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Pescatarian Diet for Weight Loss: Pros, Cons, What You Can Eat

Pescatarian Diet for Weight Loss: Pros, Cons, What You Can Eat
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

Medically reviewed by

Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 8 min read

For around 48% of Americans, losing weight is their number one New Year’s Resolution each year. Paired with eating a healthier diet and increasing their level of exercise, this isn’t surprising, as nearly 1 in 3 adults throughout the country are considered to be overweight. Although many are intimidated by the thought of losing even as little as 10 pounds, many are classified as clinically or morbidly obese with more than 100 pounds to lose. This can be a daunting task to undertake for anyone, but one method people use for weight loss is a pescatarian diet. While this sounds like another trendy low-carb diet plan, it is actually a fairly simple one that is practiced around the world—particularly in areas that are boarded by oceans. So, how can you follow a pescatarian diet, and does it work for weight loss?

What is a Pescatarian Diet?

Before anyone can start with a pescatarian diet for weight loss, they must first understand exactly what the diet entails. Essentially, a pescatarian diet is a type of vegetarian diet that also incorporates fish and other seafood into the diet. In recent years, this has become an especially popular method because it proves to be much easier to maintain than a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet. While it can aid in weight loss, this balance of lean meat and vegetables also helps in improving a person’s overall health. Many do turn to a pescatarian diet for weight loss, but others opt to follow this diet and lifestyle due to ethical reasons because their nutritional needs are not being met by following a purely vegetarian diet.

Pros of Following a Pescatarian Diet

Pescatarian diets have become one of the most popular diets over the years for weight loss because they are more easily maintained than other options that are highly restrictive. There are a number of pros in turning to this option, including:

  1. Seafood/fish are a good source of lean protein.

Protein is important for weight loss because it helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied, which can help to reduce cravings and overeating.

  1. Low saturated fat and high omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish and seafood are low in saturated fat which contributes to weight loss while high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to reduce inflammation and improve heart health.

  1. Fruits, vegetables, fish/seafood, and whole grains offer nutritional balance.

Foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They can help improve digestion and support the overall health and wellness of a person trying to lose weight. Likewise, these foods generally have low-calorie contents.

  1. A pescatarian diet is easier to maintain long-term than a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Following a vegetarian or vegan diet requires an entire lifestyle change. Those who follow them have to work hard to ensure that all of their nutritional needs are met. With a pescatarian diet, there is much more variety available and it takes less work to meet nutritional guidelines. This makes it more sustainable in the long term.

  1. It produces weight loss results.

Following a pescatarian diet will not automatically produce weight loss results. Those who incorporate the diet for weight loss still need to be cautious of what they are eating. For instance, they should be diligent about portion sizes and be aware of the calorie and fat content of the types of fish they eat. While most varieties of fish and seafood are lean proteins, others can be much higher in caloric intake than one would suspect. By following this diet and exercising regularly, it can produce impressive weight loss results over time.

  1. Pescatarian diets support overall health and wellness.

A pescatarian diet is not a marketing scheme designed to sell weight loss products. Unlike other diets that focus purely on weight loss, a pescatarian diet supports the entire body while also aiding in weight loss. With a balanced and mindful approach, a pescatarian diet can be a great way to achieve weight loss and overall improved health.

Cons of Pescetarian Diets

A pescatarian diet is a great option with a number of benefits like offering a lean source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, it's important to consider the potential downsides before committing to a pescatarian lifestyle for weight loss.

One of the biggest downsides and risks of a pescatarian diet is the high potential for exposure to toxins and pollutants. Fish and seafood can contain high levels of mercury and other harmful chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which can accumulate in the body over time and cause health problems. These toxins can also be passed on to unborn children and breastfed infants, making it particularly important for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to be mindful of their fish and seafood intake.

Another point to consider when instituting a pescatarian diet for weight loss is that it may not provide all of the essential nutrients that the body needs. Fish and seafood are good sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but they do not contain all of the essential amino acids that the body needs. This means that those who follow a pescatarian diet, along with those who are vegetarian or vegan, may be at risk for deficiencies in iron, calcium, and vitamin B12, which are all found in red meats and poultry.

