How much crawfish can a pregnant woman eat?

Quick answers

Pregnant women can safely eat crawfish in moderation as part of a balanced diet. The recommended serving size is 3 ounces of cooked crawfish meat, two or three times per week. Pregnant women should avoid raw or undercooked crawfish due to the risk of foodborne illness. When preparing crawfish at home, follow food safety guidelines carefully.

Crawfish are a popular shellfish that are often featured in Cajun and Creole cuisines. They have a sweet, mild flavor and a tender, flaky texture when cooked properly. Crawfish boils are a fun, communal way to enjoy these critters with family and friends.

Pregnant women often wonder if they can safely indulge in crawfish while expecting. Like many types of seafood, there are both benefits and potential risks to eating crawfish during pregnancy. By understanding the nutritional value, possible mercury exposure, and food safety precautions for crawfish, pregnant women can make informed choices.

Nutritional benefits of crawfish for pregnant women

Crawfish can be part of a healthy prenatal diet because they provide several beneficial nutrients, including:

  • Protein – 3 ounces of cooked crawfish contains about 20 grams of protein, which supports fetal growth and development.
  • Iron – Crawfish supply heme iron, the most easily absorbed form, which helps prevent pregnancy-related anemia.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – These healthy fats are important for baby’s brain and eye formation.
  • Vitamin B12 – This nutrient is critical for red blood cell production and neural tube development early in pregnancy.
  • Zinc – Zinc supports a healthy immune system in mom and baby.
  • Calcium – Crawfish contain some calcium to help meet increased needs during pregnancy.

The beneficial nutrients in crawfish make them a nutritious option as part of a well-rounded prenatal diet. They can be an alternative source of protein and iron compared to red meat.

Mercury concerns when eating crawfish

Like other types of seafood, crawfish may contain traces of mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that can be toxic in high amounts. Some types of mercury can cross the placenta and potentially impact fetal neurological development.

However, crawfish tend to be very low in mercury. They are not long-lived, predatory fish that accumulate high mercury levels up the food chain. The EPA lists crawfish as one of the best seafood choices for minimizing mercury exposure.

The FDA and EPA recommend pregnant women consume no more than 6 to 12 ounces (170 to 340 grams) of low-mercury seafood per week. Following this advice allows pregnant women to enjoy the benefits of seafood while minimizing potential mercury risks.

Ways to further reduce mercury exposure from crawfish

  • Remove the hepatopancreas (“fat”) from the tail meat, as mercury concentrates more here.
  • Consume a variety of seafood, rather than just crawfish.
  • Get crawfish from sources with less water pollution.
  • Avoid consuming the heads of very large, older crawfish.

Food safety guidelines for eating crawfish

Like many types of seafood, raw or undercooked crawfish can harbor bacteria and parasites that may cause foodborne illness. This poses a higher risk to pregnant women and their vulnerable fetuses.

To minimize this risk, pregnant women should take the following precautions with crawfish:

  • Only eat crawfish that have been thoroughly cooked, until the shell is fully red.
  • Avoid eating raw crawfish or “sucking the head.”
  • Do not eat crawfish with cracked shells or straight tails before cooking.
  • Buy crawfish from reputable sellers, look for certification.
  • Cook and cool crawfish properly after boiling or steaming.
  • Reheat cooked crawfish thoroughly to 165°F.
  • Wash hands and cooking tools thoroughly after preparation.

Pregnant women with compromised immune systems should take extra care to only eat fully cooked crawfish to reduce their risk of food poisoning.

How much crawfish can pregnant women eat?

When it comes to seafood, both the FDA and EPA recommend pregnant women eat 8 to 12 ounces per week of a variety of low-mercury fish and shellfish. This equals about 2 to 3 servings.

A typical serving size of crawfish is about 3 ounces of cooked meat. Therefore, pregnant women can safely eat approximately:

  • 2-3 servings of crawfish per week
  • 6-9 ounces of cooked crawfish meat per week

This recommendation allows pregnant women to gain the benefits of eating crawfish 2-3 times per week, while minimizing potential mercury or foodborne illness risks.

Tips for sticking to the recommended serving size

  • Use a food scale to weigh out a 3 ounce portion.
  • Start with 1 pound of uncooked crawfish – this will yield about 3 ounces of meat.
  • Visually estimate a serve as about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Limit yourself to a bowl or plate of crawfish per sitting.
  • Fill up on veggies to avoid overeating crawfish.

Best practices when preparing and eating crawfish

To gain the most benefits while minimizing risks, pregnant women should follow these recommended practices when eating crawfish:

Selecting crawfish

  • Purchase fresh, live crawfish whenever possible.
  • Make sure shells are intact and firm.
  • Avoid crawfish with cuts, cracks, or straight tails.
  • Choose wild-caught American crawfish if available.
  • Ask where the crawfish were caught or raised.
  • Look for third party certification of sellers.

