For pregnant sushi lovers, it’s tough to let go.
But expecting ladies should try to follow the American Pregnancy Association’s guidelines and avoid raw fish rolls for the next nine months.
Fish like tuna and yellowtail can be high in mercury or contain high levels of industrial pollutants. Cross-contamination can also be dangerous for your developing babe-to-be.
After delivery, the dangers of eating sushi while breast-feeding lessen, but health experts still caution women to be careful about where they eat out.
Here’s a look at what you need to know about eating sushi during pregnancy and while breast-feeding.
Can I Eat Cooked Fish When I’m Pregnant or Breast-Feeding?
While some types of sushi can be dangerous, cooked fish is a healthy choice during pregnancy. It can also give you a boost while you are breast-feeding.
Fish is a good source of Vitamin D (fatty fish), omega-3s (fatty fish), and niacin. All of these are nutritionally beneficial to your diet and baby.
If you want to eat cooked fish in sushi, beware of cross-contamination at restaurants. They might use the same knives or tools to cut and prepare all the food.
Cooked fish low in mercury is OK in smaller (2 to 6-ounce) servings.
Can I Enjoy Sushi While Breast-Feeding?
If you’re breast-feeding, consuming sushi does not pose a risk, assuming that the restaurant accounts for the source and quality of fish. You want to make sure that you are aware of the origin of the product.
While consumption of raw fish may not directly affect the baby through breast milk, be careful. If the fish is not cleaned properly, it could make you sick.
As with pregnancy, it is advisable to avoid types of fish high in mercury while breast-feeding because it could present itself in your milk and in turn, affect your little one.
What Do I Need to Know About Listeria and Cross-Contamination?
The main issue with sushi during pregnancy is that it is considered “raw food.” Raw food sometimes carries food-borne illness bacteria such as listeria and E. coli. Listeria is a type of bacteria found in soil, water, plants, or produce grown near soil and water.
Most people affected by listeria get sick because they’ve eaten contaminated foods. Listeria in a pregnant woman can travel through the placenta and affect the baby. It can cause premature delivery, stillbirth, miscarriage, or serious health problems for the newborn.
Here are some safety tips to help make safe food decisions to avoid contracting bacterial infection during your pregnancy.
- Practice proper safe handling techniques. When transitioning from raw food to ready-to-eat food, first clean surfaces thoroughly with an appropriate bacteria-cleaning solvent.
- Always wash your hands after touching raw meat or raw fish or deli/lunch meats.
- Note the date and time for refrigerated, perishable items so they are consumed as soon as possible.
- Always wipe down your fridge and clean regularly. Don’t forget about the shelves that contained raw meat. Areas such as the door handles also contain bacteria.
- Consider using a refrigerator thermometer to make sure that the refrigerator always stays at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
What if I’m Craving Sushi?
If you’re a sushi lover, it’s a hard taste to give up cold turkey. But who says you have to give it up completely?
Transitioning to vegetarian sushi options at reputable restaurants is a great way to get your fix of sushi. For the flavor you crave, top yours with a touch of wasabi and ginger.
Vegetable maki rolls (also known as sushi rolls) like avocado, cucumber, shitake mushroom, and pickled daikon are commonly found at restaurants.
Additional menu options include vegetable nigiri pieces and inari and sushi rice inside of a fried tofu pouch. The tofu is usually flavored using mirin, vinegar, and soy sauce.
Can I Make My Own Sushi at Home?
You can also make your own pregnancy-safe vegetable sushi at home with just a few tools and ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need.
- sushi rice
- nori (thin sheets of seaweed)
- rice wine vinegar
- flat spatula
- bamboo sushi mat
Try out these recipes for some inspiration!
1. Sweet Potato Sushi with Brown Rice from the blog Choosy Beggars
2. Toasted Walnut and Mushroom Maki from Sushi Secrets with Marisa Baggett
3. Vegetable Nori Rolls with Crunchy Lentils and Turmeric from Food, Fitness, Fresh Air
4. Vegetable Sushi Bowl from A Couple Cooks
While several months might seem like a long time to give up sushi, it flies by. Your food cravings and desires will go away before you know it.
Once you’ve made it to postpartum, consuming sushi is approved. Just make sure to ask about safe handling techniques at restaurants so you know you are eating safe, good-quality fish while breast-feeding.
Anita Mirchandani, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., received a B.A. from NYU and an M.S. in clinical nutrition from NYU. After completing a dietetic internship at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Anita became a practicing registered dietitian. Anita also maintains current fitness certifications in indoor cycling, kickboxing, group exercise, and personal training.