—animal foods that contain better fat profiles and omega-3s—you’re likely to improve your overall health.”
Too Much Fish?
The presence of mercury and other toxins in fish, combined with environmental and sustainability concerns, raises questions about the viability of a fish-and-seafood-based diet. “Some studies have shown that the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks related to mercury,” Palmer says. “Generally, the larger and more predatory the fish, the higher the mercury. I think dietitians can educate consumers to eat lower on the food chain when it comes to fish.” The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults eat 8 oz or more of seafood per week. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should aim for 8 oz to 12 oz of a variety of seafood, but should limit albacore tuna to 6 oz per week, and avoid tilefish, swordfish, shark, and King mackerel due to their high mercury content. The guidelines specifically recommend salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel (not King mackerel) as choices higher in EPA and DHA and lower in mercury.6 These guidelines can fit well with a pescetarian eating pattern. “It’s important to remember that a pescetarian diet doesn’t mean that one should eat fish three times a day,” Palmer says. “It’s a vegetarian diet that includes fish. So that means lots of meals that are based on plant proteins, too—beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds.”
When advocating for an increase in seafood intake, it’s essential to consider sustainability. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, overfishing, lack of effective management, and consumption habits all have contributed to a serious decline in wild fish. Seafoodwatch.org states that “Some 90% of the world’s fisheries are either fully fished or in decline.”7 “More and more experts and organizations, including Monterey Bay Aquarium and World Wildlife Fund, are indicating that sustainably farmed seafood has a role,” Palmer says. “Dietitians need to help their patients not only find good, safe sources of fish, but also help clients prioritize sustainable choices.” (See “Eating Seafood Sustainably” in Today’s Dietitian’s June 2012 issue.)
Helping Clients Make the Switch
Jibrin recommends a pescetarian diet to clients who are interested in trying a more plant-based diet but aren’t ready to become vegetarian or vegan. “It’s a compromise that doesn’t compromise their health,” Jibrin says. According to Palmer, pescetarianism is a simple transition into a more plant-based lifestyle. “In my experience, I see many people who like to make small incremental changes in their diet and lifestyle, such as giving up red meat, doing Meatless Monday, or becoming pescetarian. They may find that as they try these lifestyle changes, they’re ready to embrace even more plant-based meals during the week.”
Variety is important in any diet, and so is overall diet quality, King says. While the components of a pescetarian eating plan are healthful, King says that eating fish seven days per week, consuming uncontrolled portions, and munching on deep-fried fish sticks still aren’t good choices. “I think it’s important to educate clients that a pescetarian diet does not mean they must eat fish at every meal,” Palmer says. “It means that a person enjoys lots of plant-based meals—vegetarian lasagna, veggie chili with cornbread, tofu vegetable stir-fry with brown rice—in addition to a few meals during the week based on fish.”
Many health-conscious Americans are looking for a dietary pattern that will give them the maximum proven nutritional benefit with the minimum sacrifice and inconvenience. With its focus on plant-based foods, pescetarianism delivers a powerful portion of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and healthful fats. Adding fish and other seafood not only boosts intake of heart-healthy long-chain omega-3 fatty acids but also increases the variety of available lean proteins. Some guidance on how to build plant-based meals and choose sustainable, low-mercury fish can ease clients’ transition to delicious, nutritious, health-promoting pescetarianism.
— Judith C. Thalheimer, RD, LDN, is a freelance nutrition writer, a community educator, and the principal of JTRD Nutrition Education Services.
2. Lemaitre RN, King IB, Mozaffarian D, Kuller LH, Tracy RP, Siscovick DS. n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, fatal ischemic heart disease, and nonfatal myocardial infarction in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(2):319-325.
3. Mozaffarian D, Lemaitre RN, King IB, et al. Circulating long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and incidence of congestive heart failure in older adults: the cardiovascular health study: a cohort study. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(3):160-170.
6. US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 2010.
7. Wild seafood. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website. http://www.seafoodwatch.org/ocean-issues/wild-seafood
Cod, Cauliflower, and Pea Curry
This curry is just as delicious with scallops or shrimp instead of cod.
