The United States Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released their new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) especially pregnant and breastfeeding women encouraging all Americans to eat at least two to three seafood meals (or 8 to 12 ounces) each week because of its heart, brain, and weight benefits. Renowned dietitian and Myplate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better: Decoding the Dietary Guidelines for Your Real Life author, Elizabeth Ward joined me for an interview this week to discuss the new dietary guidelines and health benefits. She also offered suggestions on how you can include seafood in your diet, and much more.
Candace Rose: As a renowned dietitian and the author of the popular book Myplate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better: Decoding the Dietary Guidelines for Your Real Life, can you tell us about the USDA’s and HHS’ newly released 2015 – 2020 dietary guidelines for Americans, in particular the new guidelines for seafood consumption?
Elizabeth Ward: “The new dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that we get at least two seafood meals a week, and two to three seafood meals a week if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. It also recommends that we make small shifts in our diets to include more of the seafood but also to include more whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, and more low fat sources of dairy.”
Candace Rose: How do the guidelines underscore the importance for pregnant and breastfeeding women to eat more seafood?
Elizabeth Ward: “Well, the way that the guidelines underscore the importance is by giving specific amounts. The guidelines give a shoutout to seafood when they say that pregnant and breastfeeding women should be getting two to three seafood meals a week and the reason for that is because seafood is rich in omega-3 fats for brain development, particularly an omega-3 fat called DHA which the baby collects in its brain as it develops. It’s very important for pregnant and breastfeeding women.”
Candace Rose: What type of seafood is the healthiest?
Elizabeth Ward: “Well, the guidelines recommend a wide variety of seafood. We’re lucky, we have a lot of seafood available to us in this country in many different ways. Canned tuna is a big favorite of mine, tuna also comes in pouches; canned salmon is very convenient. Shrimp is really another favorite, so eat the seafood that you like but be sure that you’re getting at least two seafood meals a week and two to three if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Fish is a really good source of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron and those are nutrients that we don’t get enough of.”
Candace Rose: What are some of the most common misconceptions about seafood?
Elizabeth Ward: “I think people don’t realize how convenient seafood is. I just mentioned tuna and salmon in cans and in pouches. You can have that on hand to make a meal in minutes. You buy some seafood and you put it in the freezer and use it later. I think the biggest misconception is that you can’t have quick and easy meals with seafood, but you can. It doesn’t take any longer to prepare seafood than it does to prepare any other protein source.”
Candace Rose: There are new guidelines involving non-seafood that were also released. Can you tell us about those?
Elizabeth Ward: “Some of the other guidelines say that yes in fact do need to up our consumption of fruits and vegetables. We need to get at least three servings of whole grains every day, that we need to make sure that we’re consuming non-fat and low-fat sources of dairy, and also that we’re really taking a look at the added sugar in our diet and reducing that to meet the guidelines.”
Candace Rose: Why is it important for people to speak with their doctor about seafood’s health benefits?
Elizabeth Ward: “Most doctors know that seafood is really good for the heart and for the brain. I think so many health professionals that deal with women knwo that seafood is really important when you’re pregnant and breastfeeding and that you should get two to three seafood meals a week for the omega-3 fats. It’s really just to reinforce the fact that seafood should be part of your healthy balanced meal plan.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Elizabeth Ward: “In addition to stocking your kitchen with convenient sources, you might want to think about swapping seafood into recipes where you might have regularly prepared them with chicken or beef or pork, so having a pasta dish that has canned tuna or flaked salmon in it for example instead of chicken, thinking about having shrimp tacos instead of beef tacos. You can get some real help with that at GetRealAboutSeafood.com which has an excellent meal planner that will also help you to start thinking outside of the box with seafood and thinking ‘I can have seafood at breakfast, I can snack on seafood, it’s not just for dinner.”