Is It Safe To Eat Imitation Crab During Pregnancy?

Imitation crab can be a delicious, inexpensive substitute for crab, offering a similar taste. However, if you are craving this while pregnant, you should know that consuming imitation crab during pregnancy has its share of negative and positive effects.

The nutritional value of this pseudo-crab meat accounts for both its pros and cons. The high phosphorus content contributes to a healthy heart, whereas on the other hand, excess consumption may lead to a stroke from its high sodium content. Hence, knowing the right amount and way to consume it is extremely important.

Read on to know about the consumption of imitation crab while pregnant, including its benefits and drawbacks, tips for safe consumption, and some delicious recipes.

In This Article

What Is Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab is a form of Japanese fish cake

Image: IStock

An imitation crab is a form of Japanese fish cake made from blending a white fish called Alaskan Pollock with flavorings, colorants, and ingredients. Making imitation crab involves rinsing, skimming, grinding and cooking into an odorless paste called surimi. The makers then cut the paste into strips to resemble the leg meat of the crab. In a nutshell, imitation crab gives the yummy taste of crabs without burning a hole in the pocket. And it is readily available at most supermarkets and grocery stores.

Nutritional Value (USDA):

Calories85Sodium715 mg
Total Fat1 gPotassium76 mg
Saturated0 gTotal Carbs13 g
Polyunsaturated0 gDietary Fiber0 g
Monounsaturated0 gSugars6 g
Trans0 gProtein7 g
Cholesterol17 mg
Vitamin A0%Calcium1%
Vitamin C0%Iron

Can You Eat Imitation Crab While Pregnant?

Imitation crab can have both benefits and drawbacks. The safety of imitation crab also depends on the type of fish used to make it. Let’s check out the advantages and disadvantages of imitation crab.

Benefits Of Eating Imitation Crab While Pregnant

1. Low In Saturated Fat And Calories:

Eating imitation crab during pregnancy is good for cholesterol

Image: IStock

Among several low-calorie seafood options, an imitation crab is probably ideal. Imitation crab is low in fat and calories, which makes it a great addition to your diet if you’re watching your cholesterol. 3 ounces of imitation crab contains 1 gram of fat, 81 calories and 17 milligrams of cholesterol. It is also rich in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids making it a good choice for a maternal diet. A low-fat and low-calorie food will also protect you from chronic diseases.

2. Contains Low Levels Of Mercury:

Mercury is a contaminant found abundant in certain species of fish. It can negatively impact the nervous system development of the baby. But imitation crab is quite low in mercury, only if it is made of surimi.

3. Contains High Level Of Phosphorus:

Imitation crab contains a good dose of phosphorus. Phosphorus is present in most parts of our body, mainly teeth and bones. Phosphorus aids in the proper functioning of muscles and kidneys as well as many other functions in our body like healthy nerve function. The recommended daily allowance of phosphorus is 700 milligrams a day. 3 ounces of imitation crab will supply you with 240 milligrams.

Why Is It Not Safe To Eat Imitation Crab During Pregnancy?

1. Sodium:

One of the primary nutritional drawbacks of the imitation crab is the amount of salt it contains. A three-ounce serving of imitation crab contains at least 700-800 milligrams of sodium. The recommended upper limit of sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams a day. Excess levels of sodium in the body can increase the risk of high blood pressure, as well as edema or swelling in pregnancy.

2. Added Sugar Content:

Imitation crab contains a large amount of carbohydrate

Image: IStock

A stick of imitation crab contains a large amount of carbohydrate, around 5grams per 3 ounces. This is a little over a teaspoon of sugar, which many people would not expect in fish! But artificial crab is processed and has sugar and salt added.

Contains Preservatives

When bought as a canned fish, imitation crab may contain food additives like MSG and other preservatives, which may not be the best choice for you and your baby.

