What Is the Pescatarian Diet?

A diet that emphasizes seafood, vegetables, fruits, and grains, and limits meat

pescetarian diet

Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is the Pescatarian Diet?

The pescatarian diet is a vegetarian diet that includes fish or other aquatic animals. Sometimes people who follow this eating plan are also called pesco-vegetarians or pescetarians.

Besides the inclusion of seafood, there are no strict guidelines that determine what is pescatarian versus what is vegetarian. There are no rules that define how often you need to eat fish to be considered a pescatarian. For example, you may be a vegetarian who only occasionally eats fish, or you may include it in every meal.

Not all pescatarian compliant choices are inherently healthy, so it's important to make balanced choices. Versions of this eating plan emphasizing nutrient-dense foods can be a healthful way of eating.

What Experts Say

"Defined as a vegetarian diet with the addition of fish, the pescatarian diet can be a great choice for those searching for a nutritious meal plan. Plant-based foods provide numerous vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and the seafood supplies omega-3 fatty acids and protein."
Chrissy Carroll, RD, MPH

The 7-Day Diet Plan

A balanced pescatarian diet includes fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and seafood. Most also have eggs and dairy products. A pescatarian diet often includes flavorful foods such as olives, whole grains like farro and quinoa, spicy peppers, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and other nutritious, filling ingredients.

  • Day 1: Poached eggs with dill, 1/2 a grapefruit; quinoa avocado bowl; lemon garlic tilapia
  • Day 2: Mango-chia berry smoothie; grilled cheese sandwich; vegetarian lasagna
  • Day 3: Spinach and egg scramble; white bean soup; spicy shrimp tacos
  • Day 4: Overnight oats; Niçoise salad; curried lentils; dark chocolate dates
  • Day 5: Avocado toast; egg salad sandwich; ahi tuna poke bowl
  • Day 6: Banana walnut muffin; Israeli couscous bowl; black bean burger
  • Day 7: Muesli with dried cherries; salmon burger; artichoke-stuffed butternut squash

What You Can Eat

Those following the pescatarian diet can eat a wide range of foods that contribute to a balanced macronutrient profile and provide the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health.


The seafood on the pescatarian diet may include freshwater fish such as trout or perch, saltwater fish like salmon or tuna, and shellfish including shrimp, oysters, clams, and more.

Dairy Foods and Eggs

Most pescatarians eat eggs and dairy (such as cheese, yogurt, and milk), although some do not. Technically, a pescatarian who eats eggs and dairy would be called a lacto-ovo-pescatarian.

Fruits and Vegetables

There are no limits on the types of fruits and vegetables included in this eating plan. Eat the rainbow, and fill up on produce to receive the full health benefits; add dark leafy greens, bright red, yellow, and orange peppers, eggplant, corn, blueberries, kiwi, and other fruits and veggies.

Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are an excellent addition to the pescatarian diet because they are rich sources of plant-based protein. Edamame, fava beans, lentils, chickpeas, and split peas are all high-protein choices.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great addition to the pescatarian diet because they are rich sources of healthy fats. Excellent choices include walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds.


Pescatarians can eat a wide range of grains, including wheat, corn, barley, rye, rice, oats and others. People with celiac disease or those avoiding gluten also avoid gluten on the pescatarian diet.


Those who follow the pescatarian diet can use a wide variety of oils in their cooking and seasoning of food. Some common examples are olive oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, and canola oil. Many types of oil are good sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which contribute to cardiovascular health.

What You Cannot Eat

There is only one class of foods that those who eat a pescatarian diet do not eat: meats. Regardless of whether or not you eat certain animal products like yogurt or cheese, if you follow the pescatarian diet, you won't eat meat or meat products. That means you'll not only avoid red meat (like beef or bison), but you'll also avoid poultry, lamb, pork, and game (such as venison).

How To Prepare the Pescatarian Diet & Tips

The pescatarian diet is a lifestyle. If you decide to eat a pescatarian diet, you can eat meals and snacks whenever you'd like, with no specific recommendations or restrictions on portion size.

The pescatarian diet is likely safe and probably beneficial if you have a health condition such as diabetes, celiac disease, or heart disease. But you should always check with a healthcare provider first and ensure you're getting the right mix of nutrients for your body.

If you are pregnant, avoid raw fish (e.g., sushi and sashimi) and watch out for the mercury levels in the fish you eat. You'll also want to be cautious about mercury if you are breastfeeding or have small children who eat pescatarian too. Fish high in mercury include swordfish, shark, some types of mackerel, marlin, and some types of tuna. Talk to a healthcare provider such as a physician or registered dietitian for help if you are unsure what to eat.

What to Eat
  • Seafood

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Grains

  • Dairy products and eggs

What Not to Eat
  • Red meat

  • Poultry

  • Pork

  • Wild game

Sample Shopping List

If you buy fresh fish, it usually needs to be cooked or frozen within a few days of purchase, so stock up on tuna packets or canned fish, so you always have a seafood source ready to go. For more guidance, the following shopping list offers suggestions for getting started on the pescatarian diet.

This sample shopping list is just an example of some things you might buy to follow the pescatarian diet. It is certainly not comprehensive, and many other foods are part of a nutrient-dense pescatarian diet.

