Can You Eat Scallops While Pregnant? Safety, Benefits, More

Bozz District

The old adage about how you’re “eating for two” during pregnancy is true and false all at the same time. You shouldn’t double your calories, but everything that you put into your body while you’re pregnant directly or indirectly affects your baby, too. That’s why doctors urge you to be […]

The old adage about how you’re “eating for two” during pregnancy is true and false all at the same time. You shouldn’t double your calories, but everything that you put into your body while you’re pregnant directly or indirectly affects your baby, too.

That’s why doctors urge you to be cautious about what you eat when pregnant — both to avoid eating foods that might contain substances that are potentially harmful to a developing baby and to maximize the nutritional benefit to both of you.

If you’re a big seafood fan, you might have to tinker with your diet a little bit.

Many kinds of fish are rich in protein and other nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats that are good for your body and your brain (and your baby’s, too).

But you’re better off avoiding some kinds. For example, you should probably give most sushi a pass, since many kinds of sushi contain raw fish and can expose your growing baby to mercury and bacteria.

But what about scallops? Where do these bivalve mollusks fall on the hierarchy of foods to eat while pregnant? The short answer: They’re good for you during pregnancy, but perhaps not in the way you’re used to having them.

Experts encourage people to include seafood as part of a healthy diet during pregnancy. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, recommend 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week, as long as you choose fish and shellfish low in mercury. That’s about three servings.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends that you eat two to three servings of a variety of fish each week if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, making sure to avoid fish with a higher mercury content.

Along with seafood like shrimp, salmon, herring, and clams, scallops make that list of good choices. And indeed, that’s because they tend to be low in mercury. Mercury can harm the developing brain of your baby. Larger fish like tilefish, swordfish, shark and king mackerel tend to have a higher mercury content.

So, as long as they’ve been prepared and cooked properly, scallops can make a healthy, tasty meal — one that’s high in nutrients and protein.

If you’re the one cooking, you want to make sure the scallops reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C). With scallops in particular, this may not be what you’re used to.

But there are times when you might want to smile politely and decline the scallops. For example, if you’re at a restaurant, and the menu tempts you with pan-seared scallops, you probably should order something else. Here’s why.

Pan searing is a very popular method for cooking scallops because they stay tender. This method involves cooking the scallops very quickly on very high heat. Since you cook them for just a minute or two, the insides tend to remain pretty raw.

You probably know what’s coming, don’t you? You don’t want to eat raw seafood if you can avoid it. Raw scallops, like other kinds of raw seafood, can contain bacteria or other toxins that might make you very sick.

You also should avoid scallops that have been harvested from waters that are known to be contaminated. It’s just not worth the risk.

It’s best to cook and eat scallops the same day that you buy them. Translation: It’s best to plan ahead, so you don’t just stuff them on a shelf in the fridge, only to forget about them until you unearth them a week later. (Don’t put them in water in the fridge, either.)

When it’s time to cook them, make sure you clean them thoroughly. Rinse them well with cold water and then pat them dry.

You’ll want to cook scallops thoroughly — this is key when you’re pregnant. Like some other kinds of seafood, scallops can get a little rubbery if you don’t cook them properly. (OK, they can get very rubbery if you don’t cook them right.) So, you may have to get creative here.

Instead of pan searing, you can grill or bake your scallops. These methods will be more likely to ensure that the scallops get cooked all the way through.

But if you really love pan-seared scallops, you can leave them in the pan to cook longer — about 2 minutes per side longer. But be forewarned that it’s really easy to accidentally overcook them, which makes them tough.

Scallops can deliver a nice punch of vitamin B12 and those omega-3 fatty acids that are so good for your baby’s brain development. Omega-3s may even help prevent preterm birth.

Scallops also contain magnesium, which has anti-inflammatory properties, and potassium, which helps regulate the fluid in your body as well as other crucial functions like muscle contractions and nerve signals. They contain significant amounts of trace minerals like zinc, copper, and selenium that are important for your own good health.

The next time you walk by the seafood aisle at the grocery store, check out the supply of scallops. You may see bay scallops, which are smaller scallops that are found in shallower waters, and sea scallops, which are bigger and are harvested from the ocean.

Whatever you choose, pay attention to the smell. If they smell funny or a little “off” to you, put them back.

Be mindful of allergies. Scallops are a type of shellfish, and shellfish allergies, unlike some other food allergies, more commonly present during adulthood.

How do you know if you ate scallops that you probably shouldn’t have? Your body might tell you pretty quickly.

If you start to develop a tingling in your mouth or your lips after consuming scallops, don’t ignore it. That’s one of the signs of an allergic reaction to a food — in this case, it would signify an allergic reaction to the scallops.

Other common signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • hives
  • itchy skin
  • nausea
  • runny nose
  • coughing

If you experience any of these after eating scallops, you may be having an allergic reaction. Notify your doctor.

You might also develop other symptoms if you eat undercooked food or food that wasn’t prepared safely. All those unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea may be a sign of food poisoning or a bacterial or parasitic infection. If this happens, contact your doctor.

Scallops can be a good addition to a healthy diet during pregnancy. Just make sure that you get fresh scallops, clean them thoroughly, and cook them properly before you enjoy them. And if you prefer to give them a pass while you’re pregnant, consider replacing them with other types of fish that are low in mercury.

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