By now you’ve probably Google’d and found some articles here and there… but nothing that answers all your questions about the pescetarian diet and that you could keep referring back to.
We were in your exact position before.
When we started our pescetarian journey at the end of 2014, we found tons of information on vegetarianism, and veganism.
We even learned quite a bit from what we like to refer to as the pescetarian diets’ “sister” – the Mediterranean diet.
But nothing specific to being a pescetarian.
Not knowing what we were doing meant:
- We wasted a ton of money (a lot of boxed fish… don’t ask)
- We were bored with our meals
- We were stressed about not making the healthiest choices
- We lost motivation to continue
Fortunately for you, this lack of readily available pescetarian food and nutrition information was a big factor in us creating this guide for you.New to the pescetarian diet? There's loads of useful info in this ultimate beginners guide!Click To Tweet
In this guide, I’m going to give you all the information you need to get started with the pescetarian diet. You’ll feel confident to make healthy choices, and set yourself up for success from Day 1, as opposed to being confused like we were.
Just a word of caution … there’s over 5000 words in this guide.
To help you navigate your way through it, refer to this table of contents:
What Is A Pescetarian?
According to Dictionary.com, a pescetarian (noun) is “a person whose diet is mostly vegetarian but includes fish and seafood.
Other terms you may have heard describe this diet are:
Or, some might even say, a pescetarian is simply a vegetarian that eats seafood:
Via Fit Couple Cooks on Youtube
Pescetarian Diet: Pros and Cons
Before we continue…
In order to be considered a pescetarian, all you really have to do is cut out red meat and poultry.
With that said, when you see what’s included in the Standard American Diet (SAD – quite literally!), that leaves you with a TON of bad processed food choices you are still “allowed” to consume on the pescetarian diet.If you’re truly ready to change your body and become healthier from the inside out, then the pescetarian lifestyle could be a great choice for you!Click To Tweet
The pescetarian diet provides you with all the benefits of being a vegetarian, but with the added nutrient benefits that fish provides.
Oh, and it makes choosing a meal at your favourite restaurant a little bit easier!
As a pescetarian, your only “meat” comes from fish, which provides you with loads of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids are ranked pretty high when it comes to heart health, as it lowers the amount of fat in your blood (triglycerides), which can contribute to heart disease.
These fats provide your body with energy, but unfortunately, if their levels get too high, they can affect your heart, by clogging up your arteries. Long-term this can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
1. Fish Provides You With Natural Multivitamins
We are all advised to take our vitamins everyday, whether we actually take it or not.
But, did you know that our bodies process synthetic vitamins (produced in a lab) differently to the vitamins we get from whole food?
This is why you should aim to get most of your vitamins from fresh, whole foods.
A good place to start is by ensuring your daily diet contains of an array of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are full of not only vitamins and minerals, but antioxidants too. Antioxidants help protect your body against disease.
By including fish (especially the fatty kinds like salmon, sardines, tuna, trout) in your diet, you increase the vitamin content you feed your body. Fish and seafood contain many vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, D, as well as B-complex vitamins.
These vitamins keep your immune and nervous system in fighting form, your eyes healthy and your bones strong.
2. Fish is a Perfect Source of Protein
Worried about where you will get your protein from when cutting out meat?
By enjoying fish a few times a week you are providing your body with an excellent source of protein. The protein found in fish is absorbed by the body easier than red meat and poultry.
Protein is important for building the cells in your body. A deficiency may result in stunted growth, slower wound healing, hair loss and reduced muscle tissue.
While all seafood is a good source of protein, these fish are the protein superstars with more than 20g of protein per 100g!
- Raw Tuna
- Atlantic Salmon
3. Omega 3’s In Fish Keeps Your Eyes Healthy
If there’s one part of our bodies, many of us may take for granted, it’s our eyes.
They help us see the world in all her glorious colour, and without sight, our life would be very different.
The best way to keep the eyes youthful, bright and healthy is from the inside out.
The omega 3 fats in fish help to prevent macular degeneration, helps to keep the eyes moist (no more dry eyes!) and they can even reduce eye pressure, which can lead to glaucoma later in life.
4. Eating Fish Reduces Inflammation That Causes Chronic Pain
Are you sick of chronic pain every single day of your life?
Maybe you’ve been struggling with chronic sinus or arthritis?
Whatever it may be, your best bet to reducing the pain (not to mention all those prescription pills you might rely on) is to reduce inflammation in your body.
Inflammation is the root cause of disease, whether it be arthritis or even cancer. By reducing inflammation, you are giving your body a chance to “clean house.”
Omega-3 fats in fish provide your body with powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce inflammation.
This can in-turn help reduce your pain and even get rid of it!
5. Omega 3 Fats Keep Your Brain Young
Many of us don’t think about diseases such as Alzheimer’s when we are still young.
The truth is that it’s never too early to protect your brain against a terrible disease like this.
In fact, it takes years of looking after your brain to prevent a disease like Alzheimer’s so why not start now? DHA (a long chain Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in fish) has been shown to decrease the likelihood of dementia.
6. Eating Fish Boosts Your Mood
Did you know that eating fish can make you a happy person?
Often, people who suffer from depression, bipolar or any mood disorder, are deficient in omega 3 fats in the brain. These deficiencies can contribute to and worsen existing mood disorders.
By adding this healthy fat into your diet, you will start to see a significant improvement in how you feel.
Fish is also rich in Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, which together with omega 3 fats can help to boost your mood.
Add fish and whole fruits and vegetables into your diet, and see how you feel after just a few weeks!
7. Omega 3s in Fish Keeps Your Lungs Strong
Ever find yourself gasping for air after exercising or climbing a few flights of stairs?
By improving your lung capacity, you can improve your stamina during an intense workout and eating fish just a few times a week is one of the best ways to do this! Omega 3 fats found in oily fish can strengthen your lungs during athletic performance, and it has even been beneficial for asthma sufferers, reducing the need for asthma medication.
8. Eating Fish Increases Fertility
When a woman struggles to fall pregnant, she may turn to IVF treatments to help make her dream of having a baby come true.
Unfortunately, these treatments are not only expensive, there are many risks associated with them too.
Before turning to IVF as a last resort, take a look at your diet, as it may be as simple as what you are eating on a daily basis!
To increase your fertility it is important that your hormones are balanced. The omega 3 fats found in fish and other seafood helps to stimulate blood flow to the reproductive area, as well as balance reproductive hormones.
The perks of a pescetarian diet for men wanting to start a family is that it increases sperm and testosterone production. Be sure, however, to avoid the higher mercury fish such as swordfish, marlin and tilefish to name a few.
9. Promotes Glowing Skin and Shiny Locks
One perk you may not be aware of when becoming a pescetarian is the wonderful effects on your hair and skin!
Omega 3s found in fish have excellent anti-inflammatory properties, which helps to keep your hair and skin looking healthy.
Skin conditions such as acne may also be reduced, as well as pesky scalp conditions such as psoriasis and dandruff. Omega 3 also increases hydration giving the skin a beautiful, dewy glow, and promoting silkier and shinier locks!
3 Disadvantages Of A Pescetarian Diet
If we’re going to tell you how the pescetarian diet benefits you, it’s only right we mention the disadvantages as well.
There aren’t nearly as many disadvantages as advantages, but here they are!
All fish contains mercury, a natural substance that is converted into a harmful toxin called methylmercury when ingested and processed by fish.
In small amounts, mercury should pose no problem, but in high amounts it can have serious effects on the nervous system, as well as cause developmental delays when infants are exposed to mercury in the womb.
Don’t let this put you off the pescetarian lifestyle though!
Certain fish including tilapia and sardines, can be eaten as often as you’d like without concern.
Fish high in mercury such as albacore, king mackerel, halibut, and swordfish won’t pose any significant health risks as long as they are only eaten in small amounts and no more than 3 times a month.
Do your homework, learn about your new lifestyle, and mercury won’t be an issue for you. If you’re still unsure, consult with a nutritionist.
As A Primary Protein Source It Might Get Pretty Boring
If you rely on fish as your only source of protein when cutting meat and poultry out of your diet, you might find yourself feeling like your new diet lacks variety.
Again, it all comes down to learning as much as you can about your new way of life.
There are many other plant-based proteins out there that are simply delicious, will fill you right up, and will prevent you having to eat fish at every single meal. Some of our favorites include chickpeas, black beans and quinoa.
Try a wrap with all these ingredients, flavor it with some delicious spices and sautéed greens, and you won’t even miss the fish!
It Can Get Pricey
One of the biggest disadvantages of being a pescetarian is that it can get quite expensive when purchasing only wild-caught fish.
However, considering that you should only be eating 12oz a week, your grocery bill shouldn’t run too high.