For those who plan to follow the diet long-term to achieve and sustain weight loss, it can be expensive. Fish and seafood are some of the most expensive protein sources and it can be hard to accommodate this exponential increase in protein costs. This is particularly true for those who are on a tight budget and it can increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies because fish and seafood options are more limited for financial reasons.

Many vegans and vegetarians follow their chosen lifestyles because of ethical concerns. Pescatarians are not immune to these ethical or environmental impact concerns as overfishing and other unsustainable fishing practices can lead to declines in fish populations. Over time, this causes sustainable damage to marine ecosystems. The risk of this can be reduced by choosing sustainably sourced fish and seafood; however, it can be difficult to tell exactly where your fish is coming from. Likewise, sustainably sourced options often come with an inflated price tag which can present financial concerns.

Lastly, those who are used to eating out frequently may find it challenging to keep up with a pescatarian diet on the go. Fast-food restaurants in particular are not accommodating to this diet and some restaurants may have limited seafood or fish options available. This means it can be harder to stick to the diet when you dine out with friends or family, or if you aren’t able to prepare home-cooked meals regularly.

That being said, there are still a number of advantages to going pescatarian. While some of these downsides may present a problem, it is important to weigh them against the benefits before making any big changes to your diet. If you have concerns about matters like nutritional deficits, be sure to speak with a doctor or nutritionist.

What Foods Can You Eat on a Pescatarian Diet?

While a pescatarian diet is a form of vegetarianism, it also allows for the consumption of fish and other seafood to provide more balanced nutrition than traditional vegetarianism where a person only consumes fruits, vegetables, and legumes. The diet does, however, exclude other types of meat and poultry.

  • Fish (any variety, although tuna, salmon, cod, tilapia, and halibut are most popular)

  • Seafood (like crabs, shrimp, and lobster)

  • Vegetables

  • Fruits

  • Grains

  • Legumes/Nuts

  • Tofu

  • Tempeh

The biggest source of protein for those following a pescatarian diet is fish and other seafood which provides many of the same nutrients as other forms of meat and poultry. Some common types of fish that pescatarians eat include salmon, tuna, cod, tilapia, and halibut. Aside from fish, other options for seafood dishes on a pescatarian diet include shrimp, crab, lobster, and scallops. There is no specific way that these foods are prepared, such as with raw food diets. Pescatarians can grill, bake, saute, boil or consume fish and seafood raw, if it is a variety of fish or seafood where this is safe to do so.

Although certain dishes embrace raw fish and seafood, such as sushi, poke, sashimi, ceviche, soused herring, and gravlax, these should be eaten in moderation and with caution. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers that raw varieties of fish and seafood are far more likely to contain parasites and bacteria than cooked versions. This increases the risk of food poisoning and other gastrointestinal concerns, so choose and consume raw foods wisely.

In addition to a diet rich in fish and seafood, pescatarians also consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Some of the most common fruits consumed by pescatarians include berries, apples, oranges, and bananas. Pescatarians are also more likely to consume less common, exotic fruits to add variety to their diet. Vegetables are also a major component of a pescatarian diet and may include leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, or other preferred vegetable varieties.

While most pescatarians focus primarily on consuming fish/seafood and fruits and vegetables, they are not limited to these items. Unlike vegan diets, they are able to eat items like cheese, milk, yogurt, and eggs. In fact, these are important for providing nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Pastas, rice, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, and soybeans also help those on this diet receive adequate nutrition. When it comes to snacks, many of those incorporated include legumes like lentils, chickpeas, black beans, walnuts, and pistachios. This wide variety of options helps make the diet more sustainable long-term.

For any questions or concerns regarding a pescatarian diet and consuming proper nutrition while on this diet for weight loss, be sure to consult a medical provider or a nutritionist who is experienced with the pescatarian diet.



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