Storing crawfish

  • Keep live crawfish cold, between 36-42°F.
  • Store in a container with holes for air flow.
  • Do not store live crawfish in water or a sealed bag.
  • Cook live crawfish within two days of purchasing whenever possible.
  • Cooked crawfish tails can be frozen for 2-3 months in air tight bags.

Cooking crawfish

  • Bring adequate water to a full rolling boil before adding crawfish.
  • Boil whole crawfish for 3-5 minutes until bright red.
  • Discard any crawfish with straight tails after cooking.
  • Use a thermometer to ensure cooked meat reaches 165°F.
  • Do not re-dip cooked crawfish in the original boil water.

Serving crawfish

  • Provide small bowls for peeling and discarded shells.
  • Offer wet wipes for cleaning hands and faces.
  • Provide a table covering to control mess.
  • Serve boiled crawfish immediately, or chill and reheat thoroughly to 165°F.

By following food safety guidelines carefully, pregnant women can enjoy crawfish confidently!

Healthy crawfish recipes for pregnancy

Here are some delicious and nourishing crawfish recipes to enjoy during pregnancy:

Crawfish boil

This Louisiana classic is the simplest way to prepare fresh crawfish. Adjust cooking times as needed for larger or smaller crawfish.

  • Fill large pot halfway with water, cover and bring to a boil.
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning blend, juice of 2 lemons, and 2 bay leaves.
  • Add 2-3 pounds live crawfish and return to a boil.
  • Boil for 3-5 minutes until shells turn bright red.
  • Drain and serve immediately with corn, potatoes, and sausage, if desired.

Crawfish étouffée

This rich, flavorful Louisiana stew is delicious served over rice.

  • Sauté Trinity aromatics (bell pepper, onion, celery) in butter.
  • Whisk in flour to make a roux, then add stock and seasonings.
  • Simmer étouffée base before adding 1 pound peeled crawfish tails.
  • Cook briefly until heated through and serve over rice.

Crawfish salad

Cool crawfish tails lend themselves perfectly to fresh and vibrant salads.

  • Combine 1 pound chilled, peeled crawfish tails with chopped greens, tomatoes, avocado, and citrus segments.
  • Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper.
  • Top with crumbled bacon or blue cheese if desired.

Crawfish pasta

Creamy crawfish Alfredo is an indulgent, comforting dish during pregnancy.

  • Sauté 1 pound crawfish tails in butter and garlic.
  • Toss with cooked fettuccine noodles and Alfredo sauce.
  • Finish with lemon juice, parsley, Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.

Potential risks of eating too much crawfish when pregnant

Eating more than the recommended 2-3 servings of crawfish per week when pregnant may increase the risk of:

  • Mercury exposure – Excessive mercury intake can impact baby’s brain development.
  • Foodborne illness – Large amounts of raw or undercooked crawfish raise the odds of contracting listeriosis, toxoplasmosis, or norovirus.
  • Allergic reaction – Some women develop new seafood allergies during pregnancy and may react to overeating crawfish.
  • Gestational hypertension – Very high sodium levels from crawfish boils could elevate blood pressure.
  • Nutritional imbalance – Crawfish are high in cholesterol and low in nutrients like calcium, and excessive intake can lead to nutritional gaps.

Consuming more than 12 ounces of crawfish per week likely provides no additional benefit and may pose avoidable risks. Always speak with your doctor about specific dietary advice during pregnancy.

Questions and concerns when eating crawfish during pregnancy

Is it safe to eat crawfish that come from polluted waters?

It is best to avoid eating crawfish from known contaminated sources. Crawfish may bioaccumulate toxins like mercury, PCBs, and pesticide residues if harvested from polluted waters. Choose crawfish from less polluted areas when possible, or ask your seller about the source.

Can I get sick from eating undercooked crawfish?

Yes, raw and undercooked crawfish can harbor dangerous bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Always cook crawfish thoroughly until bright red and shells are curled. Avoid sucking juices from the head of raw or undercooked crawfish.

Are the seasonings in a crawfish boil safe during pregnancy?

Yes, most common crawfish boil seasonings like Cajun spice blends, lemon, garlic, and bay leaves are safe when consumed in normal food amounts. Avoid boiling crawfish in beers or highly salty broths.

Can I eat leftovers from a crawfish boil?

Properly chilled leftovers from a fully cooked crawfish boil are safe for 3-4 days. Reheat any leftovers to 165°F until hot and steaming before eating. Discard any crawfish refrigerated over 4 days.

Can my family eat more crawfish than me while I’m pregnant?

Yes, you can still enjoy crawfish boils as a family. Let your family know you are limiting your intake due to pregnancy recommendations. Focus on all the delicious sides and listen to their stories rather than feeling deprived.


Crawfish can be a healthy and delicious part of an expectant mother’s diet when consumed in moderation. The ideal amount is about 3 ounces, two or three times per week. Follow basic food safety guidelines and source crawfish carefully to minimize risks. Pair crawfish with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for a well-rounded prenatal diet. As always, run any specific questions or concerns by your prenatal care provider when in doubt.

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