Can You Eat Tuna Salad When Pregnant? (Quick Answer!)

By KidSpaceStuff •  Updated: 04/19/24 •  11 min read

As a mother of several children, the topic of eating tuna during pregnancy came up more times than I can count.

Can you eat tuna salad when pregnant? How much tuna is safe?

Tuna, with its rich omega-3 fatty acids, plays a vital role in baby’s brain development. However, concerns around mercury levels in fish, especially larger ones like albacore tuna and yellowfin tuna, can make eating fish a dilemma.

Weighing the health benefits of tuna’s key nutrients against potential risks is crucial for every expecting mother. In this article, I’ll delve deep into the nuances of consuming tuna during pregnancy and provide insights based on research and dietary guidelines.

Can You Eat Tuna Salad While Pregnant?

Pasta Tuna Salad with mixed vegetables

During pregnancy, proper nutrition is crucial for both the expectant mother and the developing baby. Tuna salad, a popular dish made from canned tuna and various other ingredients, raises questions on its safety for consumption during pregnancy.

Tuna is a great source of essential nutrients such as protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are particularly important for the healthy development of the fetus. However, tuna also contains mercury, which can be harmful in large amounts. Mercury exposure during pregnancy can potentially lead to neurological and developmental issues in the baby.

To limit mercury exposure, pregnant women are advised to choose low-mercury fish options and to avoid consuming fish with high mercury content. Fortunately, canned light tuna (usually made from skipjack tuna) has relatively lower levels of mercury compared to albacore tuna. Therefore, if opting for canned tuna, it is safer for pregnant women to choose canned light tuna instead of albacore or yellowfin tuna.

It is important to note the suggested guidelines from health experts on fish consumption during pregnancy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that pregnant women consume no more than 8 to 12 ounces (about two to three servings) of low-mercury fish per week. When considering canned light tuna, it is advised not to exceed 6 ounces (one serving) per week.

Moreover, preparing tuna salad involves combining canned tuna with other ingredients, such as mayonnaise, celery, and onions. Pregnant women should ensure that all other ingredients used in the salad are safe for consumption during pregnancy and are prepared hygienically. This means avoiding raw or undercooked eggs in homemade mayonnaise and washing vegetables thoroughly.

Therefore, it is possible to enjoy tuna salad during pregnancy if certain precautions are taken, such as choosing low-mercury canned light tuna, limiting consumption to the recommended weekly servings, and ensuring the safety of all other salad ingredients. Just like eating potato salad when pregnant, moderation is key.

Risks of Eating Tuna Salad During Pregnancy

Pregnant women need to be cautious about their seafood consumption, as certain fish contain high levels of mercury and other pollutants. Some fish commonly known for high mercury content include tilefish, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. Mercury, a toxic pollutant, can negatively impact a developing baby’s nervous system and even lead to developmental delays.

Tuna, a popular ingredient in tuna salad, can contain varying amounts of mercury. Canned light tuna is generally considered safer for consumption during pregnancy, but albacore tuna and tuna steaks should be limited to 6 ounces (170 grams) per week. It is essential to keep in mind that mercury levels can widely differ in individual tuna, regardless of their size.

Apart from mercury, other risks associated with seafood during pregnancy entail consuming raw, undercooked, or smoked fish, like sashimi and sushi. These types of fish can harbor dangerous bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes, which can lead to severe illnesses during pregnancy. Pregnant women should stick to fully-cooked fish and avoid raw or smoked varieties.

Allergies pose another risk for pregnant women who eat seafood like tuna. It is crucial to consider any existing allergies or sensitivities to fish, as an allergic reaction can impact both the mother and the baby negatively. If unsure about potential allergies, consult a healthcare provider before including seafood in the diet during pregnancy.

In conclusion, tuna salad can be consumed during pregnancy as long as precautions are taken to avoid high-mercury varieties, raw or smoked fish, and allergies. Pregnant women should keep their overall seafood consumption in check and opt for safer alternatives like tilapia, cod, and catfish to minimize risks.

Health Benefits of Eating Tuna During Pregnancy

Nutritional Requirements During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, women have increased nutritional needs to support a developing baby and maintain their own health. Tuna is packed with essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals that can be beneficial for both the mother and baby. Some of the key nutritional benefits of tuna include high-quality protein, iron, and zinc, which are all important for a healthy pregnancy.

Protein is crucial for cell growth and repair, ensuring proper fetal development. Iron helps to prevent anemia in the mother and supports the baby’s growth while zinc is involved in cellular metabolism and immunity. Moreover, tuna provides vitamins like B12, D, and niacin that contribute to overall pregnancy health.

Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

One of the most important nutrients found in tuna is omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are crucial for the baby’s brain development, as well as reducing the risk of low birth weight and other complications during pregnancy.

While there are many nutritional benefits to including tuna in a pregnant woman’s diet, it is essential to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend eating a variety of fish while being cautious of high-mercury varieties. Pregnant women should limit their intake of certain types of tuna, such as albacore tuna, which has higher levels of mercury, and opt for lower-mercury alternatives like canned light tuna.

