Scallops In Pregnancy: Safety, Benefits, And Precautions

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Scallops are mollusks that are found both in the sea and bay. Seafood lovers worldwide enjoy eating their meat, which is considered a delicacy for its sweet, rich taste that can be mild or briny. Scallops are low-fat seafood rich in lean protein, B vitamins, and minerals, such as selenium. Therefore, they are considered a healthy seafood choice for people across ages. But while eating scallops is generally healthy, can you eat scallops while pregnant?

Read on as we tell you about the safety and possible health benefits of consuming scallops in pregnancy.

Can You Eat Scallops When Pregnant?

Yes. Pregnant women can eat well-cooked scallops. The US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) recognizes low-mercury fish and shellfish, such as salmon, tuna (canned light), shrimp, and scallops, as the best seafood choices for expecting and lactating mothers.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant and breastfeeding women may consume two to three servings a week (8 to 12 ounces) of a variety of ‘best choice’ fish and eat one serving of ‘good choice’ fish (1) (2).

What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Scallops During Pregnancy?

Eating low-mercury seafood, such as scallops, during pregnancy may support your health and aid in the baby’s cognitive development (3). Scallops are rich in high-quality, lean protein. Pregnant women need more protein than their non-pregnant counterparts to support the growth of fetal and maternal tissues, such as the breast and uterine tissues. Also, it plays an important role in increasing your blood supply (4).

Scallops are also an excellent source of minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and selenium, and contain omega-3 fatty acids and choline (5). Pregnant women require these nutrients for maintaining their health and supporting their baby’s growth and development.

How To Buy, Store, And Cook Scallops?

Scallops in the market can come from the bay or sea. Bay scallops are found in shallow waters (bays and estuaries) and are relatively smaller in size. On the other hand, sea scallops come from the sea and are larger. No matter what type you buy, selecting the right scallop is the first step toward its safe ingestion during pregnancy.

Buying and storing scallops

While purchasing fresh produce, look for scallops that are dry, soft to touch, and have a texture similar to that of pork chops. Additionally, check for the following attributes.

  • Check their skin and select those with shiny, creamy white skin with an orange or pinkish tint.
  • Pay attention to the smell and opt for scallops with a clean, fresh, and somewhat salty smell, and discard those smelling off or rotten.
  • Examine the scallop size carefully and pick the ones you want. Generally, scallops come in size, such as U/10, which means you will get fewer than ten scallops per pound, and each scallop will weigh about 1½ or 1¾ ounces.
  • Never store scallops in water. Instead, refrigerate them immediately after purchase.

Alternatively, you can pick packaged scallops that are often flash frozen. If you use frozen scallops, remember to thaw them before cooking.

Cooking scallops at home

The best way to cook scallops at home is to cook them fresh. So, try cooking the scallops the day you buy them or the latest the next day.

  • Before cooking, thoroughly clean them under cold running water and then pat dry using a clean kitchen towel. Then, you can steam, bake, boil, roast, grill, or fry scallops.
  • Irrespective of the cooking method, remember to cook scallops to an internal temperature of 145° F (63° C) to cook them thoroughly. Well-cooked scallops are firm to touch and opaque (milky white) in color (6).
  • If overcooked, scallops can turn rubbery in texture. Most pan-seared scallops are cooked for a short duration on high heat, due to which they are soft to eat but are possibly undercooked. Consuming raw or undercooked seafood isn’t safe for expecting mothers and babies.

Bay scallops are ideal for light poaching, grilling, and sautéing, while sea scallops are a good choice if you want to make a pan-seared dish. Both varieties are good if you are grilling them.

What Are The Precautions To Take While Eating Scallops During Pregnancy?

Here are some simple steps that ensure you safely eat scallops in pregnancy.

  1. Buy fresh scallops from a reputable supplier or store. If you are buying fresh produce, follow the tips shared above to buy and store scallops safely.
  1. Follow the steps to select or buy scallops as mentioned above. Adhering to those steps ensures you pick the right scallop, which is safe to consume.
  1. Cook scallops to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). It will help kill pathogens that can cause food poisoning, making you and your baby sick.
  1. Talk to the concerned person while eating out in a restaurant or hotel and double-check if the scallops are properly cooked. Aware them of your requirement and tell them not to serve you raw or undercooked scallops.
  1. Eat scallops in moderation as a part of a well-balanced, healthy diet. Although scallops are low in mercury, their overconsumption may not be good.

Scallops are low-mercury seafood you can thoroughly cook and consume during pregnancy. They contain several nutrients that can benefit you and your baby. However, you should buy, store, and cook scallops appropriately to reap these benefits. Remember, consuming undercooked or raw scallops can cause foodborne illnesses, such as listeriosis, adversely affecting you and your baby.


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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more