Safety Profile

  • Always read the ingredients list on the label to determine what kind of fish it contains. Please avoid these seafood substitutes if it uses king mackerel, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, and shark. If it contains shrimp, crab and lobster, then you can eat it twice a week during pregnancy. Normally it’s made from Alaskan Pollock, which has no limits.
  • Never eat raw seafood or undercooked imitation crab. Undercooked or raw imitation crab can harbor bacteria, especially Listeria, and can pave the way for foodborne illnesses like listeriosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of listeria infection is ten times higher for pregnant women than other individuals. Since the bacteria can cross the placenta, it can also affect the unborn baby’s health.
  • Cook the imitation crab at 145 degrees or above to destroy all the bacteria in the imitation crab.
Cook the imitation crab at 145 degrees or above

Image: Shutterstock

  • Do not eat imitation crab that has been lying open for more than three days. It might have harmful bacteria. Remember, pregnant women are 20 times more susceptible to catch diseases than any other healthy adults.
  • If you are eating imitation crab at a restaurant, then ask the chef what fish he uses before ordering.

How To Include Imitation Crab In Your Diet

There are plenty of ways to include this imitation seafood in your diet.
Some include:

  • Combine imitation crab with herbs and mayonnaise to make a delicious sandwich filling.
  • Toss chunks of imitation crab in a green salad. You can also add pieces of it in vegetable soup.
  • Stir diced imitation crab in low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt and then sprinkle some herbs and pepper to make a yummy dip.


Here is an easy imitation crab recipe for you to follow.

Imitation Crab Salad:

Imitation crab salad during pregnancy

Image: IStock

You Will Need:

  • 8 ounces of imitation crabmeat, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups of cooked rice, cooked
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and chopped

How To:

  1. Combine rice, eggs, and imitation crabmeat in a large bowl.
  1. Stir in mayonnaise. If the salad looks dry to you, then you can add some more mayonnaise.
  1. Cover and refrigerate overnight and serve with brown bread toast.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is imitation crab meat pasteurized?

Imitation crab meats available on the market can be both pasteurized and unpasteurized. Therefore, when buying imitation crab meat to eat during pregnancy, look at the label for pasteurized ones.

2. How often can I eat California rolls while pregnant?

Expecting women can eat two to three servings of low-mercury fish per week, including California rolls (1). California rolls are popular sushi rolls made with imitation crab meat, usually prepared from pollock’s deboned, washed, and minced flesh (2). Mercury in seafood like pollock is relatively low and considered safe for pregnancy consumption.

3. Can I eat crab sushi while pregnant?

Yes, sushi made with cooked fish and shellfish, such as crab, is safe during pregnancy (1).

If you love seafood and do not possess any seafood allergies, you may want to gorge on delectable fish and seafood even while you’re pregnant. Consuming certain seafood such as imitation crab during pregnancy may be beneficial but presents a few disadvantages, as it could have added sugars, preservatives, and increased sodium content. However, when consumed in recommended amounts, a fresh and properly cooked imitation crab could be safe to eat in pregnancy. Nevertheless, you may seek your doctor’s advice and follow the necessary food safety guidelines to include this tasty seafood in your pregnancy diet.

Infographic: Crucial Points To Note Before Consuming Imitation Crab

Imitation crab is a widely consumed seafood product and a common additive in dishes such as sushi, salads, and sandwiches. If you are a seafood enthusiast, you must review certain precautions before consuming certain seafood, such as imitation crab, while pregnant. This infographic can help you comprehend the vital safety measures to consider before eating imitation crab during pregnancy.

crucial points to note before consuming imitation crab (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Imitation crab is a low-fat and low-calorie food that can help regulate cholesterol levels and protect against chronic diseases.
  • It contains high levels of phosphorus and low levels of mercury, making it a safer option for pregnant women.
  • However, high levels of salt, preservatives, and sugar in imitation crab can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which can be harmful to both the mother and the baby.
  • Undercooked or uncooked imitation crab can pose a threat to the fetus, but cooking it to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or above can help destroy harmful bacteria, such as listeria.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Advice about Eating Fish.
  2. What Is Imitation Crab And Should You Eat It?.
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