Can I eat pan seared scallops while pregnant?

Eating seafood like scallops during pregnancy can be safe and healthy when you take the proper precautions. It provides important nutrients for you and your developing baby. However, some types of seafood can contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful. Here’s what you need to know about eating pan seared scallops while pregnant.

Quick Answers

– Pan searing scallops reaches high enough temperatures to kill bacteria and parasites, making them safer to eat when pregnant.

-Scallops are low in mercury, so they can be eaten in moderation during pregnancy. Limit yourself to 12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week.

– Cook scallops until they reach an internal temperature of 145°F to kill any potential bacteria or parasites.

-Opt for wild caught or farmed scallops from North America to limit exposure to pollutants.

-Avoid raw or undercooked scallops which have a higher risk of contamination.

-Check with your doctor about any special dietary restrictions or precautions you may need.

Are Scallops Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

Scallops can be a safe and healthy part of a balanced pregnancy diet when handled and prepared properly. They provide several beneficial nutrients like protein, vitamins, and essential fatty acids.

However, as with any type of seafood, there are some risks associated with eating scallops while pregnant if they are not cooked thoroughly or are sourced from contaminated waters.

The two main concerns with eating scallops or any seafood during pregnancy are:

  • Parasites
  • Mercury exposure

Cooking scallops helps reduce the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses like parasites. Mercury exposure is minimized by limiting how much higher mercury seafood you eat and choosing low mercury options like scallops.

Risk of Parasites

One of the biggest risks of eating seafood during pregnancy is exposure to parasites like salmonella, listeria, and toxoplasma. These can cause foodborne illnesses that may be especially dangerous during pregnancy.

Scallops can potentially harbor parasites and bacteria. However, cooking scallops thoroughly kills any potential parasites or contaminants:

  • Cook scallops to an internal temperature of 145°F.
  • Make sure there is no translucent flesh left.

Raw or undercooked scallops have a higher chance of causing foodborne illness. Only eat scallops that have been fully cooked.

Mercury Exposure

Certain types of seafood also tend to be higher in mercury, which can be harmful in high amounts during pregnancy. Scallops have relatively low mercury levels compared to fish like tuna or swordfish.

The FDA recommends pregnant women eat no more than 12 ounces (about 2-3 servings) of low mercury seafood like scallops per week. This limits mercury exposure but still allows you to gain the benefits of eating seafood.

Nutrition Benefits of Scallops

Scallops are highly nutritious and offer several important vitamins and minerals:

  • Protein – Scallops provide over 20g of protein in a 3 ounce serving. Protein supports your baby’s growth and development.
  • Omega-3s – Scallops contain omega-3 fatty acids like DHA which are important for your baby’s brain and eye development.
  • B Vitamins – Scallops provide B vitamins like B12, niacin, and folate which help support a healthy pregnancy.
  • Iron – Scallops contain iron which helps prevent pregnancy-related anemia and transport oxygen to your baby.
  • Zinc – Scallops are a good source of zinc, a mineral vital for immune function, growth, and development.
  • Selenium – Scallops contain selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage.

The combination of lean protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals make scallops a nutritious choice during pregnancy. Eating 2-3 servings per week can give you and your baby an important nutrient boost.

Choosing the Safest Scallops

To get the most benefits and lowest risks when eating scallops, follow these tips for choosing safe, high-quality scallops during pregnancy:

  • Opt for wild caught or farmed scallops from North America like the U.S. or Canada.
  • Avoid scallops from parts of Asia or South America where farming standards may be lower.
  • Check that scallops smell fresh with no strong odor.
  • Make sure scallops look glossy and moist, not dry or stringy.
  • Use scallops within 1-2 days of purchasing for best quality.
  • Keep scallops well chilled below 40°F until ready to cook.

Choosing scallops from reputable sellers and handling them properly reduces the risk of any contamination or bacterial growth.

How to Cook Scallops Safely

Cooking scallops thoroughly helps kill any parasites, viruses, or bacteria present:

Pan Sear

Pan searing scallops is one of the safest cooking methods as the high heat kills contaminants. Follow these steps:

  1. Pat scallops dry with paper towels.
  2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of oil.
  3. Place scallops in the pan and let cook 2-3 minutes per side until browned.
  4. Use a food thermometer to check they reach 145°F internal temperature.

Make sure to heat the pan hot enough and avoid overcrowding so scallops brown properly and cook through.


Baking scallops in the oven is another reliable cooking method:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Arrange scallops on the baking sheet without overcrowding.
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes until scallops are firm and opaque.
  5. Check that scallops reach an internal temperature of 145°F.

Broiling is similar to baking and can also effectively cook scallops.


Grilling scallops works well but requires attentiveness to avoid overcooking:

  1. Heat grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Oil grill grates to prevent sticking.
  3. Cook scallops 2-3 minutes per side until grill marks appear.
  4. Check internal temperature to ensure they reach 145°F.

Make sure to watch them closely so they don’t overcook and dry out on the grill.

How to Order Scallops at Restaurants

When dining out, take precautions to ensure scallops are fully cooked and safe to eat during pregnancy by:

  • Asking if the scallops are cooked to 145°F internal temperature.
  • Avoiding any raw scallop dishes like crudo or carpaccio.
  • Checking that scallops appear opaque, not translucent.
  • Sending back any undercooked looking scallops to be cooked more.

Politely ask your server about the restaurant’s food safety practices. Only order scallops at high quality restaurants you trust.

Healthy Ways to Eat Scallops

Here are some nutritious recipe ideas for enjoying pan seared scallops while pregnant:

Seared Scallops with Roasted Cauliflower

Pan sear scallops and serve atop roasted cauliflower florets seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and parsley.

Citrus Scallop Salad

Toss cooked scallops with mixed greens, orange segments, shaved fennel, avocado, and a citrus vinaigrette.

Seared Scallops with Quinoa

Serve pan seared scallops alongside quinoa cooked in vegetable broth with kale and tomatoes.

Scallop Tacos

Place pan seared scallops in warmed corn tortillas and top with shredded cabbage, mango salsa, and sliced avocado.

Coconut Curry Scallops

Saute scallops in a spicy red curry coconut milk sauce with vegetables like snap peas and bell peppers.

Scallops pair well with bright, acidic flavors like citrus and tomatoes. They also work nicely with creamy or buttery sauces. Experiment to find your favorite recipes!

Potential Risks of Eating Scallops

While scallops can be part of a healthy pregnancy diet, there are some potential risks to keep in mind:

  • Foodborne illness if scallops are raw or undercooked
  • Allergic reaction for those allergic to shellfish
  • Mercury exposure if consuming too much high mercury seafood
  • Contamination risk from polluted harvesting waters

Strictly avoid raw scallops like crudo or sashimi. Anyone with a seafood allergy should also avoid scallops.

Limit total seafood intake to 2-3 servings per week to reduce mercury exposure. And choose scallops from reputable sellers or waters to minimize contamination risks.

Special Considerations

Here are some additional precautions pregnant women should take around consuming scallops:

  • Ask your doctor about any food restrictions, especially if you have a high risk pregnancy.
  • Hold off on eating scallops if you have a compromised immune system.
  • Avoid scallops if you have a history of foodborne illness.
  • Let someone else handle and cook raw scallops to reduce risk.
  • Use a food thermometer to verify scallops reach safe temperature.

Make sure to cook scallops thoroughly and handle them safely. Stop eating them if you experience any nausea, vomiting or other concerning symptoms.

The Bottom Line

Pan seared scallops can be a safe and healthy seafood choice when pregnant as long as you take proper safety precautions.

To minimize risks, choose low mercury scallops from reputable sellers, cook them fully to 145°F, and limit intake to 2-3 servings per week. Avoid raw or undercooked scallops.

Discuss specific portion recommendations and any restrictions with your prenatal doctor. Use good judgement when deciding when and where to order scallops when dining out.

Cooked properly, scallops provide excellent nutrition to support you and your developing baby during pregnancy. But be sure to weigh the benefits and potential risks before eating scallops or any seafood when expecting.

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