Healthy Fish Choices
Fish should be part of everyone’s diet; however, nearly all fish contain trace elements of mercury that can affect human health – especially the development of unborn babies and children. For this reason, the following guidelines are stricter for children and women of childbearing age.
What should you do?
- Do not stop eating fish!
- Instead, follow these guidelines to learn which fish and shellfish have less mercury so that you can make healthy choices about the kinds of fish you eat and how often you eat them.
These guidelines were developed in partnership with representatives from Ontario health units and build on those developed by Health Canada. They are more restrictive than Health Canada’s because there are people in our community that regularly eat higher amounts of fish.
The fish listed below include the most common fish found in supermarkets and do not include sport fish.
Canned tuna and fish sticks
Canned tuna has less mercury than fresh or frozen tuna because smaller tuna are used. Light canned tuna has less mercury than white (Albacore) tuna, and so can be eaten more often than white tuna.
Fish sticks and fast food sandwiches are usually made from fish that is lower in mercury. However, because of the amount of trans fat/saturated fat that may be found in fish sticks, it is recommended that they be eaten less often.
To get all the benefits of fish, choose fish listed under the 'Every Day' or 'Often' categoreis below.
Fish You Can Eat Every Day
Fish that have the lowest amounts of mercury:
- Kamaboko (fish cake; processed white fish)
- Salmon (Chum, Coho, Pink, wild Pacific, canned)
- Sea Urchin
Fish You Can Eat Often
Fish that have lower amounts of mercury:
Children: two servings per week **
Women: four servings per week
- Arctic Char
- Mackerel (Atlantic)
- Mussel (Blue)
- Salmon (Atlantic, Chinook, Sockeye, Steelhead)
- Sea Cucumber
- Smelt (Atlantic, Lake)
- Sole (Dover, Petrale)
- Trout (Rainbow)
- Tuna, canned light (includes Skipjack, Tongol, Yellowfin)
Fish You Can Eat Sometimes
Fish that have low amounts of mercury:
Children: one serving per week
Women: two servings per week
- Perch (White, Yellow)
- Whitefish (Lake)
Children: one to two servings per month
Women: two to four servings per month
- Eel (American, Conger, Sea Spiny, Spotted)
- Kingfish (Spanish, King Mackerel)
- Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish)
- Snapper (Red, various species)
- Tuna, canned white (Albacore)
- Tuna steak (Skipjack, Southern Bluefin, Yellowfin)
- Trout (Lake)
Fish You Should Limit or Avoid
Fish that have high amounts of mercury:
Children and women in their childbearing years, including women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, should limit or avoid fish that has high amounts of mercury.
- Escolar (Snake Mackerel)
- Orange Roughy
- Sablefish (Black Cod)
- Sashimi and some sushi*
- Sea Bass (Chilean Seabass)
- Shark (Spiny Dogfish/Northern Shark, Porbeagle)
- Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico)
- Tuna steak (Bigeye)
* Sashimi and sushi that contain raw fish and raw oysters are not recommended for pregnant women and children because of the risk of food poisoning. Learn more about healthy eating during pregnancy.
** Small children are defined as being between the ages of one and four years of age and weigh 16.5 kg (approximately 36 lbs). If your child is smaller, then reduce the serving size. Children aged five to 15 can follow the consumption advice for small children but they can eat a larger serving size. Learn more about healthy eating for toddlers or preschoolers.