New fish consumption advice from the FDA, EPA

How much fish should your family eat? What types are considered healthy and safe? We now have some clarity with new federal guidelines released last week. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration and Environmental Protection agencies issued advice regarding eating fish geared toward helping women who are pregnant or may become pregnant as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children.

They have created a handy reference chart that sorts 62 types of fish into three categories:

  • “Best choices” (eat two to three servings a week): This includes fish such salmon, cod, and tilapia.
  • “Good choices” (eat one serving a week): This includes mahi mahi, carp, and halibut.
  • “Fish to avoid”: These category has the highest levels of mercury, and includes swordfish and orange roughy.

Fish in the “best choices” category make up nearly 90 percent of fish eaten in the United States, according to a press release. There’s also a frequently asked question and answer section about how they came up with the chart.

We asked Liz Coover, RD, CSP, LDN, and Stefanie Weiner RD, LDN, clinical dietitians from the Healthy Weight Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to weigh in on the new recommendations:

What’s the take away from this for parents with young children?

Parents are often intimidated by fish. This new advice from the FDA reinforces the recommendation of 2-3 servings per week, and gives parents a starting point to help them choose which ones. Organizing common fishes into “best,” “good,” and “to avoid” is a clear and simple way to give parents confidence that they are providing their children with safe and healthy food. 

Does this change anything you will advise with patients?

This will be a great tool to use when advising our patients about eating fish.  Instead of simply encouraging families to each more fish, we can now discuss in more detail exactly which fish to increase, and which ones to eat less frequently. We can also reinforce appropriate child and adult serving sizes, as the new FDA chart also shows how to compare a serving to your palm. 

Why is it important to have fish in your diet?

Fish is an excellent source of lean protein that contains those heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Incorporating fish into your diet helps to maintain a wide variety and prevents everyone from getting bored of dinner (“Chicken again?!”).  Fish can also be a great way to introduce your kids to new and interesting cuisines from around the world. In many countries, fish is served at most meals, including breakfast.  

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