By carefully choosing low-mercury tuna and following recommended dietary guidelines, pregnant women can enjoy the health benefits of tuna while minimizing potential risks.

Alternatives to Tuna Salad for Pregnant Women

While tuna salad can be a delicious and nutritious choice, mercury levels in canned tuna can pose a risk for pregnant women. Luckily, there are many other seafood options that are safer and equally delicious. Here are some great alternatives to consider:

Salmon is an excellent choice due to its high omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for healthy fetal development. Additionally, salmon is low in mercury, making it a safe option for pregnant women. Consider creating a salmon salad using grilled or baked salmon, mixed greens, and a light dressing.

Shrimp is another low-mercury option that can replace tuna in a salad. Boiled or grilled shrimp can provide a tasty and healthy twist to the classic tuna salad. Mix with a variety of fresh veggies, such as spinach, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers for a scrumptious meal.

When it comes to white fish, several options are lower in mercury and perfect for a salad. Cod, pollock, and tilapia are excellent low-mercury substitutes for tuna. Simply grill or bake the fish and mix with mixed greens, sliced cucumber, and a lemon vinaigrette for a light and nutritious meal.

Trout, sardines, anchovies, and herring are rich in omega-3s and typically low in mercury, making them great alternatives to tuna. These smaller fish can be incorporated into a salad using mixed greens, capers, and a light dressing.

For those who prefer freshwater fish, catfish can be a good option, as it is typically low in mercury. Grilled catfish can be added to a salad with a variety of vegetables and a light dressing for a healthy meal option.

Lastly, shellfish like scallops, clams, and mussels are also generally low in mercury and make for a delicious seafood salad. Pair with a mix of vegetables and a refreshing dressing for a satisfying meal.

In conclusion, pregnant women have plenty of low-mercury, nutritious alternatives to tuna salad. Enjoy these options to maintain a healthy pregnancy while still satisfying your seafood cravings.

Can I Eat a Tuna Sandwich While Pregnant?

During pregnancy, it is important to maintain a healthy diet for the well-being of both the mother and the developing baby. Tuna can be an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients. However, when it comes to eating tuna while pregnant, there are some considerations and precautions to be aware of.

Canned light tuna, which is typically made from skipjack, is considered safer for pregnant women due to its lower mercury content. The United States advises women to consume no more than 12 ounces (340 grams) of canned light tuna per week during pregnancy. Albacore and yellowfin tuna can also be consumed, but pregnant women should limit their intake to 4 ounces per week. This is because these types of tuna contain higher levels of mercury.

Mercury in high amounts can be harmful to the developing nervous system of the fetus. Therefore, it is essential for pregnant women to stay within the recommended consumption limits. For enjoying a tuna sandwich, pregnant women can opt for canned light tuna and incorporate it into their diet once or twice a week without concern.

It is also crucial to ensure that the tuna is prepared in a safe and hygienic manner to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. Make sure to store the tuna properly, wash hands, and use clean surfaces and utensils during preparation.

In summary, pregnant women can enjoy a tuna sandwich made from canned light tuna in moderation, as long as they adhere to the recommended consumption guidelines and maintain proper food handling practices.


Can I eat a tuna sandwich from a restaurant while pregnant?

Yes, you can eat a tuna sandwich from a restaurant while pregnant, but it is important to exercise caution. Restaurants may use different types of tuna, some of which might have higher mercury levels. It is advised to choose restaurants that serve tuna made from light or skipjack tuna, as they tend to have lower mercury levels compared to other types such as albacore or yellowfin tuna. It’s also crucial to ensure that the tuna has been cooked properly to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Is it safe to consume canned tuna during pregnancy?

Consuming canned tuna during pregnancy can be safe if done in moderation, as it provides protein and beneficial nutrients, such as Omega-3 fatty acids. However, it’s essential to be cautious about the mercury content in canned tuna. Pregnant women should opt for light or skipjack canned tuna, which contains lower levels of mercury compared to albacore or yellowfin tuna. It’s advised to limit consumption to 8-12 ounces per week, as recommended by the FDA and EPA guidelines.

What types of tuna are best for pregnant women?

The best types of tuna for pregnant women are those with lower mercury content, such as light or skipjack tuna. These types provide essential nutrients for both the mother and the developing baby while minimizing the risk associated with mercury exposure. When choosing tuna during pregnancy, it is crucial to avoid raw or undercooked tuna and maintain a balanced diet that includes a variety of fish, ensuring you still get the benefits of seafood consumption without potentially harming your baby’s development.

Are you wondering how to prepare a simple and healthy tuna salad? Check out the video below!

Final Thoughts

Navigating the waters of fish consumption during pregnancy can be a challenge, but with informed choices, it’s entirely possible to reap the nutritional benefits without risking your unborn baby’s health.

While tuna, particularly light canned tuna, offers numerous benefits such as omega-3 fatty acids essential for brain development, it’s crucial to be aware of mercury levels and make choices accordingly.

Pregnant women should strike a balance by incorporating other fish with lower mercury content into their diet. Remember, a healthy diet with a variety of foods, including whole grains and fish, will support both you and your baby’s development during this crucial period.

Have other pregnancy questions? Check out these guides: