The Basics of the Pescatarian Diet

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on July 27, 2015Written by Sagan Morrow on July 27, 2015

With so many different types of diets out there, it can be challenging to find one that’s a good fit for you.

Maybe you want to start eating more vegetables and get back to the basics when it comes to nutrition, but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you want a diet that provides you with well-balanced nutrients and still allows you to enjoy an active social life.

Enter the pescatarian diet! The pescatarian (or pesco-vegetarian) diet is a form of vegetarianism that includes fish, but no other forms of meat or animal flesh.

Why Choose the Pescatarian Diet?

The pescatarian diet is a great choice if you are interested in reducing your intake of animal products. As noted by the David Suzuki Foundation, our consumption of meat may actually contribute to climate change. Livestock production can increase greenhouse gas emissions, so choosing to reduce meat consumption can be an environmentally friendly choice.

It’s not just environmental health that is affected by meat consumption, either. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting red meat, and choosing lean meats over fattier cuts, to fight cardiovascular disease. The AHA also encourages us to eat oily fish a few times each week for health purposes, thanks to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Seafood can be a very nutritious choice. If your goal is to reduce your intake of meat, the pescatarian diet can provide plenty of nutrients (including protein), which might be more challenging to get from other forms of vegetarianism.

Choosing a pescatarian diet over other forms of vegetarianism also allows you to enjoy a broader variety of meals in restaurants and at home. This could help you integrate this way of eating into your current lifestyle without making any drastic changes or feeling deprived.

Foods to enjoy on the pescatarian diet include:

  • seafood (including all kinds of fish, shellfish, seaweeds, etc.)
  • vegetables and fruit
  • nuts and seeds
  • grains and legumes (including breads, cereals, etc.)

pescatarian-friendly foodspescatarian-friendly foods

Some pescatarians also include eggs and dairy in their diet.

Foods to avoid include:

  • all meat besides fish (including chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc.)
  • eggs and dairy (optional – some pescatarians choose to limit their intake of these foods)

What Can You Do to Start Eating a Pescatarian Diet?

The easiest way to start incorporating the pescatarian diet into your usual meal plan is to begin swapping out your regular meat dishes for seafood dishes.

For example, you might choose to have pan-seared fish and roasted potatoes for dinner instead of chicken. Or you could swap out your usual beef tacos for fish tacos.

Looking for a good taco recipe? Try these broccoli slaw fish tacos

You can even make seafood stir-fry, enjoy scallops and shrimp instead of casserole, and mussels and salad instead of meatloaf. There are all kinds of swaps you can make to keep mealtime interesting and make the pescatarian diet work for your family’s tastes.

Of course, you won’t want to necessarily eat fish every single day, especially if you are new to eating lots of seafood. Instead, incorporate some vegetarian and vegan dishes in between the pescatarian ones.

For lunches and dinners you could try:

  • quiche
  • frittata
  • grilled tofu with vegetables
  • bean soup
  • quinoa salad

Good breakfast options include:

  • yogurt with berries and nuts
  • oatmeal with almond or soy milk
  • fruit and vegetable smoothies, with or without tofu
  • toast with nut butter and/or avocado

The options are limitless!

The Pescatarian Diet as a Healthy Lifestyle

One of the traps many people fall into when they are starting a vegetarian or pescatarian diet is eating mostly foods that are technically vegetarian, but which are not exactly “healthy.” Don’t head down this road! For example, just because candy or chips are made without animal products doesn’t mean you should start eating them every single day. Instead, focus on creating healthier habits to reap the full benefits of this diet.

When you embrace the pescatarian diet, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a huge variety of healthy and delicious foods. You will probably start to feel better, and you might notice your productivity and energy levels improving so that you’re more able to truly enjoy the things you love. And after all, isn’t that what healthy eating is really all about?

Sagan Morrow is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a professional lifestyle blogger at She has a background as a certified holistic nutritionist.

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