Which sushi rolls are safe during pregnancy?

Quick Answers

Some sushi rolls can be safely eaten during pregnancy as long as they are prepared properly and do not contain high-mercury fish. The safest sushi rolls to eat while pregnant include vegetarian rolls, rolls made with low-mercury fish like salmon or shrimp, and rolls made without raw fish. However, raw sushi and sushi containing high-mercury fish like tuna should be avoided.

Eating sushi is a controversial topic during pregnancy. On one hand, sushi is a nutritious food that provides protein, vitamins, and minerals. On the other hand, there are concerns about consuming raw fish and high-mercury fish while pregnant.

So which sushi rolls can pregnant women safely eat? The key is choosing rolls made with pregnancy-safe ingredients and avoiding risky ones. Here is a detailed look at which sushi rolls and ingredients are considered safe vs. unsafe during pregnancy.

Risks of Eating Sushi During Pregnancy

There are two main risks associated with eating sushi during pregnancy:

Risk #1: Foodborne Illnesses

Pregnant women are at higher risk for foodborne illnesses like salmonella and listeria, which can be very dangerous during pregnancy. These bacteria can be present in raw or undercooked fish and seafood.

Eating sushi containing raw fish does increase the risk of foodborne illness. However, you can reduce this risk by only choosing reputable sushi restaurants with high food safety standards.

Risk #2: Mercury Exposure

Certain types of fish contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful in high doses. Too much mercury exposure during pregnancy can impair brain development in the baby.

Fish that are known to be high in mercury include:

  • Tuna (especially bigeye, albacore, and yellowfin tuna)
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Shark
  • Tilefish

To reduce mercury exposure, it’s best to avoid sushi rolls containing these fish while pregnant.

Best Sushi Rolls to Eat During Pregnancy

The safest sushi rolls to eat during pregnancy are:

1. Vegetarian Rolls

Vegetarian sushi rolls contain no raw fish, just vegetables like cucumbers, avocado, asparagus, spinach, and carrots. With no risk of foodborne illness or mercury exposure, these are the lowest risk sushi rolls.

Some popular vegetarian rolls include:

  • Avocado roll
  • Asparagus roll
  • Cucumber roll
  • Sweet potato tempura roll

2. Cooked Fish Rolls

Sushi rolls containing cooked fish or other seafood are also pregnancy-safe. The heat from cooking destroys any bacteria or parasites that could make you sick. And cooked seafood is lower in mercury than raw fish.

Some examples of safe cooked seafood rolls:

  • California roll (with cooked crab)
  • Cooked shrimp tempura roll
  • Eel roll (grilled freshwater eel)
  • Crispy salmon skin roll

3. Salmon Rolls

Salmon is a low-mercury fish that can be eaten raw or cooked during pregnancy. So sushi rolls with raw salmon are safe in moderation (1-2 servings per week). Plus salmon provides healthy omega-3s.

Popular salmon rolls include:

  • Salmon roll
  • Salmon avocado roll
  • Alaska roll (with raw salmon)

4. Roe Rolls

Fish eggs, or roe, include masago (smelt roe), tobiko (flying fish roe), and ikura (salmon roe). Roe is safe to eat during pregnancy as it is cooked before being used in sushi.

Some sushi rolls featuring roe include:

  • Masago roll
  • Tobiko roll
  • Ikura gunkan (battleship) roll

Sushi Rolls to Avoid During Pregnancy

On the unsafe side, here are the sushi rolls pregnant women should avoid:

1. Raw Tuna Rolls

Raw tuna should be avoided because it contains high levels of mercury. This includes popular rolls like:

  • Tuna roll
  • Tekka maki (tuna roll)
  • Spicy tuna roll
  • Rainbow roll (usually contains tuna)

2. Other High-Mercury Fish Rolls

In addition to tuna, pregnant women should avoid sushi containing other high-mercury fish like:

  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Swordfish
  • Mackerel
  • Shark
  • Tilefish

3. Raw Shellfish Rolls

Raw shellfish like oysters, clams, and mussels may contain bacteria and viruses that could cause food poisoning. It’s best to avoid sushi rolls containing raw shellfish when pregnant.

Some raw shellfish rolls to avoid include:

  • Oyster roll
  • Geoduck roll
  • Surf clam roll

4. Sushi From Questionable Sources

Finally, it’s wise to avoid sushi from restaurants or sources that seem unsanitary or low quality. Only eat sushi from reputable restaurants that serve fresh fish and follow good food safety practices.

Guidelines for Consuming Sushi During Pregnancy

If you want to eat sushi during pregnancy, here are some guidelines to do it as safely as possible:

  • Avoid high-mercury fish like tuna, swordfish, shark, and mackerel.
  • Avoid raw shellfish.
  • Limit raw salmon and other low-mercury fish to 1-2 servings per week.
  • Choose cooked seafood like shrimp, eel, and crab when possible.
  • Opt for vegetarian sushi rolls made with veggies, tofu, or avocado.
  • Only eat sushi from restaurants with high food safety standards.
  • Avoid sushi buffets or homemade sushi.