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard powder
1⁄2 tsp turmeric
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1⁄2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne, to taste
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 T finely chopped cilantro
41/2 cups water
1 medium head cauliflower, broken into small florets, approximately one-half–inch pieces
1 lb cod, cut into cubes, about one-half inch each
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
4 cups spinach
1. Heat a large, heavy-bottom stockpot over low heat. Add the olive oil and onion, and cook until translucent, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add the cumin, mustard powder, turmeric, ginger, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
2. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add the cauliflower; return to a simmer, and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add the cod, peas, and spinach; stir and cover. Simmer for 4 minutes, and serve immediately.
— Recipe by Sidra Forman From The Pescetarian Plan by Janis Jibrin, MS, RD (Ballantine Books, New York, 2014).
Clams With Tomatoes and Garlic on Whole-Grain Pasta
This crowd-pleaser is equally delicious with mussels instead of clams.
Canola oil cooking spray
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic, or to taste
1⁄2 tsp salt
3 lbs clams, in shell, thoroughly scrubbed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
1⁄2 lb whole-grain linguine, cooked according to package directions
1⁄2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1. Heat a large pot with lid over low heat.
2. Spray with vegetable oil cooking spray and add the onion, garlic, and salt. Cook for
3 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Add the clams, red pepper flakes, and wine.
4. Cover and simmer until the clams open, 7 minutes. Discard the clams that don’t open.
5. Add the pasta, parsley, and tomatoes. Cover and let simmer for an additional 3 minutes.
6. Stir and serve immediately.
— Recipe by Sidra Forman From The Pescetarian Plan By Janis Jibrin, MS, RD (Ballantine Books, New York, 2014).
What Happens To Your Body When You Go Pescatarian
If you’re used to eating burgers for dinner, or having chicken at lunch, a lot will change when you go pescatarian. But more importantly than getting used to reaching for different foods are the changes that can happen in your body. You might not wake up the very next day a glowing beacon of pescatarian life, but experts say you are likely to feel different in the long-term.
It’s not necessarily the biggest dietary change, but it’s one that can certainly make a difference, Bowerman says, including having an impact on the environment. In general, fewer resources are used to produce seafood compared to meat, she says, which could prompt someone to make the switch. But there’s also the long list of health benefits. Since it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, Bowerman says, seafood is considered to be one of the healthiest animal proteins. And it’s these fatty acids that can lead to a noticeable difference in overall health.
“The increase of omega-3 fatty acids from the seafood can, over time, reduce a person’s risk for heart disease, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce the risk for colorectal cancer (particularly if they are replacing red meat with seafood), slow the rate of mental decline, and improve mood,” Bowerman says. It’s quite a list, but it’s one that’s backed by many a scientific study, which have pointed to the benefits of eating fish versus red meat.
For folks with anxiety and depression, it’s interesting to note that research has indicated a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may have the potential to improve mood and energy levels, Lisa Richards, a certified nutritionist, tells Bustle. Not to mention, red meats tend to be inflammatory, she says, which can lead to mood issues. “Therefore, by making the switch to fish only,” Richards says, “you should see mental benefits as well.”
A pescatarian diet may also eventually help ease joint pain. As Richards says, “The American diet is typically low in anti-inflammatory omega-3s and high in inflammatory omega-6s. This causes chronic inflammation in the body leading to a host of health conditions both acute and chronic. Eating fish on a regular basis can reduce this imbalance and as a result the inflammation that occurs.”
When eating more of these foods, and opting for them instead of red meat, it’s also possible to notice an improvement in the appearance of skin breakouts and rashes, Bowerman says. And this is, again, due to the anti-inflammatory properties of those omega-3s.
All of that said, any new pescatarian looking to get these benefits from seafood will want to aim for two servings of fatty fish per week, according to the American Heart Association, which includes the likes of salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna.
For anyone looking to reduce red meat, it’s important to take it easy. “Switching to a pescatarian diet may be more difficult for those who consume a lot of red meat and poultry,” Kristen Carli, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Camelback Nutrition and Wellness, tells Bustle, so it may be an ongoing process. It can, however, help to remember that pretty much every food group remains in a pescatarian diet, Carli says, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, etc.
Making any change like this one is ultimately all about figuring out what feels best. “When switching to a pescatarian diet, aim to not only eat fish as a source of protein, but plant-based sources of protein like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds to consume a varied diet,” Carli says. And it should result in covering all the nutrition bases.
Pescatarians should also try to avoid eating large amounts of seafood that’s known for carrying high levels of mercury, Richards says, as that can have a negative impact on health. These typically include the big fish, she says, like swordfish, Mahi Mahi, and marlin. And this is especially true for those who are pregnant.
Changing what you eat will always result in an adjustment period, but experts say adding more seafood — while reducing the amount of red meat and poultry eaten — can certainly lead to health benefits over time.
Sofie Theresa Thomsen, Waldo de Boer, Sara M. Pires, Brecht Devleesschauwer, Sisse Fagt, Rikke Andersen, Morten Poulsen, Hilko van der Voet. A probabilistic approach for risk-benefit assessment of food substitutions: A case study on substituting meat by fish. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2019; 126: 79 doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2019.02.018
Reajaei, Elham. (2015). The Effect Of Omega-3 Fatty acids in Patients With Active Rheumatoid Arthritis Receiving DMARDs Therapy: Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Global Journal of Health Science. 8(7): 18–25. doi: 10.5539/gjhs.v8n7p18
Susan Bowerman, MS, RR., CSSD., CSOWM., FAND, Sr., registered dietician
Lisa Richards, certified nutritionist
Kristen Carli, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Camelback Nutrition and Wellness
Friday nights and early Saturday mornings, you’ll usually find me on my couch with a stack of cookbooks and magazines, flipping through recipes on my phone. With the weekend ahead, I can’t help but fantasize about the cooking I’ll do: pancakes for breakfast, Italian-American-style scampi for dinner, the hummus I’ll whip up for afternoon snacking. But sometimes I’ll spend so many hours on the hunt for the perfect recipes that I’ll run out of time for actual cooking. So I’ve resolved to be a little more decisive and do a little more meal planning, before the last minute. I’ve recently shared a vegan meal plan and one for a week of vegetarian breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; this week’s menus feature some of our best recipes for folks who eat fish as well.
The weekend is also a great time to get your pantry in order, stocking up on staples like good oil and vinegar, nuts and beans, and whatever you’ll want to snack on all week. Fresh fish is best bought the day you intend to cook it, but frozen shrimp should be kept frozen until you’re ready to defrost.
One note: If you want to make our extra-creamy homemade hummus with dried chickpeas, soak them in a large bowl of water with salt and baking soda the night before.
Forget waiting in long brunch lines for waffles; you can make faster, better ones at home. Our recipe is especially fluffy, thanks to egg whites instead of whole eggs in the batter. After a snack of hummus and veggies, dinner is Daniel’s signature shrimp scampi, made with vermouth, fresh herbs, and a silky butter sauce brightened with lemon. (Check out our guide to shopping for shrimp before you get started.)
Brunch: Buttermilk Vanilla Waffles with maple syrup, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Consider making extra for reheating Monday morning.
Snack: Olives and store-bought or homemade hummus with cucumbers and red peppers or pita
Dinner: Shrimp Scampi With Garlic, Red Pepper Flakes, and Herbs
Dessert: Tangy Strawberry Fools
In a perfect world, I’d make a big batch of a boldly flavored, protein-rich salad every Sunday night to have on hand for lunches throughout the week. Kenji’s chickpea salad with carrots, garlic, and dill is ideal; it actually tastes better with a little time in the fridge. (While we’re talking garbanzo bean lunches, I’m also a big fan of this cumin and celery version and this hearty kale number.) Dinner on Meatless Monday: Israeli sabich sandwiches, stuffed with creamy tahini, fried eggplant, and crunchy pickles, ready in under an hour.
Breakfast: Toasted leftover waffles, or yogurt and fruit
Lunch: Easy Make-Ahead Carrot and Chickpea Salad With Dill and Pumpkin Seeds
Snack: Dates with peanut butter or almond butter
Dinner: Sabich Sandwiches (Pitas With Eggplant, Eggs, Hummus, and Tahini) and Tabbouleh
Tuesday’s dinner, salmon à la nage, sounds super fancy. But cooking à la nage just means you’re poaching your fish in a flavorful broth. This version has summer squash, fennel, white wine, and ginger, and you can make it all in one pan and then serve it from there, too.
Breakfast: Fried eggs or Foolproof Poached Eggs on greens or English muffins
Lunch: Leftover tabbouleh and carrot and chickpea salad, or DIY Instant Noodles With Vegetables and Miso-Sesame Broth
Snack: Fresh fruit and yogurt or cheese
Dinner: Salmon à la Nage With Summer Vegetables or The Easiest Crispy Pan-Seared Fish
Cherry season is sadly brief; if your local farmers market has ’em already, it’s time to buy as many as you can eat. Try tossing them with honey and vinegar for a sweet-tart topping for good ricotta. Lunch is my favorite spin on avocado toast, topped with vinegar-marinated fresh anchovies, earthy smoked paprika, and a little lemon juice. Dinner’s an all-in-one comfort food classic: chili with a brown butter cornbread crust.
Breakfast: Macerated Cherries With Marcona Almonds, Mint, and Ricotta or Soft-Scrambled Eggs
Lunch: Avocado Toast With Boquerones and Smoked Paprika
Snack: Cheese and toasted almonds or cashews
Dinner: Quick and Easy Vegetarian Tamale Pie With Brown Butter Cornbread Crust
Note: Soak hazelnuts overnight if you want to make the nutty morning shake!
Mussels are a terrific weeknight seafood dinner: They’re cheap, tasty, and shockingly quick to make. All you need for a pot of traditional moules marinières is 15 minutes and some mussels, aromatics, and a bottle of wine. (Though you’ll probably also want a baguette to dip in that flavorful cooking broth, too.)
Breakfast: Coffee, Banana, and Hazelnut Morning Shake or refried beans on toast
Lunch: Leftover tamale pie or Warm Farro Salad With Asparagus, Peas, and Feta
Snack: Banana with peanut butter or almond butter
Dinner: Moules Marinières (Sailor-Style Mussels) with a baguette, or Steamed Mussels With Thai-Style Coconut-Curry Broth with rice
My father-in-law eats a big bowl of popcorn—microwaved in a brown paper bag—for lunch each day. Not knocking it, but I’d plan something a little more substantial, too; either avocado toast or farro salad. For dinner, you need just 15 minutes to whip up Kenji’s easy take on tuna noodle casserole with a light and creamy sauce. Which leaves you plenty of time to make a cocktail.
Breakfast: French Omelette With Fines Herbes or French Omelette With Cheese
Lunch: Leftover farro salad or Avocado Toast With Ricotta, Olive Oil, Lemon Zest, and Basil
Snack: Brown Paper Bag Microwave Popcorn, plain or bagna cauda–style
Dinner: Easy One-Pot, No-Knife, Lighter Tuna Noodle Casserole
Pancakes can be a little blah, but not when they start with nutty toasted oats and brown butter. (Gotta say, I haven’t met a dish yet that didn’t improve with a little brown butter.) For dinner, you’ve got options: a casual meal of horseradish-spiked salmon burgers topped with a mix of mayo, Dijon mustard, and honey; or a restaurant-style feast of perfect seared scallops with a simple green salad.
Brunch: Oatmeal and Brown Butter Pancakes
Snack: Spicy Warm Silken Tofu With Celery and Cilantro Salad
Dinner: Go casual with Easy Salmon Burgers With Dill Honey-Mustard, Horseradish, and Avocado, or get fancy with Seared Scallops and a simple green salad.
Dessert: The Ultimate Fudgy Brownies
There was a moment when miso-lacquered black cod was everywhere; you see it a little less these days, but that doesn’t mean it stopped being delicious. Can’t find black cod? We’ve got a similar—and incredibly simple—recipe for salmon. They’re both delicious with Daniel’s savory Japanese-inspired arugula salad.
Brunch: Scrambled Egg and Cheese Drop-Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches
Snack: Morel Mushroom Tartine With Chives or Asparagus Tartine With Ricotta and Mint
Dinner: Easy Broiled Miso-Marinated Black Cod or 5-Minute Miso-Glazed Salmon, with Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Walnut Salad With Dashi “Vinaigrette”
Dessert: More brownies!
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A Guide To Pescetarian Meal Prep For Weight Loss
Beginning your journey onto the pescatarian path can seem very scary and it can be difficult to know how to start planning out your meals for the upcoming week.
Many people find they include a lot of carbohydrates into their pescatarian meal prep for weight loss, but this is not a great idea for someone looking to lead a nutritionally balanced lifestyle.
A healthy pescatarian meal plan is absolutely within reach as it is statistically lower in cholesterol and provides a wealth of omega-3 fatty acids! You just need to know how to get started — thankfully, we are here to provide you with everything you need.
Why a Pescatarian Diet Can Assist Weight Loss
A wide range of studies have been conducted on how a pescatarian diet affects the body and the conclusion is that following a healthy pescatarian meal plan is associated with lower BMI (body mass index). This means you will be losing weight on this one!
Furthermore, people adventuring onto this type of diet can expect to have a lower risk of type two diabetes, improved blood pressure and an overall healthier heart and body weight — what more could you possibly want out of a nutrition plan?
Healthy Pescatarian Meal Prep Tips
Although this diet type is not strict and allows for a lot of flexibility, you still might wonder how to get started. Luckily, we have compiled a list of great tips for healthy pescatarian meal prep!
1. What to Eat
If you have not come across pescetarianism before, you may not know what it is they eat. Surprisingly to some, pescatarians eat a very varied diet.
The foods they consume include:
- Whole grains
As you can see, the list is quite endless and the food groups mentioned above contain a lot of products within them.
For example, whole grains include brown rice, pasta and bread — it is simply a case of remembering to purchase the whole-grain stuff and not the regular (which is the most popular among consumers as yes, it is cheaper than the healthier options, but don’t let that deter you).
2. What Not to Eat
Of course, some foods are not permitted within this diet. These are:
- Deli meat
This list is decidedly shorter, which is a plus! Put simply — avoid any meat.
3. Create a Shopping List
Now, a typical shopping list might include a lot of the meat products that are not allowed here, so you will need to rethink this. However, once you have decided on the foods that you do like (from the ‘what to eat’ list of course) then you will be all set to get started.
It is important to make a list of everything you need before you head off to the supermarket, as this will stop the stressful time that it can be if you get there and forget what you are supposed to be buying.
4. Start Simple
Across the internet, there are hundreds of recipes that you could incorporate into your pescatarian weekly meal plan but don’t try and run before you can walk.
Start with easy to follow recipes (we have some examples down below) that you won’t panic about cooking. This will mean you are more inclined to stick to the nutrition plan and, once you are used to the whole concept, you can tackle more complicated recipes.
5. Healthy Cooking Options
If you plan on frying all your fish, you will not reap all the health rewards that this eating style can offer.
Instead, attempt to grill the fish and ensure you use healthy cooking oils.
When it comes to choosing your oil, opt for a plant-based one as this will be far better for your heart and include various antioxidants. A wide range is available in your local supermarket, including:
- Corn oil
- Vegetable oil
- Sunflower oil
- Soy oil
- Walnut oil
- Canola oil
- Sesame oil
- Flaxseed oil
Granted, some of these options are easier to find than others, but you are guaranteed to be able to acquire at least one of them at a shop close by.
When it comes to seafood, make sure to steam it.
6. Stock Up
Generally, fresh fish products need to be eaten within a couple of days of purchase, so make sure to stock up on anything canned — tuna, for example — so you always have a fish source ready and waiting for you.
7. Get Help
If you are feeling intimidated by any of this; find support.
Many people are concerned about cooking seafood as it can be a process of trial and error. It may be one of your close friends or family have the knack for it and so you could ask them for help. However, if you don’t know anyone familiar with preparing seafood or fish in general, you could try attending a cooking class — you will gain valuable experience here that can’t necessarily be taught from watching YouTube videos.
Alternatively, it could be that you are struggling to maintain your pescatarian weight loss meal prep, even though you are good at cooking. Try joining a support group! This way, you are held accountable for your actions by your peers and equally, you are all in it together.
Create a Weekly Meal Plan
Preparing a pescatarian meal plan every week is something you will need to devote a bit of time to start with before you get into the swing of things.
Not to worry however as we have made your first try a breeze with our various suggestions of pescatarian weight loss meal prep for you to have a go at!
For breakfast, you might like to try…
Yoghurt and Fruit
We are sure you don’t need this explaining but, just to add a bit of context, you can use any fruit — your favourite will work — and any yoghurt! You really can’t get any more uncomplicated than this.
Or, if yoghurt isn’t your style, this may tickle your taste buds…
Oatmeal and Brown Butter Pancakes
Yes, this one does require you to follow a recipe.
1 cup oats
4 tbsp butter
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
2 cups buttermilk
Optional: add maple syrup before serving. However, if you are trying to lose weight, this might set you back.
- Heat oats over medium heat on the hob for about 4 minutes.
- Put in a bowl and let cool.
- Place butter in a pan and stir over low heat until it turns a golden brown colour.
- Put in a separate bowl.
- Blend the oats until powdered.
- Put back in the bowl and add flour, baking powder and soda, salt, sugar and then whisk.
- Heat a frying pan on the hob.
- Dip a paper towel in oil and rub over the base of the pan.
- Add the buttermilk and egg to the butter and stir.
- Put dry ingredients into the wet and whisk.
- Pour the batter into the pan in sections and cook without upsetting until bubbles form.
- Flip pancake.
- Place on a wire rack to cool before serving.
When it comes to lunchtime, you might like…
Once you know how to pan sear cod, you are well on your way to living a full pescatarian lifestyle! Ask a friend or do a quick google search if you don’t know how to do this!
Hint: It’s super easy!
Alternatively, you could try…
Avocado Tuna Salad
This is simple and for the base, as you might have gathered, all you need is some avocado and a tin of tuna. However, you can add any veggies you like to this to make it extra tasty and healthy.
For dinner, you need to keep it light as you don’t want extra weight sitting on your stomach when you go to bed. Have a go at…
Mackerel and Rhubarb Salad
Very quick and easy this one. It will leave you feeling full yet ready to retire to the bedroom without feeling bloated in the morning.
In addition to this, you could have…
Pan-Seared Salmon and Garlic
If you can pan-sear your cod for lunch, then you can pan-sear salmon for dinner. Throw in some garlic for added flavour!
You may also like to cook some asparagus alongside this for your vegetable quota.
Now, go forth and conquer your pescatarian meal prep for weight loss — you have all the knowledge now!
A pescatarian diet typically includes vegetables, grains and pulses along with fish and other seafood, but generally excludes meat and sometimes dairy. Read on to discover the health benefits of a pescatarian diet, the nutrients that may be lacking, and how to make sure that your diet is healthy and balanced.
We asked dietitian Emer Delaney for her view…
What are the benefits of the pescatarian diet?
The pescatarian diet is widely accepted as being a nutritious choice due to the known benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle, coupled with high-protein, lean white fish and omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish including salmon, mackerel, herring and fresh tuna. This style of eating has shown a reduced risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. In addition, a 2016 study showed that omega-3 fatty acids were associated with a lower risk of fatal heart attacks.
A balanced pescatarian diet also mirrors the Mediterranean diet as it is loaded with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and pulses. Rich in monounsaturated fat found in olive, safflower and sesame oils and lower in saturated fat that comes from butter, lard, cream, cheese and fatty meat such as lamb, the Mediterranean diet has increasing evidence to support its health benefits.
Read more about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
Research has linked a pescatarian diet with positive impacts on chronic disease and lower mortality rates, in comparison to diets that include meat. The study also showed those on a pescatarian diet had lower levels of blood cholesterol and blood pressure and a lower risk of diabetes, blood pressure and metabolic syndrome, compared with non-vegetarians.
Which nutrients may be lacking in a pescatarian diet?
Like all diets, a pescatarian diet needs to be balanced and varied in order to be healthy. The lack of red meat means iron intakes could be sub-optimal. It is therefore really important to include plant based sources of iron such as spinach and broccoli and opt for low-sugar breakfast cereals as these are fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Some pescatarians do not consume eggs or dairy which can mean they may be lacking in essential nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12 and zinc. Therefore, if you are planning to embark on this lifestyle change, it is important to ensure your diet is healthy, balanced and provides you with the nutrition you need.
Read more about how to eat a balanced diet.
Should I be worried about mercury levels in fish?
All fish contain varying amounts of mercury – a pollutant that can be highly toxic to our nervous systems. The NHS advises that the general population eat no more than four portions of oily fish per week. Women who are planning to conceive, pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to eat no more than two portions of oily fish per week, as mercury can affect the nervous system and may cause development delays in infants exposed to mercury in the womb. Shark, swordfish and marlin contain concentrated sources of mercury, so it is recommended that they should be avoided by women who are planning to conceive, pregnant or breastfeeding and by all children.
Read more from the NHS on how much fish is safe to eat.
Recipes for a pescatarian diet:
Haddock with cannellini beans & artichokes
Cod with an orange & dill crumb and hasselback potato
Thai-style steamed fish
Superhealthy salmon salad
Enjoyed this? Now read…
Why are Mediterranean diets so healthy?
How to eat a balanced diet
Which fats are good or bad?
What is a flexitarian diet?
This article was last reviewed on 6th November 2018 by Kerry Torrens.
Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of London’s top teaching hospitals and is currently based in Chelsea.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
Are you following a pescatarian diet? Tell us your experiences or ask us any questions in the comments below…
What Is a Pescatarian Diet and Is It Healthy?
Photo: Laimdota Grivane /
Maybe you’ve heard the hype about plant-based eating but just can’t commit to cutting so many foods out of your life. Or maybe you want to be a vegetarian or vegan, but you just reallllly love sushi. Either way, a pescatarian lifestyle might suit your preferences.
The pescatarian (also spelled pescetarian, with an e) diet may not get the same buzz as keto, paleo, or other trendy diet plans, but don’t discount this eating style just because it’s not as flashy or new. Here’s what you need to know about the pescatarian diet and why it may or may not be for you.
What’s a pescatarian diet?
A hint: It involves fish. At its core, a pescatarian diet is a plant-focused diet with the addition of fish and seafood.
What are the benefits a pescatarian diet?
Pescatarianism marries the benefits of plants and seafood. “Although meatless diets can vary widely, many people who base the bulk of their food intake around plant foods are very healthy,” says Axe. “While some plant-based eaters might exclude all animal products (like vegans), there are a lot of benefits to keeping fish and seafood in your diet, since this can help with several common nutrient deficiencies seen in vegetarians,” he explains.
These usually include a shortage of vitamin B12 (which is found only in animal products), a lack of protein or certain amino acids (the building blocks of protein), an imbalanced ratio of essential fatty acids (omega-6s to omega-3s), or deficiency in iron (which can lead to anemia).
Protein and vitamin B12 are critical for the body’s metabolic processes and nerve function as well as for building strong bones and muscle. However, not all protein is created equal: “Because of the way amino acids work in the body, there are two important things to consider when it comes to protein in your diet: how much you should aim to eat daily and what types of protein you eat,” says Axe.
There are complete proteins (usually animal products) that supply all of the necessary essential amino acids your body needs. And there are incomplete proteins (most plants) that are lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids. “This can make it risky to cut all animal foods from your diet,” he says, because you risk lacking some amino acids.
Yet, vegans and vegetarians aren’t doomed if they choose to go meatless: You can combine plant-based proteins to get all the amino acids you need. For example, beans and rice alone are incomplete, but they combine to form a complete protein. (It just takes a bit more planning than simply chowing down on a piece of chicken breast.)
So, one perk of choosing a pescatarian diet over a vegan or vegetarian diet is that you can still score these complete proteins and vitamin B12 from seafood. Not to mention, fish itself is pretty good for you.
“One of the primary reasons that fish is so good for us is because of its high levels of omega-3 fats,” says Axe. Your body needs to have a balance of both omega-3 and omega-6 fats, but most people consume far too many omega-6s from seed/vegetable oils, plant foods, and farm-raised animal products, he says. “Omega-3 fatty acids are considered anti-inflammatory, while omega-6s are pro-inflammatory. We need both types, but many people are lacking in omega-3s,” he says.
By eating fish and seafood like salmon, shrimp, and tuna as part of a pescatarian diet, you’re getting a great dose of healthy omega-3 fats to lower inflammation and counterbalance the omega-6 fats that you may be getting from other foods in your diet.
“The combination of nutrients found in seafood also helps regulate your heartbeat, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, decrease blood clot formation, lower triglycerides, and prevent a heart attack or stroke,” says Axe.
Yes, there are omega-3s in plant-based foods. But they’re not as easily absorbed by the body, which can be a disadvantage for non-meat-eaters. “Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the type of omega-3 found in plant foods (like walnuts and flaxseed), while eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the most important omega-3 fats found in seafood and some animal products like eggs or beef,” he says.
“ALA, EPA, and DHA must come from our diets, yet vegetarians often think that they can cover their bases by eating lots of nuts, taking flax oil, or loading up on seeds. This is actually a misconception: It’s true that the body can convert some ALA to EPA and DHA, but this process isn’t very efficient and we are much better off eating EPA and DHA directly to get the most benefits,” he explains. This is another key advantage that pescatarianism has over going totally plant-based.
What are the downsides of a pescatarian diet?
As a pescatarian, it can be challenging to get enough iron, says Lauren Manaker M.S., R.D.N., a dietitian in Charleston, SC. Load up on leafy greens, beans, and legumes to get adequate amounts, or supplement if necessary.
If you’re going strict pescatarian and avoiding dairy and eggs too, a lack of calcium and choline could be a concern, she adds. “The two best sources of choline are egg yolks and liver. Choline supplementation is often necessary for anyone following a pescatarian diet,” she says. Note: If you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or lactating, you need even more choline than the average person.
“It’s possible to start feeling mentally deprived when following a pescatarian diet because meat and most animal products become ‘off limits,'” says Axe. (See: Why Restrictive Dieting Usually Backfires) “It’s also possible to become bored with eating fish (or eggs and dairy) over and over again each day in order to obtain enough protein.” This may lead you to increase your carbohydrate intake, which could cause weight gain, protein deficiency, fatigue, and other health problems, he says.
A fix? Mix things up by trying new flavors or recipes. (Start here: 5 Ways to Cook Salmon In 15 Minutes) If you’re sticking to a pescatarian diet, experiment with different sauces, seasonings, cooking techniques, and ingredients, like a strange fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before.
No matter the diet plan you choose, you’ll need to focus on whole foods, produce, and protein, rather than filling up on junk, says Axe.
Is mercury a concern on the pescatarian diet?
“Mercury is, in fact, toxic, but its toxic effects are somewhat mitigated by the mineral selenium, which is present in nearly all wild-caught seafood,” says Axe. “However, considering the level of toxins found in today’s oceans, mercury toxicity is a real concern, so it’s best to also focus on eating smaller fish.”
Basically, the smaller a fish is, the less mercury it stores in its tissues. “That’s because mercury in fish builds up as you move up the food chain, meaning bigger fish (like swordfish or tuna) tend to have more than smaller fish (sardines, anchovies, herring, and salmon),” he says.
The best types of fish to eat on a pescatarian diet include naturally fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring. Wild-caught fish are definitely preferable to farm-raised fish, as they are lower in toxins and chemicals that are often used in many fish-farming facilities, he explains.
And just as grass-fed animal products are higher in nutrients, the same goes for wild fish. “Farmed fish are generally lower in EPA and DHA when compared to freshwater fish and contribute to heavy metal toxicity, so avoid seafood products like farmed salmon,” he says.
If you’re ready to give pescatarianism a whirl, plan to eat fish at least two or three times a week. (Here are healthy fish and seafood recipes to get you started.)
- By By Isadora Baum
The Different Kinds of Vegetarians
There are different kinds of vegetarians, depending on what they eat. The definition of a vegetarian that’s most widely accepted by fellow vegetarians is a person who eats no meat, fish, or poultry. A vegetarian consistently avoids all flesh foods, as well as byproducts of meat, fish, and poultry.
Of course, vegetarian diets vary in the extent to which they exclude animal products:
Semi-vegetarian: Someone who’s cutting back on his or her intake of meat, in general. A pollo vegetarian avoids red meat and fish but eats chicken. A pesco pollo vegetarian avoids red meat but eats chicken and fish.
These terms stretch the true definition of a vegetarian, and only the term semi-vegetarian is actually used with much frequency.
Lacto ovo vegetarian: A lacto ovo vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish, and poultry but includes dairy products and eggs. Most vegetarians in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe fall into this category. Lacto ovo vegetarians eat such foods as cheese, ice cream, yogurt, milk, and eggs, as well as foods made with these ingredients.
Lacto vegetarian: A lacto vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish, and poultry, as well as eggs and any foods containing eggs. A lacto vegetarian would, however, eat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Vegan: Technically, the term vegan refers to more than just the diet alone. A vegan is a vegetarian who avoids eating or using all animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, any foods containing by-products of these ingredients, wool, silk, leather, and any nonfood items made with animal byproducts. Living a vegan lifestyle, may involve avoiding honey.
One adaptation of a vegetarian diet is a raw foods diet, in which adherents eat a diet that consists primarily of uncooked foods. The fruitarian diet consists only of fruits; vegetables botanically classified as fruits, such as tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and avocados; and seeds and nuts.