  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard)
  • Veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, eggplant)
  • Fresh and frozen fruits (grapefruit, oranges, berries, bananas, apples)
  • Healthy fat sources (avocados, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, olive oil)
  • Whole grains (100% whole wheat bread, brown rice pasta, quinoa, barley)
  • Plant-based protein and legumes (tofu, soybeans, black beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Canned or packaged fish (tuna, sardines, anchovies, salmon, herring)
  • Fresh or frozen fish (halibut, cod, salmon, snapper, sea bass)
  • Dairy products (cheeses, yogurt, milk, cottage cheese)
  • Eggs

Sample Meal Plan

Though there are no rules on the pescatarian diet other than to replace animal protein with plant-based protein or seafood, you should always opt for nutritiously balanced meals. Choose healthy cooking methods—if you consume only fried fish and highly processed foods, for example, you may not reap the health benefits of this eating style. Grill or broil fish using healthy cooking oils, steam your seafood or use other methods such as stewing, sautéing, and baking to prepare your meals.

The following three-day meal plan is not all-inclusive but should give you a general sense of what the pescatarian diet can look like. If you do choose to follow the diet, other meals may be more appropriate for your tastes and preferences. Additionally, the portions/servings are only a suggestion. You can eat more or less based on your hunger cues.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Pros of the Pescatarian Diet

  • May Protect from Disease: Some studies have shown that pescatarians have a lower risk of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic disorders that increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
  • May Be Easier to Follow Than Vegetarianism: Some people who choose to eliminate meat from their diets may find that following a pescatarian diet is more manageable than following a strictly vegetarian diet because it is easier to get enough protein each day with the addition of seafood.
  • May Promote Healthy Weight: When you replace meat-based meals with plant-based meals, you are likely to cut calories and fat from your diet to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Can Benefit the Environment: Some people follow a pescatarian diet because of the positive impact certain sustainable seafood choices can have on the environment. Raising and processing meat takes up land and contributes to dangerous emissions. By reducing our dependency on meat and making sustainable fish choices, we do our part to help create a healthier planet.

To feel better about your impact on the environment, use the information provided by The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch to find responsibly sourced seafood. Enter the name of the fish you prefer and get specific recommendations for buying the best fish. There is even an app that you can use when you're shopping.

Cons of the Pescatarian Diet

While the pescatarian diet has a lot of advantages, there are also a couple of disadvantages.

  • Some Seafood Is High In Mercury: All seafood and shellfish have some mercury content, and certain fish have a higher concentration than others. When you eat fish, mercury is absorbed through digestion and enters the bloodstream, traveling to every organ in your body. It can cross the blood-brain barrier and , in excess, it can cause damage to your central nervous system.
  • Groceries Can Be Costly: Buying the primary foods of this eating plan (fruits, vegetables, and fresh fish) can be expensive. But you don't always have to buy fresh—many bulk bags of frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as the fresh versions. Canned fish is economical and easy to store.

Is the Pescatarian Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

Current guidelines set forth by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest filling your plate with a balanced mix of protein (which could be from meat, fish, or plant-based sources), grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The pescatarian diet meets that standard when meals are balanced with USDA-recommended foods and nutrients.

There's no official calorie count for the pescatarian diet, which means no need for calorie counting. The number of calories you need will vary based on your goals (weight loss, weight maintenance, or weight gain), age, weight, sex, and activity level). Use this calculator to determine the right calorie goal for you.

Research suggests that vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, and pesco-vegetarians have diets that are "mostly better in terms of nutrient quality" than omnivores (people who eat everything), though some critics argue that other factors lead to the improved nutritional quality—not just food choices.

Health Benefits

Fish is low in saturated fat and rich in other nutrients. Fish is also a source of complete proteins, so you don't have to combine proteins to get the nutrients you need, but you will want to incorporate other healthy foods such as grains, vegetables, and legumes into your meals.

When you eat certain types of fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, or sablefish), you'll also boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. While some people take a supplement to get the recommended daily allowance, most health experts recommend that you get your intake from food if you can. Omega-3s boost heart health, may reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and may even help to improve brain and eye health.

Studies have also shown that following a balanced vegan or vegetarian-based diet (including the pescatarian diet) is associated with lower body mass index (BMI). Other research suggests that people who follow a flexitarian diet (primarily vegetarian but occasionally includes meat or fish) enjoy benefits including healthy body weight, improved markers of metabolic health, blood pressure, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age. 

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

Health Risks

Vitamin B12 is an essential micronutrient typically found in animal foods, so you may get less of it when you eat a pescatarian diet unless you eat plenty of foods high in B12 such as tuna and sardines, eggs, dairy foods like yogurt, nutritional yeast, and fortified cereals.

You want to ensure you are getting plenty of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) because it helps maintain a healthy nervous system and aid in forming red blood cells and DNA and protein metabolism.

You'll also want to avoid fish with higher levels of mercury, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorize fish into "best choices," "good choices," and "fish to avoid." Their resources are aimed at helping consumers make healthy and safe decisions when choosing seafood to reduce their intake of harmful toxins.

Best choices for seafood include herring, lobster, and freshwater trout. Good options include salmon, sardines, snapper, halibut, and grouper. Fish to avoid includes bigeye tuna, orange roughy, and swordfish.

A Word From Verywell

The pescatarian diet has a lot going for it—but no one diet is perfect. If you're considering the pescatarian diet but are unsure if it's right for you, try it for a week or two and see how you feel. You may notice that when you boost your intake of grains, vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods, you eat less and feel fuller longer. You may also have more energy. At the very least, you'll benefit from experimenting with new foods and flavors.

If you're not sure where to begin, enlist the help of a registered dietitian or a local cooking school to learn how to prepare fish so that you enjoy your meals and feel satisfied.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you, and many diets out there simply don't work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn't necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also significantly affect your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

15 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.