Pescatarian Diet Plan – Meals, Recipes, Benefits, And Safety

Medically reviewed by Merlin Annie Raj, RD (Registered Dietitian) Merlin Annie Raj Merlin Annie RajRD (Registered Dietitian) facebook_iconlinkedin_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Experience: 6 years
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A pescatarian (Pesce – fish) diet includes fish and other seafood in a vegetarian or plant-based diet.

Research shows that a pescatarian diet, which is rich in lean protein, omega-3-fatty acids, and calcium, protects from heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and excessive weight gain (1), (2), (3), (4). It is also considered more environmentally friendly compared to diets containing meat. This post tells you everything you need to know about the pescatarian diet – what to eat, a sample menu, health benefits, recipes, and precautions. Read on!

What Is A Pescatarian Diet?

“A pescatarian diet is a more flexible vegetarian diet”, says Daryl Gioffre, celebrity nutritionist and author of ‘Get Off Your Acid: 7 Steps in 7 Days to Lose Weight, Fight Inflammation, and Reclaim Your Health and Energy’. It is mainly a plant-based diet comprising of veggies, fruits, lentils, beans, nuts, and whole grains, with seafood as the main protein source. Many pescatarians also eat dairy and eggs.

The term “Pescatarian” was coined in 1990 and is often called “Pesco-vegetarian”. Dietitians regard it as a part of vegetarianism. In other words, a pescatarian eats seafood along with a plant-based diet but avoids meat (5).

How Does A Pescatarian Diet Work?

A pescatarian diet works on the basis of a few simple guidelines:

  • Replace 25%-100% of animal sources of food with plant-based foods. You may include eggs and dairy.
  • ⅔ of the diet should contain fish or any other seafood.
  • Replace steak with fish steak.
  • Avoid all processed foods, including frozen vegetables, vegetarian nuggets, canned or tinned foods, and packaged fruit juices.
  • Consume more of fresh veggies and fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds (pepita, melon seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds), healthy fats (olive oil, avocado oil), and whole grains.
  • Consume foods high in dietary fiber.

We know plant-based diets are healthy. Then, why should one go for a pescatarian diet? How is it any different?

Why Choose A Pescatarian Diet?

Here’s why people often choose to be pescatarians:

Health Benefits

  • As the world grapples with the increasing rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, scientists have found that a pescatarian diet can help fight these global health issues.
  • A study found that women who followed a pescatarian diet gained 2.5 pounds fewer each year than women who ate only meat (6).
  • Another study found that pescatarians have a lower risk of developing diabetes when compared to omnivores (7). In fact, pescatarians (or people who consume less meat) have a 22% lower risk of dying from heart disease (8).
  • A pescatarian diet is also believed to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure, obesity, and certain types of cancer (9), (10), (11).
  • The omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and zinc in the pescatarian diet help reduce inflammation in the body. They also have an antioxidant effect, which has been found to help improve mood disorders like depression and anxiety (12).
  • Scientists also have found that consuming fish and shellfish helps reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration or diminished vision (13).

Environmental Issues

Animal farming increases environmental damage. According to the United Nations, raising livestock contributes to 15% of all human-made carbon emissions (14). Deforestation and large scale grazing also contribute to the environmental burden and climate change (15).

Farming fish, however, may have a lower carbon footprint. A report shows that seafood has the lowest impact on climate change and has the highest nutritional value (16).

Another study shows that people who consume fish cause 46% less greenhouse gas emissions than people who eat at least one serving of meat per day (17).

Ethical Reasons

Many people choose to be pescatarians as they oppose animal slaughter and do not want to support inhuman treatment and practices. A study conducted in 2015 showed that fish lack the neural network necessary to experience pain (18).

Others believe that commercial animal farms have poor working conditions for the workers. Additionally, using land to produce animal feed may also trigger a sense of waste of resources (19).

According to nutritionist Jean Mayer, reducing meat consumption by just 10% can help feed 60 million hungry individuals. Clearly, the pescatarian diet has hit the sweet spot for a nutritionally balanced diet that also seems to be environmentally and ethically acceptable.

Is The Pescatarian Diet Good For Weight Loss?

Yes, the pescatarian diet is good for weight loss. Here’s why:

  • Low-Calorie – One simple rule to lose weight is calorie deficiency. You need to consume fewer calories than you expend. The pescatarian diet allows you to reduce at least 300 calories per day just by avoiding meat. Vegetables, leafy greens, and whole grains are low in calories as well.
  • Lean Protein – Fish and other forms of seafood are a great source of lean protein (3 oz of salmon contains 16.9 g protein) and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals (20). Protein helps increase satiety, metabolic rate, and prevents muscle loss (21).
  • Dietary Fiber – Veggies, leafy greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are a great source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber increases satiety, improves bowel movement, and reduces fat absorption (22).
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Fatty fish are loaded with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). These help reduce chronic low-grade inflammation in the body and inhibit inflammation-induced weight gain (23).

You can lose weight and improve your health by adopting a pescatarian lifestyle. Here’s a pescatarian food list.

Pescatarian Food List – What To Eat

SeafoodMackerel, bass, haddock, salmon, tuna, hilsa, sardines, pomfret, carps, cod, caviar, mussels, crayfish, oyster, prawns, lobster, crab, squid, and scallops.
VegetablesSpinach, chard, radish greens, carrot greens, Bengal gram greens, beetroot, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, sweet potato, radish, turnip, parsnip, kale, cucumber, and tomato.
FruitsApple, banana, avocado, strawberries, blackberries, mulberries, blueberries, gooseberries, pineapple, papaya, dragon fruit, passion fruit, watermelon, muskmelon, guava, peach, pear, pluot, plum, and mango.
Plant
Protein
Kidney beans, lentils, fish, mushroom, Bengal gram, sprouts, black-eyed peas, cowpeas, garbanzo beans, soybean, soy milk, edamame, and tofu.
Whole GrainsBrown rice, barley, broken wheat, sorghum, multigrain bread, and multigrain flour.
Fats & OilsOlive oil, avocado oil, fish oil, ghee, sunflower butter, and rice bran oil.
Nuts & SeedsAlmonds, walnuts, pistachios, macadamia, pine nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, melon seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.
Herbs & SpicesCilantro, dill, fennel, parsley, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, chili flakes, chili powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, English mustard, mustard paste, star anise, saffron, cardamom, clove, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, mace, nutmeg, allspice, onion powder, garlic powder, and ginger powder.
BeveragesWater, coconut water, detox water, and freshly pressed fruit/vegetable juices.

 Pescatarian Food List – What Not To Eat

  • Avoid consuming – Beef, chicken, pork, duck, rabbit, turkey, junk food, trans fats, sugary foods, and packaged foods.
  • Eat in moderation Dairy and eggs.

To get you started on the pescatarian diet, here’s a sample pescatarian meal plan.

Sample Pescatarian Diet Plan

MealsWhat To Eat
Breakfast

(7:00 – 8:00 a.m.)

1/2 cup sprouts with cucumber and tomato

Or

1 cup oatmeal with strawberries, banana, and walnut

Mid-Morning Snack

(10:00 – 10:30 a.m.)

1 cup freshly pressed fruit juice

Or

1 cup green tea/1 glass coconut water + 1 multigrain biscuit

Lunch

(12:30 – 1:00 p.m.)

1 piece (3 oz) grilled fish with 1 cup sautéed veggies

Or

2-3 prawns taco

Snack

(3:30 p.m.)

1 cup green tea + 10 in-shell pistachios
Dinner

(6:30 p.m.)

1 cup lentil soup with veggies

Or

Ramen with seafood and veggies

 Adding fish or seafood to your diet can ramp up your health. Here are the benefits of adding fish to your diet.

5 Benefits Of Adding Fish/Seafood To A Vegetarian Diet

  1. Fish are a great source of protein. Research shows that a high-protein diet is more beneficial for weight loss. In addition, consuming lean protein prevents muscle loss and maintains metabolism.
  2. Seafood is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Fish, crabs, scallops, mussels, and oysters are rich in vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium. Just one oyster delivers 133% of the RDI for vitamin B12, and 55% of the RDI for zinc and selenium (24), (25), (26), (27).
  3. Add more omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Fatty or oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, contain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). EPA and DHA help lower inflammation, improve brain function, and protect the heart (28), (29).
  4. More options. Adding fish or any other seafood to your diet increases your food options. Having delicious and different varieties of food has a good impact on your mood and helps stimulate your thinking by keeping your satiated.
  5. Good for skin and hair. When it comes to having good skin and hair, diet plays an important role. The healthy fats, astaxanthin (in shellfish), vitamins, minerals, and protein improve hair health. They also reduce dark spots and improve dry and dull skin.

Including fish in your diet has several benefits. In the following section, we have listed out three easy and deliciously healthy pescatarian meal recipes for you.

3 Easy Pescatarian Meals You Can Prepare At Home

1. Green Salad with Smoked Salmon

Ingredients

  • 3 oz smoked salmon, sliced
  • A bunch of baby spinach
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • A bunch of Swiss chard
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

 How To Prepare

  1. Dice the baby spinach and Swiss chard.
  2. Toss them into a salad bowl.
  3. Add the halved tomatoes.
  4. Add salt, pepper, lime juice, and olive oil in a separate bowl.
  5. Mix well and drizzle half of it into the salad bowl.
  6. Toss the salad well.
  7. Top it with smoked salmon slices.
  8. Drizzle the remaining olive oil dressing.

2. Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos
Image: Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • 2 taco shells, microwaved
  • 3 oz basa fillets
  • ½ avocado, cubed
  • 1 large tomato, cubed
  • A bunch of lettuce, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • A handful of cilantro, chopped

How To Prepare

  1. Marinate the fish with salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of lime juice.
  2. Heat a pan and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Shallow cook the fish.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the taco salad by tossing tomato, avocado, lettuce, cilantro, lime juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  5. Scoop spoonfuls of this salad and fill the taco shell.
  6. Use a tong to place the cooked fish on the top.
  7. Squeeze in some more lime and relish!

3. Shrimp Salad

Shrimp Salad
Image: Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • ½ cup washed and deveined shrimp
  • ¼ cup cucumber slices
  • ¼ cup tomato wedges
  • 1 cup lettuce
  • ½ cup baby spinach
  • ¼ cup arugula
  • 4 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon chopped garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

How To Prepare

  1. Heat a pan and add olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic immediately.
  3. Let it sizzle for 10 seconds.
  4. Add the shrimps and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  5. Add salt and pepper and cook for a minute.
  6. Remove from the flame and add the shrimps to the bowl containing lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, tomato, and cucumber.
  7. Squeeze in lime juice, a little salt, and a sprinkle of black pepper.
  8. Your lunch/dinner is ready!

We have discussed the pescatarian diet in great detail. In the following section, we will check its many health benefits.

Health Benefits Of A Pescatarian Diet

Here are the health benefits of being a pescatarian:

  • Improves Heart Health The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish have been found to promote heart health. This unsaturated fat reduces the risk of ischemic heart disease (30). A study showed that fish eaters have a 13% lower risk of ischemic heart disease than meat eaters (31).Another study confirmed that pescatarians have a reduced risk of coronary heart disease (32). Pescatarians also have lower blood pressure rates, reduced risk of arrhythmia and fatal heart attack, and improved blood lipid profiles compared to meat eaters. The fish omega-3s help reduce inflammation and regulate levels of blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
  • Protects Against Certain Types Of Cancer – The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. A study found that a pescatarian diet may have a strong protective effect against colorectal cancer (33).
  • Reduces The Risk Of Diabetes – A study showed that people who followed a pescatarian diet have the highest intake of flavonoids. These have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the risk of diabetes (34).

These are the benefits of a pescatarian diet. However, the diet also has its share of disadvantages.

Cons Of A Pescatarian Diet

  • Fish may cause mercury poisoning (35), (36).
  • Fishing damages the water ecosystem.
  • Fishing may introduce invasive species into the ecosystem.
  • Overfishing may deplete fish stocks.
  • Trawler-caught fish damage the ocean ecosystem and coral reefs.

Should You Try The Pescatarian Diet?

If you want to add a good source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals to your regular routine, try the pescatarian diet. However, do not try the pescatarian diet if you are pregnant or lactating, as fish may cause mercury poisoning. For some, digesting fatty fish can be an issue as well. Hence, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to check if this is the right diet for you.

Conclusion

A pescatarian diet is a great way to ramp up your daily nutrition intake. From lowering inflammation to reducing the risk of disease, the pescatarian diet can turn your life and lifestyle around. Go ahead and add some fish to your vegetarian diet and get the best of both worlds!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many times a week should a pescatarian eat fish?

A pescatarian may consume fish 3-4 days per week.

How good Is the pescatarian diet for building muscle?

Fish are a great source of lean protein that helps define muscles. However, you may not be able to build muscles by being on a pescatarian diet alone. You must also do 3 days of strength training and consume the right protein powder supplements as directed by a licensed instructor.

Do pescatarians live longer?

Pescatarians have a reduced risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease – the main causes of mortality. Hence, those on a pescatarian diet usually have more chances of living longer.

Why do not pescetarians eat meat?

Pescatarians do not consume meat for health, environmental, and ethical reasons. Meat contains saturated fat that increases the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Animal farming burdens the environment, and the animals are often subjected to inhumane treatment.

36 sources

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Merlin Annie Raj

Merlin Annie RajRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist

Merlin Annie Raj is a Registered Dietitian based out of Hyderabad, India. She has 14 years of experience in Clinical Nutrition as well as teaching Nutrition and Dietetics to undergraduate and postgraduate students. She was awarded the ‘President’s Award’ at the 47th Annual National Conference of the Indian Dietetic Association, 2014.   Merlin has conducted various weight management programs, prepared...read full bio