Following these guidelines allows you to safely enjoy sushi while pregnant. But when in doubt, opt for cooked rolls over raw fish.

Healthy Sushi Recipes to Make at Home

If you don’t feel comfortable eating sushi from restaurants while pregnant, make pregnancy-safe sushi rolls at home. Here are some healthy recipes to try:

Baked Salmon Roll

This baked salmon roll avoids any risks of raw fish.


  • 1⁄4 lb cooked salmon, flaked
  • 1 1⁄2 cups cooked sushi rice
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled into strips
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Sesame oil
  • Rice vinegar
  • Nori sheets


  1. Mix rice with sesame oil, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Lay out nori sheet on bamboo mat.
  3. Spread 1⁄4 of the rice evenly on the nori sheet.
  4. Layer salmon, avocado, cucumber, and carrot on top of the rice.
  5. Roll up tightly using mat.
  6. Slice roll into 6 pieces with a sharp knife.
  7. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Mango Avocado Roll

With just veggie ingredients, this mango roll is completely pregnancy-safe.


  • 1 mango, sliced into strips
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 6-8 oz sushi rice
  • 1⁄4 cucumber, sliced
  • Nori sheets
  • Roasted sesame seeds
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sesame oil


  1. Mix rice with vinegar, oil, and salt.
  2. Lay nori sheet on mat. Spread rice evenly, leaving 1⁄2 inch uncovered.
  3. Layer mango, avocado, and cucumber on rice.
  4. Roll up tightly. Seal with water.
  5. Slice into 6 pieces.
  6. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Sweet Potato Shrimp Roll

The cooked shrimp and sweet potato make this a pregnancy-safe sushi roll.


  • 1 sweet potato, roasted and sliced
  • 8-10 cooked shrimp, chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced thin
  • Sushi rice
  • Nori sheets
  • Toasted sesame seeds


  1. Make sushi rice flavored with vinegar, salt, sugar.
  2. Lay nori sheet on mat. Spread rice, leaving 1⁄2 inch uncovered.
  3. Layer sweet potato, shrimp, and avocado.
  4. Start rolling up tightly. Seal with water.
  5. Slice roll into 6 pieces.
  6. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Nutrition of Pregnancy-Safe Sushi Rolls

Here is the nutrition breakdown for popular sushi rolls that are safe to eat during pregnancy:

Sushi Roll Calories Carbs Protein Fat
Salmon roll (6 pc) 230 36g 12g 6g
California roll (6 pc) 285 43g 12g 8g
Shrimp tempura roll (6 pc) 360 53g 15g 12g
Avocado roll (6 pc) 360 69g 4g 12g
Veggie roll with cucumber, avocado, spinach (6 pc) 230 45g 4g 5g

As you can see, sushi can provide important nutrients like protein, carbs, healthy fats, and fiber when ordering rolls that are pregnancy-safe. Some key benefits of eating safe sushi include:

  • Protein – For baby’s cell growth and maternal blood volume expansion
  • Healthy Fats – Omega-3s for baby’s brain development
  • Carbohydrates – For adequate energy
  • Vitamin C – From veggies for immune health
  • Fiber – Improves digestion

Just be mindful of any excessive sodium from soy sauce and limit sodium intake to avoid swelling.

Tips for Safe Sushi Consumption During Pregnancy

Here are some additional tips for safely enjoying sushi during pregnancy:

  • Look for “sushi grade” fish at restaurants, which means it is safe to eat raw.
  • Opt for sushi earlier in the day. Don’t order sushi that has been sitting.
  • Eat sushi within one hour of preparation.
  • Avoid high-risk sushi like raw oysters, octopus, squid, mackerel.
  • Don’t eat the ginger between sushi pieces, as it could contain bacteria.
  • Dip sushi fish side down in soy sauce to avoid bacteria.
  • Avoid eating sushi everyday. Stick to 1-2 servings per week.

Being cautious about where and what sushi you order will minimize risks and allow you to enjoy it safely.

Should You Avoid All Sushi During Pregnancy?

Many health organizations advise pregnant women to completely avoid sushi. The main concerns are risks of food poisoning and mercury exposure. However, by choosing pregnancy-safe sushi and following safety guidelines, you can mitigate these risks.

The dangers mainly come from eating high mercury fish raw, not from all sushi. With the right choices, you can safely eat sushi in moderation during pregnancy. While cooking sushi or opting for veggie sushi is your safest bet, low-mercury raw fish like salmon is reasonably safe as well.

In the end, it’s up to you and your comfort level. If sushi cravings are strong, pregnancy-safe sushi 1-2 times per month poses minimal risk. But avoiding sushi altogether is the most cautious choice. Discuss your sushi consumption with your doctor and decide what level of risk you are comfortable with.


The key to eating sushi safely during pregnancy is choosing the right sushi rolls. Focus on rolls with cooked seafood, vegetables, or low-mercury fish like salmon. Avoid raw shellfish and fish high in mercury like tuna. Only eat sushi from trusted restaurants with safe food handling processes. With the right choices and precautions, you can safely satisfy your sushi cravings while pregnant. Stick to recommended serving sizes and enjoy pregnancy-safe sushi rolls in moderation.

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