Pesky Pescetarian


There's nothing pesky about being a Pescetarian

Most pescetarians maintain a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet with the addition of fish or seafood.

‘Pesce’, the Italian word for fish.

Pescetarians eat freshwater, saltwater fish, shellfish in addition to products that a typical vegetarian consumes;  fruit, vegetables, eggs, dairy products, grains, legumes, pluses, nuts and seeds.

Pescetarians do not eat any land animals or birds, such as chicken, pork, beef, or turkey.

The combination of the health benefits associated with a vegetarian lifestyle alongside the addition of omega-3 fatty acids rich fish makes a pescatarian diet attractive.

The scientific advisory committee on nutrition (SACN, 2004), encourage an increase in the consumption of fish and reports that the majority of the UK population does not consume enough fish, particularly oily fish. Research suggesting that regular consumption of oily fish, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease due to their omega 3 content. The recommendations on dietary intake of fish made by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) suggest to ‘eat at least two portions of fish, of which one should be oily, weekly’ (Department of Health, 1994).

Aquatic life available to consume are generally low in saturated fat and high in nutrients. Omega 3 content is high in oily such as salmon, trout, sardines, pilchards, mackerel, whether they are tinned, frozen or fresh. Oily fish are 5-20% fat whereas white fish such as cod, plaice, haddock and seabass are generally 1-2% fat.

Too much fish? Health concerns

Inorganic contaminants, metals and other elements are present in some sources of fish either from natural sources such as the rocks on the sea bed or as a result of human interventions for example pollution. The presence of mercury and other toxins are generally higher in the larger older predatory fish that feed on smaller fish (swordfish, shark, king mackerel) compared with levels in other foods.

The role of a dietitian is to help provide advice to patients on appropriate food choices of fish as well as being safe and sustainable. Providing tailored education and informing patients that a pescetarian diet does not mean eating fish at every single meal, it meals the person enjoys a lot of plant based meals; falafel, vegetarian lasagne, bean chilli, tofu stir fry in addition to a few meals containing fish. Adding fish and seafood to a vegetarian diet helps boost heart healthy long chain fatty acids (Omega3) but also increases the availability of lean protein.

Research has linked plant based diets with lower risk of heart disease, obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers (Melina, Craig & Levin 2006).  Plant based sources of protein include – beans, lentils, peas, soy foods, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.


Example Pescetarian Diet



Bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon and dill

Porridge, semi skimmed milk, fig, cacao nibs and honey

Scrambled eggs on toast.


Seasonal fruit with yoghurt and nuts


Black bean burrito with kale and avocado


Tuna Bagel and salad

Hummus, pitta and chopped veggies

Falafel and mixed pepper wrap  


Egg salad sandwich


Quinoa, pomegranate and feta salad


Coconut curry with vegetables

Fish fajitas, side salad, guacamole, sour cream.

mixed bean Chilli with nachos  

Spice rubbed salmon with whole grain cous cous


Celery and nut butter

Apple and almonds

Homemade trial mix

Crackers and avocado.



Department of Health. (1994). Nutritional aspects of cardiovascular disease. Report of the cardiovascular review group committee on medical aspects of food policy. Reports on health and Social subjects no. 46. London: H.M. Stationary Office.

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. (2004). Advice on fish consumption: benefits and risks. London: The Stationary Office.

Melina, V., Craig, W., Levin, S. (2006) Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: vegetarian diets. Journal Acad Nut Diet. 116(2) 1970-1980