By definition, a pescatarian (or pescetarian) is a person who eats seafood but not other types of meat. Pescatarians are similar to vegetarians, but the difference is that pescatarians eat fish and shellfish in addition to an otherwise vegetarian diet. However, there is no consensus on whether a pescatarian diet includes eggs and dairy since many vegetarians consume those types of land animal products. Major vegetarian organizations, including The Vegetarian Society, do not recognize pescatarians as true vegetarians. Pescatarians believe that they can improve their health, the plight of land animals and the condition of our planet by refusing to consume meats other than seafood.
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Seafood in a Pescatarian Diet
Pescatarians do not eat land animals or birds, including chicken, beef, pork and other types of poultry. They do, however, eat seafood, including fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, whitefish, sardines and even fish roe, also known as fish eggs or caviar. This type of diet also allows for shellfish like lobster, shrimp (or prawns), crawfish and crab as well as mollusks like scallops, clams, mussels, squid, octopus and oysters. These foods can be prepared in any manner, as long as they are not prepared with ingredients that contain meat that doesn't fall into these categories.
Plant Foods in a Pescatarian Diet
Fruits and vegetables are the main attraction for pescatarians, much like vegetarians and vegans. Pescatarians can eat any kind of fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, nut or seed. They can also eat plant-based proteins like soy and tempeh. Some pescatarians rely on beans, nuts and dairy for the majority of their protein, eating fish and seafood only on occasion. Others eat at least one seafood meal per day.
Snack Foods for a Pescatarian Diet
Being pescatarian doesn't automatically make you healthier, in the same way that being a vegetarian doesn't equal instant health. There are a wide variety of snack and junk foods that do not contain animal products, such as potato chips, cakes, cookies and even ice creams. Pescatarians still have to be careful of their saturated fat intake even though they do not eat land animals or birds.
Eggs and Dairy in a Pescatarian Diet
According to Pescatarian Life, pescatarians may or may not eat dairy, like other types of vegetarians. This is a personal choice that each pescatarian makes based on his own values and opinions about the dairy system. It's not safe to assume that pescatarians eat dairy when preparing meals. It's always best to ask.
The Disadvantages of a Pescatarianism
Fish is a good source of protein and healthy fats, but eating too much may be bad for your health, increasing your exposure to pollutants and mercury. Depending on the waters that are being fished, some of those pollutants can include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin and perflourooctane sulfonate (PFO), so you may want to check the EPA site when eating locally caught fish. Certain types of commonly eaten fish and shellfish including shrimp, albacore tuna, sea bass and swordfish contain low levels of mercury that can build up in your body over time. Excessive exposure to these pollutants on a pescatarian diet increases your risk of cancer, diabetes and thyroid disease. The FDA and EPA caution women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. For fish with lower levels, such as canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish, those same types of people should limit their intake to 12 ounces per week while locally caught fish in areas where there are no advisories should limit the intake to 6 ounces per week.
The Advantages of Pescatarianism
While you can eat an unhealthy diet as a pescatarian, most pescatarians and vegetarians consume less total fat, less cholesterol and less saturated fat than people who eat meat regularly. If you're transitioning to pescatarianism, a meal plan may help you figure out what to eat as you remove meat and poultry from your diet and make healthier food choices. According to the UK's National Health Service, most people should include seafood in their diet because fish and shellfish are rich in nutrients, and oily fish like like salmon are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Healthy Meals for Pescatarians
On a pescatarian diet, you may need to be conscientious about iron consumption, making an effort to include dark leafy greens, beans, soy products, and dried fruits in your diet. If you consume very minimal amounts of fish or animal products, be certain to choose vitamin B-12 fortified foods, like breakfast cereal or soy milk, to make up for a potential deficit, or ask your health care provider to recommend a supplement. Many common breakfast foods fit into a pescatarian diet without difficulty. If you are including eggs and dairy in your pescatarian diet, opt for eggs, omelets or yogurt for breakfast. If you aren't, then cereal or oatmeal with non-dairy milk or toast with nut butter are nutritious options. Lunch choices might include sushi, a sandwich, a salad with chickpeas and sunflower seeds or a salmon burger. If you are limiting your intake of fish to once a day, there are plenty of healthy meatless dinners that include whole grains, beans and vegetables.