The pescatarian diet is a vegan diet that includes fish and other seafood/aquatic animals. “Pesce” is an Italian word meaning fish, so people who have fish in their vegan diet are often called “pesce.” At times, individuals who follow the pescatarian diet are also called pescetarians or pesco-vegetarians.
Besides the inclusion of seafood, there aren’t any other strict guidelines that differentiate vegetarians and pescatarians. Also, there are no rules that define the number of times you should eat fish for you to be called a pescatarian. For instance, you might be a vegan who only eats fish occasionally, or you might include fish in all your meals.
Pescatarians could also get their daily protein from plant-based sources like legumes, seafood, dairy products, and eggs. This kind of eating can make for a healthy balanced diet that offers all the valuable nutrients.
Choosing the pescatarian diet is a versatile way to change a vegan diet. It also adds omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein provided by seafood to the many health benefits of fruits and vegetables. The pescatarian diet is packed with lower-calorie, high fiber, and nutrient-dense foods, helping those looking to lose weight. Health.usnews.com also notes that the pescatarian diet lowers the risk of cognitive and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
The pescatarian diet has many similarities with the Mediterranean diet. One of the things the two diets share in common is that fish is the primary source of protein. Also, both diets emphasize highly nutritious ingredients like vegetables and lean protein. The pescatarian diet might also be categorized as a semi-vegetarian, meaning plant-based foods are the primary focus, but animal products are sometimes included.
What Can You Eat?
The pescatarian diet mainly includes seafood, legumes, grains, vegetables, and fruits. Also, you can take dairy products and eggs. Moreover, a pescatarian diet will most of the time include flavorful foods like vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, spicy peppers, whole grains like quinoa and faro, and other highly nutritious ingredients.
Unlike other popular diets, both non-compliant and compliant ingredients and foods solely define the pescatarian diet, with no strict rules regarding cooking methods, components of snacks/meals, portion sizes, and more. This means an individual can follow a compliant diet, which is not balanced. For example, eating beer-battered shrimp, white rice, and nothing Oreos is not a very healthy lifestyle even though it’s technically pescatarian. You should always remember this as you create your meal plans, select whole foods over the processed foods, and cut back your intake of the added sugars for a balanced diet.
The pescatarian diet isn’t a weight-loss plan or formal diet, but it’s a lifestyle. As a result, if you chose to become a pescatarian, you can consume snacks and eat meals at any time you want and as much as you want.
Technically speaking, if you want to lose weight, it’s best to control your portion sizes. It’s also a great idea if you avoid overeating or maintain long-term weight loss. If combined with regular exercises, the pescatarian diet emphasizes highly nutritious foods lower in fat and calories. This will, without a doubt, help those looking to lose weight. It also promotes proper weight management.
Furthermore, if you suffer from a health condition like heart disease, celiac disease, or diabetes, this diet is safe and highly beneficial. Also, it’s easier to avoid the pescatarian diet in case you want to. However, always check with a healthcare provider to ensure you are getting the right combination of valuable nutrients.
Seafood included on the pescatarian diet might consist of freshwater fish like tuna or salmon and shellfish, including clams, oysters, shrimp, and more.
Eggs and Dairy Products
Many pescatarians eat dairy and eggs, even though some don’t. Basically, a pescatarian who eats dairy and eggs are widely called the Lacto-ovo-pescatarian.
The whole grains you take should be 100% whole and can include: whole grain pasta, high fiber cereals, whole grain bread, cooked whole grains and popcorn.
What You Cannot Eat?
Pregnant women should avoid raw fish such as sashimi and sushi. Also, they should closely watch out for the levels of mercury in the fish they are eating. Also, you’ll want to be careful about mercury when breastfeeding or have children who also eat pescatarian. Fish with high amounts of mercury include tuna, marlin, mackerel, shark and swordfish.
Game, Poultry, And Meat
Whether you eat specific foods such as cheese or yogurt, if you choose to follow the pescatarian diet, you will not eat meat or even meat products. This means you won’t just avoid red meat such as bison or beef; you’ll also have to avoid game, pork, lamb, and poultry.
Does It Aid In Weight Loss?
Not eating meat and meat products has significant weight loss benefits – studies show that people who choose a vegetarian way of eating tend to eat 300 calories less than their meat-eating peers. Moreover, all the fiber present in plant-based foods helps keep you feeling full for extended periods, meaning you won’t feel hungry.
