Can Pregnant Women Eat Trout? Is It a Safe Fish?

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Whether you’re catching it yourself, ordering it from a restaurant menu or cooking at home, you may be wondering if trout is a safe fish to eat during pregnancy.

Trout, when fully cooked, is safe to eat during pregnancy. Not only that, but it also has many nutrients that are beneficial during pregnancy, especially Omega 3 fatty acids. Raw or undercooked trout should be avoided during pregnancy.

Trout is one of my favorite dishes, so I’ve written this complete guide to all things trout, including different species, whether smoked trout is safe, and other information essential to pregnant women such as mercury levels.

Is Trout Safe For Pregnant Women to Eat?

Trout is safe for pregnant women to eat if it’s cooked. Not only that, it has many nutrients that are beneficial too. These are listed later in this article.

The word “trout” is applied to many varities of fish, not all of which are truly ‘trout’. It can also be farmed or wild, which has an impact on mercury levels and more – explained below.

In general, if you see ‘trout’ on a menu and that’s the only description, it’s likely to be either farmed or wild-caught freshwater/rainbow trout. This is safe to eat during pregnancy if it’s cooked all the way through.

Because trout are classed as oily fish, in the UK it’s recommended that pregnant women only eat oily fish twice per week at the most. This is due to concerns about pollutants (source: NHS) and doesn’t currently apply to any other country’s advice.

Farmed vs Wild Trout During Pregnancy

Both wild-caught and farmed trout can be eaten when you’re pregnant, but there are slight differences between the two.

Wild-caught trout tends to be leaner but may also have been exposed to a higher level of pollutants, depending on where it was caught. In general, most trout is considered to be quite low in mercury (which is addressed below).

Farmed trout tends to be fattier, and can be higher in omega 3 fatty acids, if fed fortified food (source: Colorado State University).

angler with a freshly caught trout

Since trout is not as popular as salmon, it can be a case of simply buying or catching what’s available, so try not to worry too much about the difference, as both types have beneficial nutrients.

If you have bought wild trout from a fishmonger or caught it yourself, it’s a good idea to check the current fisheries advice for the area.

Occasionally there may be pollutants or other factors affecting streams and rivers fished by recreational anglers (source: Seafood Health).

Commercially farmed trout will be carefully managed and safe to eat, as the water quality is constantly monitored.

Undercooked or raw trout, as with all seafood, should be avoided by pregnant women. This includes cold smoked trout, which is discussed below.

Can I Eat Smoked Trout During Pregnancy?

Much like smoked salmon (there’s a guide to smoked salmon during pregnancy here, if you eat that too), the safety of smoked trout depends on whether it’s hot or cold smoked, and what the advice is in your particular country.

Hot smoked trout is usually pregnancy-safe as it’s fully cooked as part of the smoking process.

So long as the hot smoked trout has been stored properly, it’s safe to eat when pregnant, hot or cold, as it’s already cooked.

Cold smoked trout is cured, rather than cooked. In the UK, guidelines state that pre-packaged smoked fish is safe for pregnant women.

In other countries (including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), pregnant women are advised to avoid cold smoked trout and similar fish (source: FDA).

If you want to be super cautious, you can stick to hot smoked or fully cooked trout throughout pregnancy.

smoked trout on pastry

Is Trout High in Mercury? The Mercury Level of Trout Explained

The average mercury level of trout depends on the species, and whether it is wild-caught or farmed.

Farmed trout, either Rainbow trout or Steelhead trout, are both low in mercury (source: Environmental Defense Fund). This tends to be the case with most farmed fish as the water quality (and pollutants) are carefully controlled.

Freshwater trout contained 0.071 PPM (parts per million) of mercury, according to levels checked over a period of years by the US Food & Drug Administration (source: FDA).

Anything below 0.1 PPM is considered to be low in mercury, so this includes freshwater trout.

Sea Trout, which is also called Weakfish or brown trout, had an average higher mercury level at 0.235. This is a moderate level of mercury, on a par with other fish like albacore tuna.

Sea Trout can still be eaten in pregnancy, but treat it as you would albacore, and limit portions to perhaps once per week, and vary the type of fish you eat with lower mercury options.

Trout Species and Pregnancy Safety

Of course “trout” covers many different fish types in various parts of the world. If you’re looking for information on a specific trout, then here are some of the most common ones:

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout (also called Weakfish, Ocean Trout or Sea Trout)
  • Brook Trout
  • Steelhead Trout
  • Lake Trout (also called Freshwater Char)

All the above are safe to eat in pregnancy if fully cooked, whether or not they are wild caught or farmed. They have varying levels of mercury, which is addressed above.

A Note on Coral Trout: This fish is not in the same classification as other trout. Coral Trout is closer to Grouper. Grouper can sometimes be high in mercury, so Coral Trout is best avoided or limited during pregnancy.

Is Trout Good for Pregnancy? What Are The Benefits?

One of the main benefits of eating trout during pregnancy is that it’s one of the fish species that is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, with an average of 500-1000mg in farmed rainbow trout, and possibly more if wild-caught (source: USDA FoodData).

Trout is not only low in mercury but is also a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals, too. The average cooked fillet of trout contains:

  • An impressive 9mcg of vitamin B12
  • 8.2mg Niacin
  • 32.8g protein
  • 0.5mg vitamin B6

Trout is also a good source of thiamin, phosphorous, selenium and potassium, too.

Overall, trout is an excellent choice of fish during pregnancy. If you’re eating the most common (rainbow or freshwater), then so long as it’s fully cooked, you can benefit from its varied nutritional profile.

pan fried trout cooked over a fire

Can I Eat Trout Pâté During Pregnancy?

All types of pâté should be avoided during pregnancy, and this includes trout pâté, even if it’s made from cooked or hot smoked trout.

This is because pâté’s high moisture content, lower ph, and manufacturing methods make it easier for bacteria like listeria to survive in it (sources: APA, NHS).

Is Trout Roe Safe for Pregnant Women?

Trout roe, or trout eggs, sometimes called “trout caviar”, is only safe if it’s both pasteurized and kept at a refrigerated temperature, ideally below 3C / 37.4F.

A 2005 study in Finland looked specifically at the listeria levels of rainbow trout roe after pasteurization and storage.

The conclusion was that pasteurization was an effective method to ensure the safety of the roe. However, refrigeration is also required to prevent other “spore-forming bacteria” from growing in fish roe (source: Journal of Food Protection).

Check the label of the trout roe. If it’s “fresh”, it’s likely unpasteurized, and should be avoided during pregnancy.

If it’s canned, check if it’s pasteurized, and if it has been stored at 3c / 37.4F or below.

If you can’t see where the roe has come from, for example, if it’s used as a decoration or ingredient in sushi, then ask first. You may also be interested in my ultimate sushi guide for pregnant women as well.

Unfortunately, some canned roes are displayed on shelves at room temperature, because they’re pasteurized. When pregnant, avoid these types and opt for pasteurized, cold-stored trout roe instead.

trout roe (fish eggs) on toast

If you’re increasing your fish intake during pregnancy, you may also be interested in: