Can I Eat Scallops While Pregnant?

Scallops on a dinner plate

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During pregnancy, there are a lot of rules, particularly when it comes to eating. There are many foods to avoid or limit, including soft cheeses, deli meats, and sushi. These eating guidelines can be confusing to sort out, leaving many pregnant parents uncertain about what’s safe to eat and what’s not.

This is particularly true for seafood as there’s lots of attention around avoiding high-mercury fish, which can be harmful to developing fetuses. So, it’s not surprising that fans of scallops may wonder if they can eat them while pregnant.

Luckily, the answer is yes—scallops are safe to eat during pregnancy with some precautions. Find out more about how to safely consume scallops while expecting.

Eating Scallops During Pregnancy

Generally, it is safe—and encouraged—to eat seafood, including scallops, during pregnancy. The key is to make sure any scallops you enjoy are fully cooked, thoughtfully sourced, and consumed in moderation, says Sandra Arévalo, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and master of public health, who is also a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Scallops, which are a type of shellfish, are a healthy, low-mercury seafood option, says Arévalo. The part that we eat is the round muscle that opens and closes the scallop shell. Scallops are often served seared, pan-fried, or grilled.

During pregnancy, scallops (and all seafood) should be well cooked to ensure it is safe to eat, says Diana E. Ramos, an OB/GYN and adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. This precaution applies to both fresh and frozen scallops and ensures that any potential pathogens in the scallops are killed off during cooking before consumption.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about eating scallops while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Eating scallops is not harmful to your growing baby as long as the shellfish are fresh, fully cooked, and eaten in limited quantities. In fact, the nutrients found in scallops are healthy for your baby, explains Arevalo.

Benefits of Eating Scallops During Pregnancy

Scallop meat is white and tender when cooked. In addition to being sought after for their delicate, slightly sweet taste, scallops (and seafood, generally) are chock-full of nutrition.

In fact, scallops are a good source of protein and various minerals like phosphorous, potassium, and iron. Scallops also contain other healthy properties such as omega 3-fatty acids and vitamin B12.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends eating seafood during pregnancy and while breastfeeding because it can help your baby’s growth and development. Additionally, a diet that includes seafood, like scallops, may offer other benefits like improving heart health and reducing the risk of obesity.

Safety Precautions

While scallops can be a part of a healthy prenatal diet, it is imperative to follow several safety guidelines. The primary one is to make sure that the scallops you eat are fresh (this includes previously frozen scallops, too) and that proper food handling has been used in their preparation.

Ensure Freshness

Freshness is important. Before consuming scallops, check the expiration dates, toss anything that smells or looks "off" to you, and ensure that the scallops are kept at the appropriate temperature either in the fridge or freezer.

Scallops that are safe to eat should have no smell or a slight ocean-like smell. When raw, they will have a firm, slightly moist texture and will range in color from a pearl white to pale pink. Anything with a sour or fishy smell or a slimy, wet texture should be discarded.

Cook Your Scallops Fully

While you may have enjoyed raw or slightly undercooked seafood pre-pregnancy, it's best to refrain from doing so now that you are pregnant. "Scallops are safe to eat as long as they are well cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees," says Dr. Ramos. So, it's important to only eat fully cooked scallops, rather than the rare varieties.

Be aware that many scallop dishes are served with the meat slightly rare in the center. This often includes preparations that call for seared scallops. If making a scallop dish at home, simply cook the scallops a bit longer to make them safe for you to eat. When dining at a restaurant, you can request that your scallops are cooked through, as well.

"It’s good to avoid raw seafood and fish from the moment you know you are pregnant," advises Arévalo.

Limit Your Portions

Another important caveat to eating scallops during pregnancy is to limit how much you eat. Safe quantities of seafood (including scallops) during pregnancy are generally limited to 2 to 3 meals weekly or 8 to 12 ounces, says Dr. Ramos.

Scallops are a low mercury option, so there's no worry on that front. "The fish to avoid are the high mercury fish," says Dr. Ramos. Those include king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, swordfish, and tilefish. Consumption of high mercury fish has been linked to birth defects, Dr. Ramos says.

A Word From Verywell

Scallops are safe to include in your prenatal diet as long as they are eaten fully cooked and quantities are limited. You can enjoy eating scallops during pregnancy without any worries for you or your baby. In fact, the nutrients in scallops are quite good for your growing baby. Reach out to a healthcare provider with any concerns or questions you have about eating scallops while pregnant.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Advice about eating fish. Updated December 29, 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: scallops, steamed or boiled. Updated October 30, 2020.

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Selecting and serving fresh and frozen seafood safely. Updated August 4, 2020.