Overall, the pescatarian diet is a great and healthy way to lose weight. However, you must make sure you do it right the away. Basically, every good diet should have a wide range of nutritious food sources to meet the different needs of our bodies.
Fiber, minerals, vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are essential in a balanced and healthy diet, helping you maintain a natural weight. One study showed that pescatarian women gained 2.5 pounds less than women who consumed meat.[i]
Following are some tips to lose weight with the pescatarian diet.
Cut back on saturated fats
Saturated fat is found in poultry, meat, and dairy products like butter and cream. They are known to raise levels of cholesterol, resulting in increased risks of cardiovascular disease.
Eat quality food
The pescatarian diet is unhealthy if you include lots of junk food. Making your meals from home is the first step if you want to lose weight.
At times people think a high protein diet is primarily for gaining muscle; nevertheless, protein is excellent in weight loss. Proteins promote muscle growth and repair and can be a stunning fat banner if paired with regular exercises.
What Are The Rules Of The Pescatarian Diet?
The healthy plant-based ingredients are combined with seafood and tasty fish to design this pescatarian diet. As mentioned above, the pescatarian diet is typically a vegan diet that includes fish. Most pescatarians also eat dairy and eggs, so these are some of the things that you should also include in your plan. Below are some of the rules you should abide by if you choose to follow the pescatarian diet.
You should eat kiwi, blueberries, corn, eggplant, orange and yellow peppers, bright red, dark leafy greens, and other vegetables and fruits. If you purchase fresh fish, it should be frozen or cooked a few days after buying. Stock up on canned fish or tuna packets to ensure you’ll always have enough seafood
Potential Health Benefits
Fish is rich in many valuable nutrients but lower in saturated fat. Also, fish is an excellent source of proteins, so you do not have to include other foods high in protein. However, it’s important for you to include other healthy foods like legumes, vegetables, and grains in your meals. A pescatarian diet is a great option if you’re looking for a more nutritious eating plan. For example, plant-based food offers many minerals and vitamins, whereas seafood is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Health benefits of the pescatarian diet include.
Promotes Heart Health
Consuming fish, particularly fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon, offer omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are known to promote a wide range of health benefits. Studies show few cases of heart attacks and other heart-related diseases among people who consumed more fish. Many studies have been consistent with the results showing high consumption of omega-3 fats is related to lower risks of heart disease and heart failure.[ii]
Prevention And Control Of Diabetes
Globally, cases of diabetes have steadily increased. Most of them are cases of type II diabetes caused by modifiable risk factors such as a diet. Following a vegan diet such as the pescatarian diet is helpful in preventing and management of diabetes.[iii]
Reduced Risk Of Cancer
The wide variety of valuable nutrients found in seafood and fish might significantly reduce cancer risk by reducing inflammation in the body. A study involving more than 70,000 individuals found that people following the pescatarian diet have a 43% lower risk for contracting colorectal cancer. Moreover, Italian researchers recommend that the anti-inflammatory effect of diets high in omega-3 fats could help reduce cancer risks.[iv]
Sample Shopping List
A healthy and balanced pescatarian diet includes fruits, plant protein, seafood and grains, legumes, vegetables, or other carbs. In essence, as a good source of fiber, whole grains offer fewer sugars and more nutrients than refined grains such as white flour and white rice.
There are no restrictions on the types of vegetables and fruits that can be combined with this meal plan. To receive full benefits, you should include kiwi, blueberries, corn, eggplant, orange and yellow peppers, bright red, dark leafy greens, and other vegetables and fruits. The shopping list below provides more suggestions to get started on this pescatarian diet. Keep in mind that this shopping list isn’t exclusive, you might find other types of fish and foods that work for you.
- Vegetables (eggplant, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli)
- Dark leafy greens (Swiss chard, kale, spinach)
- Frozen and fresh fruits (apples, berries, bananas, grapefruit)
- Whole grains (barley, brown rice pasta, whole wheat bread, quinoa)
- Healthy fat sources (almonds, olive oil, chia seeds, walnuts, avocados)
- Dairy products (cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Frozen or fresh fish (sea bass, snapper, salmon, cod, halibut)
- Packaged or canned fish (herring, salmon, anchovies, sardines, tuna)
- Legumes and plant-based protein (chickpeas, lentils, black beans, soybeans, tofu)
Sample Meal Plan
Although the pescatarian diet doesn’t have any strict rules rather than eating seafood instead of animal protein, you should always opt for balanced meals. Opt for healthy cooking techniques – if you eat processed foods and fried fish, you might not enjoy the benefits of this incredible eating style. Boil or grill fish utilizing healthy cooking oils, steam the seafood, or use other lower-fat methods like baking or sautéing to prepare your food.
Also, you shouldn’t shy off from asking for help with cooking any time you need it. Incase the concept of seafood preparation intimidates you, then you should take time to learn more. Most kitchen stores and cooking schools offer inexpensive options, and more are available online.
Also, there are many easy and quick meals that you can prepare in advance or grab and go to make following this diet easier for you. Different meal kit services provide vegetarian and pescatarian meals too. The most important thing you should do is ensuring you choose natural foods with as little processing as possible.
The 7-day meal plan below isn’t all-inclusive but will give you an idea of what a pescatarian diet is all about. If you choose to follow the pescatarian diet, you might find other meals that are more ideal for your preferences and tastes.
- Breakfast – Any choice of banana and cereal
- Lunch – A tuna salad
- Dinner – The tuna pesto pasta
- Snack – 3x protein balls
- Breakfast – 2 blueberries and lemon muffins
- Lunch – The udon noodle soup
- Dinner – Sticky and sweet salmon kebabs
- Snack – 4 carrot hummus cucumber
- Breakfast – 2 avocados baked eggs
- Lunch – The Moroccan sweet potato skins
- Dinner – The Thai massaman curry
- Snack – crème caramel
- Breakfast – The coconut banana pancakes
- Lunch – Mac n cheese
- Dinner – A baked tilapia
- Snack – A chocolate milkshake
- Breakfast – Milk and Weetabix topped with a banana
- Lunch – Green and mackerel bean salad
- Dinner – The Teriyaki stir fry
- Snack – Chocolate peanut batter
- Breakfast – Sautéed mushroom toast and avocado
- Lunch – A green chickpea salad
- Dinner – Chicken or beef burger
- Snack – Ice cream
- Breakfast – Fresh sardine fillets
- Lunch – Vegetable sub sandwich
- Dinner – Veggies, mashed potatoes, and steak
- Snack – Pudding
Pros And Cons Of The Pescatarian Diet
Easy To Follow Than A Strict Vegetarian Diet
Some individuals who choose to remove meat from their diets might find following this pescatarian diet easier than a strict vegetarian diet since it’s much easier to get sufficient protein every day plus seafood. If you replace meat-based foods with fish-based meals, it’s highly likely that you’ve cut fat and calories from the diet to help control and maintain a healthy weight. Always make sure you choose foods with no added ingredients like salt or sugar whenever possible.
Many Wellness Advantages
You’ll enjoy many health benefits if you choose the pescatarian diet. If you choose to follow a balanced and healthy pescatarian diet, you’ll enjoy all benefits related to a vegetarian diet and other benefits associated with eating fish.
Flexibility and Customization
This plan includes an extensive range of compliant food, without any specific restrictions on calories and portion sizes that might be impressive to people who prefer diets that are less regimented. Nevertheless, the lack of outright guidance for making balanced and nutritious options from compliant foods might pose challenges to those who benefit from this diet.
Have Many Environmental Benefits
Some people choose to follow the pescatarian diet mainly due to the positive impact that specific seafood choices have on the environment. Raising and processing meat usually takes up space and contributes to lethal emissions. By reducing our dependency on meat products and making sustainable choices, we play our part in creating a healthy planet.[v]
Animal Welfare Benefits
Some people choose the pescatarian diet because they disagree with the killing of animals to get food. For individuals more concerned about the welfare of animals, a pescatarian diet might be more ideal. Scientists argue that fish doesn’t feel pain. A study showed that even though fish experience psychological stress, they lack the neural network responsible for experiencing pain.[vi]
Also, it’s important to note that a pescatarian diet is far more sustainable than factory farming of birds or mammals. However, it has a few environmental issues. There are some people who believe that the farming of ruminants and pigs harms the environment. Both groups release greenhouse gases with pigs and ruminants producing ammonia and methane gas, respectively.
Can Be Expensive
Purchasing the foods in the pescatarian diet, including fresh fish, vegetables, and fruits, can be expensive. However, you don’t have to buy fresh –numerous bulk bags of veggies and fruits because they are just as good as the frozen versions. Moreover, frozen fish is easier to store and even more economical. Though canned tuna contains sodium and is minimally processed, it’s perfectly healthy to eat in moderation.
Watch Out For Mercury
Nothing is ever perfect in this world, and the pescatarian diet also comes with a few warnings. Seafood might contain mercury that damages the nervous system and brain. If you eat lots of high mercury fish like biyege tuna, ahi tuna, tilefish, and swordfish, orange roughly, and king mackerel, they contain high mercury levels that have adverse health effects.[vii]
The best thing you can do is focus on seafood and fish lower in mercury like Pollock, haddock, cod, oysters, sardines, scallops, shrimp, tilapia, and Alaska salmon. Also, it’s always recommended that you consult a health physician doctor about the pescatarian before making any significant changes to your diet.
Is The Pescatarian Diet A Healthy Option For You?
The existing guidelines outlined by the USDA (United states department of agriculture) suggest filling your plan with a balanced mixture of protein (from plant-based sources, fish, or meat), dairy products, vegetables, fruits, and grains. A pescatarian diet meets the standard if foods are balanced with the USDA recommended nutrients and foods.[viii]
Keep in mind that the pescatarian diet doesn’t have any official calorie count. This means you don’t have to stress yourself over calorie counting. Nevertheless, the USDA proposes the daily intake of approximately 1,500 calories for those looking to lose weight, even though the number varies depending on activity level, sex, weight, and age.[ix]
Take note that a pescatarian diet features numerous low-calorie foods. If you want to lose weight, you might have to keep track of calories to create a sustainable and healthy calorie deficit. Studies show that pesco-vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, and vegetarians have diets, which are often better with regards to the quality of nutrients than omnivores.[x] However, some people might argue that other factors result in the improved nutrition quality.
Finally, take note that each individual is different, and a diet that works for one person might not work for another. So, it’s always best to consult a health provider before you implement this diet. Also, you can check out other diets on our website to see one that fits your lifestyle best.
How Much Does A Pescatarian Diet Cost?
Although a pescatarian diet plan might be cheaper than other healthy meal plans, buying fresh fish, vegetables and fruits could be expensive. The United States department of agriculture (USDA) has previously estimated that the daily cost of vegetables and fruits can be as low as $5.50.
So, it’s cheaper to be a pescatarian. Pescatarian diets bought online are more affordable than other diets. The good news is that don’t have to buy fresh produce, which is more expensive than frozen produce; instead, choose frozen fish, which is more affordable.
What is the Main Benefit of Taking Vitamin E?
What Food is High in Vitamin E?
What Does a Pescatarian Eat?
Can You Lose Weight Consuming Pescatarian Diet?
What Should a Pescatarian Avoid?
What Should Pescatarian Eat for Breakfast?
Can a Pescatarian Eat Rice?
- [i] Rosell M, Appleby P, Spencer E, Key T. Weight gain over 5 years in 21,966 meat-eating, fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women in EPIC-Oxford. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Sep;30(9):1389-96. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803305. Epub 2006 Mar 14. PMID: 16534521.
- [ii] Abdelhamid AS, Brown TJ, Brainard JS, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;7:CD003177. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003177.pub3
- [iii] Derbyshire EJ. Flexitarian diets and health: A review of the evidence-based literature. Front Nutr. 2017;3:55. doi:10.3389/fnut.2016.00055
- [iv] Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabaté J, et al. Vegetarian dietary patterns and the risk of colorectal cancers. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(5):767-776. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.59
- [v] Rust NA, Ridding L, Ward C, et al. How to transition to reduced-meat diets that benefit people and the planet. Sci Total Environ. 2020; 718:137208. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137208
- [vi] Key B. Fish do not feel pain and its implications for understanding phenomenal consciousness. Biol Philos. 2015;30(2):149-165. doi:10.1007/s10539-014-9469-4
- [vii] Raimann X, Rodríguez O L, Chávez P, Torrejón C. Mercurio en pescados y su importancia en la salud [Mercury in fish and its importance in health]. Rev Med Chil. 2014 Sep;142(9):1174-80. Spanish. doi: 10.4067/S0034-98872014000900012. PMID: 25517058.
- [viii] U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.
- [ix] U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Eighth Edition. December 2015.
- [x] Clarys P, Deliens T, Huybrechts I, et al. Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrients. 2014;6(3):1318-32. doi:10.3390/nu6031318