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Can Pregnant Women Eat Imitation Crab?

Are you pregnant and wondering can pregnant women eat imitation crab?

You are not alone!

This is a common question that OB/GYNs and Nurse-Midwives get asked quite frequently in the summer and again around the winter holiday season.

The answer is generally yes, pregnant women can eat imitation crab. 

Imitation crab is made from fish, usually Pollock.

It is not as nutritious an option as real crab if you are pregnant, but it is considered a good source of protein and is low in fat.


Can Pregnant Women Eat Imitation Crab?


When choosing what seafood to eat and how much during pregnancy, the three key factors to consider are:

  1. Mercury content
  2. Omega 3 fish oils
  3. The amount consumed (you can always eat too much of a good thing)



Can Pregnant Women Eat Imitation Crab?



Can pregnant women eat imitation crab?

Two things to keep in mind when considering if eating imitation crab during pregnancy is right for you are:



  • Do you have a fish or shellfish allergy?


If you have an allergy to fish or shellfish, you should not eat imitation crab.

Imitation crab has natural flavoring added usually in the form of crab juice.

I have a very serious shellfish allergy.

I learned that imitation crab had natural crab flavoring added during my pregnancy when I asked my OB/GYN if it would be a safe substitute to enjoy during the Christmas Holidays.

He explained to me that imitation crab was not safe for anyone who had a fish or shellfish allergy.

Such a bummer.

But if you have no fish or shellfish allergies, you can probably enjoy imitation crab in moderation with no issues.

You should discuss it with your Doctor or Midwife though.

It is important to make sure you clear it with your medical provider who is familiar with your personal history and the history of your pregnancy.



  • How is the imitation crab prepared?


It is important that the imitation crab is thoroughly cooked. 

When imitation crab is made it is cooked by the manufacturer, but our OB/GYN Doug Penta, MD said:

“Pregnant women should heat imitation crab before consuming it. There is a risk of foodborne illness even in pre-cooked foods. If you plan to use imitation crab in a cold salad dish, steam it for about 10 minutes and let it cool in the fridge before using it.”

If it is being served in a hot imitation crab dip or dish, make sure the food is being kept warm.

Do not eat any fish or shellfish that has been sitting out and are no longer warm. 

If the imitation crab is being served in a cold dish like a seafood salad or crab roll make sure the food is served cold. 

Our immunity is compromised during pregnancy and pregnancy puts us at an increased risk of developing a foodborne illness from seafood such as salmonella. 

Salmonella can harm you and your unborn baby.

They can make you very sick and often include vomiting and diarrhea. 

Which can lead to dehydration and dehydration can cause you to have contractions.

Having food poisoning is awful, having it while pregnant is the absolute worst.

It is quite easy to avoid while enjoying imitation crab or other seafood by being sure your meal is properly cooked.


What is imitation crab made from?

Imitation crab is made from fish that is ground into a paste and formed into sticks or pieces.

It is often made from a mild white fish called pollock. 

Pollock is a fish that is low in mercury. Eating fish that is low in mercury is important during pregnancy. 

Eating fish high in mercury while pregnant can cause.

MSG is usually added to enhance flavor. 

If you are sensitive to MSG it is something to be aware of.

Imitation crab is high in sodium. 

The recommended amount of sodium you should consume a day is 2300 milligrams. 

A 3 ounce serving of imitation crab has 715 milligrams of sodium!

That is a lot of sodium in a small portion of seafood.

If you can eat real crab, shrimp or fish you’d get less sodium and no additives like MSG, sugar, or starches.



Can Pregnant Women Eat Imitation Crab?



How much imitation crab meat and other seafood can I eat during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the Recommended Guidelines for Americans who are breastfeeding or pregnant are 8 to 12 ounces of seafood that is low in mercury.

ACOG, FDA, and the EPA  all recommend that this amount of seafood be consumed as 2 – 3 … 4oz. servings per week.


Certain types of fish both raw and cooked are unsafe to eat during pregnancy:

Fish is popular during the summer and winter holidays and many family celebrations include fish and shellfish. 

There are some foods, including certain fish and shellfish that are not safe to eat while pregnant

You’ll want to avoid fish high in mercury like sharks and swordfish.

Raw fish such as Sushi and raw Oysters should also be avoided during pregnancy.

This can be tough if you love sushi, but making your sushi with imitation crab is an option to consider.

Imitation crab is pre-cooked.

Our OB/GYN still suggests that you steam or thoroughly heat imitation crab before eating it. 

One way to use imitation crab in place of raw fish in sushi is to steam it for 10 minutes and let it cool in the fridge. Once it is cool, it is ready to go.

You have lowered your risk of developing a foodborne illness and can still satisfy your craving for sushi.


What Fish and Shellfish are safe to eat during pregnancy?

Shrimp is a good alternative, it is low in mercury, and as long as it is cooked properly is safe to eat during pregnancy.

Shrimp is also low in fat and high in protein.

You can also enjoy fish such as salmon and catfish. 

Salmon is an excellent choice. 

Salmon is low in mercury, high in protein and essential fatty acids.

You’ll want to make sure they are properly cooked and avoid eating undercooked seafood.

Other excellent and safe choices for fish and shellfish during pregnancy include:

  • Haddock
  • Cod
  • Scrod
  • Pollock
  • Sole
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Flounder
  • Lobster
  • Canned light tuna
  • Cooked scallops
  • Cooked clams and clam chowder
  • Cooked mussels



Can Pregnant Women Eat Imitation Crab?


Why eat seafood at all during pregnancy?

As is the case with many foods consumed during pregnancy, it is often about eating foods in moderation. 

Seafood is an important source of DHA, an Omega Oil involved in the development of the fetal nervous system. 

The benefit of DHA during pregnancy is so well documented that it is now included in many prenatal vitamin preparations.




Final Thoughts

It is considered safe for pregnant women to eat imitation crab as long as they do not have a shellfish allergy or consume it undercooked.

Imitation crab is high in sodium and MSG and may not be the best seafood to eat during pregnancy.

Check with your OB/GYN or midwife to find out if it is safe for you to consume imitation crab or any other shellfish during your pregnancy.

Seafood including shellfish is an excellent source of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids that will help your baby’s brain development.

Remember that it is not safe to consume raw fish or shellfish during pregnancy.

Imitation crab is an affordable alternative to real crab meat or lobster and consuming it on occasion is safe.

You can enjoy it in a crabmeat salad served with lots of dark leafy greens or if you are craving comfort food you can add it to creamy macaroni and cheese or create a creamy imitation crab bisque or chowder. 

Fish and shellfish that are low in mercury should be consumed twice per week and limit portion sizes to 4 ounces to help you keep your pregnancy weight gain within healthy parameters.



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