While a fillet of wild-caught salmon can go for $5 or more, there are a variety of other cheaper options too. A can of sardines or tuna are only around $2.99 (the good cans!) and a can of salmon shouldn’t cost you more than about $5. If using it to make patties, it can give you up to 4 portions! That’s 4 filling, healthy fish meals for just $1.25 a plate, not too shabby!
Limit the pricier fish to once a week or once every 2 weeks, and fill up on other proteins in between, such as beans and eggs.
What Do Pescetarians Eat?
To be considered a pescetarian, the only types of foods you can’t eat are red meat and poultry.
But here’s the deal…
If you’re choosing to follow a pescetarian diet, you’re also choosing to live a healthier life.
Because of this, unhealthy, processed foods should also be avoided at all costs.
Below you’ll find our complete Pescetarian Diet Food Index (click to get our full Pescetarian Starter Guide) which breaks down which foods you can eat, which foods you can’t eat, and which foods we recommend you shouldn’t eat.
Here’s what we eat in a typical day as pescetarians:
For breakfast, our current staples are a hearty bowl of oatmeal (Tamryn’s choice) and a cup of Bulletproof coffee (LJ’s choice).
Since this everyday power food is high in fibre, it keeps us full longer and prevents cravings. Oatmeal is also great to have about 45 minutes before a workout since it stabilizes blood sugar and will prevent you from feeling light headed.
There are also many ways you can upgrade your oatmeal in the mornings.
A few of our favorites are blueberries, banana slices, coconut shreds, cinnamon, ground flax, chia seeds, and maple syrup.
Choose whatever satisfies your taste buds.
Some people even love savory oatmeal!
When we’re feeling a bit fancy, we might make a low-carb breakfast quiche.
Our typical lunch usually involves a good amount of greens, beans, and fats…healthy fats of course (like avocado)!
Sweet potato usually makes a starring feature in our lunches as well.
We’ll either make a big satisfying salad like this…
Or, if we feel like biting into something we’ll whip up a satisfying and flavorful roasted beet sandwich like this:
For dinners we like to keep it light since this is the last meal of the day.
Lately our go-to has been a quick veggie stir fry which we’ll add some fish to on our fishy days.
Other favorites of ours are stuffed vegetables which not only are a breeze to make, they’re also very flavorful and basically full-proof!
The evenings where we eat fish, a favorite of ours are these blackened tilapia “taco’s”
Here’s what’s working for a few other pescetarians all over the globe:
- What I Ate Today (Saturday) – Klara Elvira
- What I Eat In A Day – DadouChic
- What I Eat In A Day – Bbydoll0406
Pescetarian Diet Food Index
Fish & Seafood
All fish and seafood can be eaten on a pescetarian diet, however it is important to remember that some fish are much higher in mercury than others.
The fish and seafood with the lowest mercury levels and, which can be eaten on a regular basis are as follows.
We’ve starred our favourites, which also happen to be some of the healthiest fish you can eat on a regular basis.
*Tip: When buying fish and seafood, you should also be mindful and rather purchase wild caught instead of farmed.
Greens and High Iron Vegetables
Vegetables are a huge part of a pescetarian diet.
Any vegetables are allowed, but we place special emphasis on anything green due to its high chlorophyll content, which can protect you against heart disease and cancer.
Certain vegetables are also higher in iron, which is important to consume on a pescetarian eating plan. Iron obtained from plants is called non-heme or plant iron and is safer than iron obtained from meat (heme-iron). Iron from plant sources can be eaten in unlimited amounts as the body will simply excrete the excess.
Top Greens We Recommend
High Iron Vegetables
Low Sugar Fruits
Yes, the sugar in fruit is natural sugar, but if you are insulin resistant or overweight, it can still affect you negatively.
Once you reach your goal weight or if you don’t have insulin issues then you can eat high sugar fruits more often.
Other fruits, though, can be eaten more regularly and these include:
High Iron Nuts
Nuts are a wonderful addition to a primarily plant-based diet and provide you with a wide range of heart friendly, disease-fighting minerals and vitamins.
Nuts also provide you with healthy fatty acids, which are very important for your health and they are a great snack to curb your appetite before your next meal.
The following nuts are highest in iron and also the best for you in terms of nutritional benefits.
Be sure to buy nuts that are salt free and contain only one ingredient…NUTS!
Oils are a great source of fat and while the word ‘fat’ may make you to want to run away, there are many fats that are very good for you.
