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Setting the Royal standard in Healthy Happy Hearts for new mums

6th July 2013 Print
Regal fish dish created for Fish is the Dish by Seafish to celebrate the imminent birth of the new royal.

As it was revealed that the Duchess of Cambridge likes to do her own food shopping and cooking, a top nutritional expert is advising Kate to sign up for the not-for-profit Healthy Happy Hearts challenge delivered by Seafish (the UK authority on seafood). The six-week challenge will help young mothers get a healthy balanced diet and crucially, the recommended two portions of fish per week that are essential to boosting their baby’s development and supporting ideal postnatal nutrition (*see below for more on the official recommendations). Evidence shows that at least 60% of people in the UK are not eating the right amount to get these important health benefits.

Dr Jane McKenzie, a dietitian and lead academic for food and drink at Queen Margaret University said: “Research has shown that the right nutrition in a baby’s first 1,000 days of life from conception can have a huge impact on a child’s ability to grow and develop. Whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ensuring you eat the right things so your baby is getting the best nutrition in the womb and throughout their infancy is absolutely essential. It is also important to avoid those things that could be harmful to you or your baby – consult your GP or midwife if you are unsure (more information about advice on fish and shellfish in the notes below).

“Many varieties of fish and shellfish provide a great all round source for many of the nutrients new mothers and babies need including Omega-3, iron, protein, B-vitamins, calcium, vitamin D and iodine.

“The long chain Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for new mums and their babies. These are found mainly in oil-rich fish species like herring, mackerel and salmon, but also the likes of hake and mussels. Omega-3 is also found in some nuts and seeds, but this is different from the long-chain type found in oily fish, which is particularly important for heart health.

“People may only notice the benefits of long chain Omega-3 when they need them most, for example it helps the body repair torn muscle or tissue much quicker, so ideal for pregnant mothers recovering from childbirth. Eating the wrong kind of fatty acids can restrict the body's ability to repair itself.

“For babies, beneficial long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are known to boost development, particularly brain functions and eye sight. Some research from the University of New York has even shown babies who have higher levels of Omega-3 DHA sleep better – a godsend to any new parent.

“For all of these reasons and more, I would strongly advise the Duchess and any new mother to follow a programme like Healthy Happy Hearts by Fish is the Dish, which shows how easy it is to make the simple diet and lifestyle changes that could improve their Omega-3 levels and make a significant difference to their health and wellbeing.”

Healthy Happy Hearts was launched through Fish is the Dish by Seafish (the not for profit UK authority on seafood) following research which showed that most people in the UK are not getting enough portions of Omega-3 rich fish to get the vital health benefits they provide (as recorded by over 3,000 scientific papers). Over 100 people will have the opportunity to take part in the free programme (more details below).

Karen Galloway, a spokesperson for Fish is the Dish by Seafish, and a mum of two girls, said: “Having a new baby in the house is an exciting time and we wish the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge all the best for their new arrival. It’s important that the whole family eat well at this time and we would be delighted to provide them with further advice and support through Healthy Happy Hearts initiative to ensure the new addition to the family has the best start in life.”

As well as the important benefits of long chain Omega-3 fatty acids, the Duchess could really benefit from including a variety of seafood in her diet following childbirth. For example many species of whitefish are rich in: protein (which could help her build her strength back up after birth) and iodine (a deficit of which, The Lancet recently reported, could be detrimentally affecting the intellect of some babies born in the UK). Herrings and sardines are a great source of vitamin D and calcium to help keep her bones strong as she recovers from pregnancy. Seafood is also full of nutrients that will boost her immunity and help to convert food into energy.

With over 100 varieties of seafood available to buy throughout the year in the UK, the Duchess would not be short of dishes to enjoy, as highlighted by Fiona O’Callaghan, spokesperson for James Knight of Mayfair, an official supplier to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales:

“Seasonality is key to sourcing the best quality seafood and to helping protect our fish stocks for future generations. Summer is a fantastic time for fish lovers where local wild fish stocks are usually at their best and in abundance. To get her essential Omega-3 the Duchess could enjoy delicious oil rich fish dishes like herring rolls and mackerel and avocado tartare, but she could also try crab curry, prawns laska or Hake in a Hurry. And there is no shortage of protein-rich white fish in the summer - from hake and lemon sole to salmon and seabass, so the Duchess will have plenty of choice to keep her energy levels up.”

For more information, nutritional advice, recipe ideas or to sign up for the Healthy Happy Hearts challenge visit

Fish – the official recommendations 

*The official Government recommendation is that a healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish. 

Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive should to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel. 

There are some specific fish species that women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive should avoid (see below). 

Where there is a known fish allergy in the family, these women should seek the advice of their GP before eating any fish. 

It’s important to store and prepare fish and shellfish hygienically 

Below is advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Committee on Toxicity about eating fish when trying to get pregnant, or when pregnant or breastfeeding: 

Shark, swordfish and marlin: do not eat these if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. All other adults, including breastfeeding women, should eat no more than one portion per week. This is because these fish can contain more mercury than other types of fish, and this can damage a developing baby’s nervous system. 

Oily fish: if you are trying for a baby, pregnant or breastfeeding, you should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week. A portion is around 140 grams. 

Canned tuna: if you are trying for a baby or are pregnant, you should have no more than four cans of tuna a week. This is because tuna contains higher levels of mercury than other fish. If you are breastfeeding, there is no limit on how much canned tuna you can eat. 

These figures are based on a medium size can of tuna with a drained weight of around 140g per can. Remember, canned tuna doesn't count as oily fish, so you can eat this as well as your maximum two portions of oily fish 

Due to the higher levels of mercury in tuna, if you’re eating canned tuna, don’t pick fresh tuna as your oily fish. 

Pregnant women should only eat cooked shellfish (avoid raw shellfish). 

It's fine to eat sushi and other dishes made with raw fish when you're pregnant as long as the fish used to make it has been frozen first. If you make your own sushi at home, freeze the fish for at least 24 hours before using it. 

Unless your GP advises otherwise, avoid taking fish liver oil supplements when you’re pregnant or trying for a baby. These are high in vitamin A, which can be harmful to your unborn baby.

For more information see:

Seafood and health benefits for new mums 

Evidence, reported by the European Food Information Council, shows that nutritional conditions in the womb and in infancy affect a person’s development and future health. 

The right nutrition in the babies first 1,000 days of life can have a huge impact on a child’s ability to grow and develop. 

Fish and shellfish provide a great all round source for many of the nutrients new mothers and babies need including Omega-3, iron, protein, B-vitamins, calcium, vitamin D and iodine. 

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can particularly help postnatal recovery and boost babies’ development. 

New York University researchers found that 

intelligence in children and found boosting a diet with Omega-3 can increase IQ by an average of 3.5 points. 

babies who have higher levels of the Omega-3 DHA sleep better and are less likely to develop attention deficit disorder. 

the level of DHA Omega-3 in breast milk is crucial for proper eye development in babies. 

Health experts say other benefits for babies of Omega-3 in breast milk include improvements in blood pressure, asthma symptoms and allergies. 

The protein found in many fish species is great for tired mothers. 

Calcium found in herring and sardines helps to keep bones strong. 

NICE advises that breast feeding mothers ensure they get at least 10mg of Vitamin D a day – oil rich fish is a particularly good source of Vitamin D 

Iodine, found mainly in whitefish, is vital in the development of the brain and nervous system in babies and children. 

A recent study, published in the Lancet: 

found that mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy could be detrimentally affecting the intellect of some babies born in the UK. 

advised women of child-bearing age to maintain iodine in their diets by eating fish and dairy products.

More Photos - Click to Enlarge

Regal fish dish created for Fish is the Dish by Seafish to celebrate the imminent birth of the new royal.