We have been raised to believe that a low-fat diet is the way to go, but in fact it’s rather about knowing how to choose the right fats. Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats are fantastic for heart health and may in fact lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
The following are great oils for cooking since they are low in polyunsaturated fats and have a higher smoke point than many other oils. This means that these oils can reach very high temperatures before starting to smoke.
While the following oils listed should not be used for cooking, due to their low smoking point, and instead drizzled over your favourite salad:
Beans are one of our favourite parts of the pescetarian diet, because there’s just so much you can do with them!
You can process them in your food processor and whip up some delicious burgers, you can use them to make a vegetarian chilli, heck you can even make black bean brownies or chickpea blondies for a delicious guilt-free dessert!
Not to mention the fact that beans are jam-packed with minerals and fiber to help fill you up and provide your body with tons of nutrition.
Here are the top beans you should try to include in your diet as often as possible:
Whole grains are an important part of any meat-free diet, but be careful if you are gluten intolerant or have IBS.
There are many gluten-free grains that you can substitute should you have any issues.
Foods To Avoid
High Mercury Fish
Mercury is damaging to our bodies and the best way to avoid it is to avoid the fish that contain the highest traces.
A good rule of thumb is: the bigger the fish, the higher the mercury content.
The fish listed with a star next to them are also endangered and should be left alone to reproduce and do their thing in the ocean.
Avoid these guys wherever possible (in other words – always!)
As you know by now, all red meat is avoided on a pescetarian diet and fish is the only source of meat consumed. Red meats not consumed on a pescetarian diet are:
No turkey day or McChicken’s here! Poultry includes:
Refined sugar poses absolutely no benefits for our health as it has undergone a process that completely stripped it of all vitamins and minerals and is regarded as a toxic poison by the body, no joke!
We recommend you avoid the following sugars at all cost:
Honey, agave and other so-called “healthy substitutes” should also be limited since our body still regards it as regular sugar.
High Sugar Fruits
Fruits are packed with antioxidants and can protect you from a whole array of diseases.
Some fruits, however, are very high in sugar and should be eaten in smaller quantities.
Too much sugar from fruits can still affect your insulin levels and if you are diabetic or overweight you should avoid or at least limit the fruits that are higher in sugar.
These fruits are all delicious so regard them as a treat or dessert, rather than a regular snack:
Processed foods are packed with chemicals, preservatives and random ingredients we can’t even pronounce. Just remember, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it! Ever!
Here are some of the worst:
Basically, anything in a box with a crazy list of ingredients is a big NO-NO!
Soft drinks are loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, caffeine and possibly other ingredients you have never even heard of. The massive amounts of sugar can lead to tooth decay, diabetes and possibly even cancer.
For this reason we do not recommend soft drinks at all.
If you crave a sweet drink opt for 100% pure fruit juice instead, but make sure to limit it to one small glass a day due to sugar content.
Tip: Be careful of “health drinks” like Vitamin Water which are loaded with added sugars.
Just like vegetarians, there are different kinds of pescetarians.
Some eat eggs and dairy and gluten, some don’t. Some eat just eggs, some just dairy, you get the idea.
Some people have allergies to eggs, dairy, or gluten and have to cut them out. But even if you don’t, we recommend removing the processed (mostly grocery store bought) versions from your daily meal plan, and rather opting for free run and antibiotic free eggs, as well as rather opting for hormone free dairy.
Dairy can cause hormone disruptions
Hormones from cows milk can cause disruptions in our bodies which have been known to be the cause of conditions like acne, painful periods, and thyroid disorders amongst other health concerns.
If you grew up on dairy, it can be super hard to even think of giving it up!
Speaking from experience…cheese (mmm) was the hardest to part with, but, you know…after a while of eating whole foods, the cravings tend to subside naturally.
With the huge range of delicious dairy alternatives like almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk though, going dairy free will be easier than you think!
And there are also a few awesome dairy free companies producing vegan cheeses like Daiya – this is our favourite. When it comes to butter, if you find you just can’t live without it, try giving Ghee a go instead!
Gluten is hard for our bodies to digest
Whether you have an obvious gluten allergy with symptoms such as gas, bloating and pain immediately after ingestion or not, gluten is something we recommend you consider cutting out of your diet, although it’s completely up to you.
Try a gluten detox for a week and you won’t believe the nasty withdrawal symptoms, from severe fatigue to nausea.
This happens to most people, allergic or not, simply proving that gluten is in fact an addictive protein that causes withdrawal when it is expelled from our bodies.
Ever felt withdrawal when you haven’t eaten spinach for a few days? Probably not!
Gluten is a protein that is very hard for us mere mortals to digest which can result in all sorts of problems.
It is found in wheat and since wheat has become so highly processed, compared to the days when our parents and grandparents were young, it’s something that’s simply best to avoid.
If you don’t want to cut it out completely, that’s okay!
Just consider cutting back as much as possible, or, you can always make your own and be confident in the ingredients you used.
Processed soy may contribute to increased risk of estrogen dependent cancers
Soy is a popular dairy and protein substitute, but it’s one we tend to stay away from, especially since most soy products are heavily processed and non-fermented.
Here’s how to tell if you’re eating processed soy.
What many women don’t realize is that when soy is ingested, your body regards it as a hormone, namely estrogen, due to the fact that it is high in phytoestrogens, which may mimic this female hormone.
It’s important to notice the difference between fermented and non-fermented soy, since fermented soy like Miso and tamari are actually really good for your body and can actually help to fight off cancer cells.
Fermented Soy Products
Non-Fermented Soy Products
In small amounts soy is okay, but in large amounts it can increase the risk for estrogen dependent cancers, including breast cancer.
Soy is still being studied for its possible link to female cancers, but we’d rather not take the risk. There are many soy substitutes, such as almond or coconut milk, or pea and hemp protein instead of soy protein in foods such as veggie burgers.
Additional Dietary Recommendations
- Flaxseed can be added to smoothies to up your omega-3 intake. 2 Tablespoons is a serving size and equals 2000mg of Omega-3. Aim for anywhere between 1000mg and 4000mg of omega-3 a day.
- Most people do not get enough Magnesium and this mineral is essential for cardiovascular and nervous system health. Try taking at least 200mg a day, in the morning after breakfast. An additional 200mg can be taken before bed to help you fall asleep. Take an hour before you turn off the light.
- Green tea is well known to help speed up metabolism, but aim for just 2 cups a day as it is naturally high in caffeine. Cut back if it increases your anxiety at all. Also try to drink with meals as it aids digestion. Look for an organic green tea and avoid Tetley as this brand is known to be high in pesticides.
- To help with intestinal difficulties try drinking a cup of warm lemon water 30 minutes before meals.
- It is important for vegetarians and pescetarians to supplement with B12 as they are not getting this essential vitamin through poultry or meat. Look for a B-complex that will provide you with all the essential B-vitamins.
- Try a good multi-vitamin to ensure you are receiving all necessary vitamins and minerals.
- Always make sure your fish is wild-caught and not farmed fish. It will say whether it is wild or farmed on the package.
Pescetarian Weight Loss
It’s no secret that people who follow a healthy diet, full of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, will be able to better manage their weight.
A pescetarian diet is much like a mediterranean style diet with the large amounts of fruit and vegetables, but with fish as the only source of meat rather than the small amounts of red meat included in the Mediterranean diet.
This type of diet works well for weight management, as it includes many healthy filling foods, avoiding the need to reach for unhealthy snacks.
If you are following a diet like this, but aren’t noticing any significant weight-loss, should you be trying to lose weight, then it may be time to visit your doctor and nutritionist for professional help.
Other factors that come into play when you’re looking to lose weight are:
- Your level of physical activity
- Your metabolism fluctuations
- Your family history
It’s good practice to learn how to measure your BMI, as well as your ideal calorie intake per day, according to your lifestyle.
Why You Need To Get Moving
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health, as well as to maintain a healthy weight.
Working out gets your blood flowing and increases your metabolism, helping your body to burn fat all day.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of low impact exercise a day, at least 2-3 times a week, such as a walk. Try and squeeze in at least 30 minutes of HIIT Interval training at least 2-3 times a week in addition to your low impact exercises.
This type of training is absolutely excellent if you are looking to burn fat fast.
Get Started With The Pescetarian Diet: 3 Simple Steps To Succeed
Here is what you can do right now for getting started on your new lifestyle:
- Fully commit that you won’t eat poultry and red meat. Start slow if you have to and go meatless during the week for the first week. But most importantly, start today even if all starting today means tossing all the candy and chips currently in your cupboards.
- Get an accountability buddy who will encourage you to stay the course, or even join you in becoming a pescetarian. Can’t find one at home? Join us in our Facebook Community. We’ll be happy to be your accountability buddy!
- Create a meal plan and find recipes here to start with.