Last Updated on September 29, 2020

What is a Pescatarian?

The Master Cleanse. Vegetarianism. The Mediterranean Diet. The Whole 30. Health-minded people are always looking for new ways to cut calories, eat cleaner and achieve true wellness. Although the idea has been around for decades, one common eating plan is currently gaining renewed focus in the wellness world: cutting out red and processed meats.

But cutting out meat isn’t for everyone, and following this plan doesn’t mean you have to be a vegetarian or vegan. If you want to forego red meat but can’t bear to completely give up animal products, then the pescatarian diet could offer you the best of both worlds.

What is the pescatarian diet?

A pescatarian is someone who primarily follows a vegetable-base diet. Pescatarians don’t eat meat, but they do eat fish and seafood. In some cases, pescatarian can remain your primary diet; in other cases, it can gradually guide you into vegetarianism. A pescatarian diet has been around for thousands of years. People in Japan, Greece and other parts of Asia and the Mediterranean regularly rely on fish rather than meat for proteins and nutrients—and in some cases are much healthier because of it.

Think of pescatarians as vegetarians who also eat fish and seafood. To start the pescatarian journey, begin by substituting fish for one meat or poultry meal each week. Then, continue to replace meats and poultry with other protein sources allowed in the pescatarian diet: fish and seafood, of course, but also eggs, dairy, legumes and nuts.

These famous pescatarians have elected to pass on the meat but still enjoy fruits, vegetables and, of course, fish.

  • Ellen DeGeneres

Ironically enough, the talk show host and Finding Nemo star does eat fish. After being a Vegan for many years, DeGeneres recently went back to eating fish—joking that it was retaliation against Pixar not doing a Finding Neo sequel for so long. All joking aside though, the star said that although she eats fish, it’s not too often.

  • Ben Stiller

The Meet the Parents and There’s Something About Mary star announced to Conan O’Brien in 2012 that he classified himself as a pescatarian who doesn’t eat meat and still enjoys fish. Stiller’s wife, who made the transition with him, told People Magazine that being pescatarian, “Really changed our energy level. Sometimes you don’t realize it until someone says it to you, like, ‘Your skin looks amazing.’ “

  • Common

“I just decided to be more aware of my health and wellbeing. I felt that beef and pork wasn’t good,” the rapper explained in an interview with JustJared in 2009. Common did his own genetic tests and found that beef and pork weren’t good for his system. He then realized he was fine with just eating fish—and has been doing so since the 1990s.

What can pescatarians eat?

So what exactly are stars like Ellen and Common eating instead of red meat?

Before we get into the health factors of being a pescatarian, it’s important to note what you can and cannot eat on the diet. Pescatarians have a primarily plant-based diet, which includes nuts, whole grains and produce. But for pescatarians, seafood is the main source of protein, not meat. Dairy and eggs are also part of the diet, which is a major bonus, as eggs offer a nourishing mix of vitamins, nutrients and healthy fats.

What pescatarians eat:

  • Fish and shellfish: Any kind; salmon, trout and whitefish are just three of the fish that are the most highly recommended for this diet
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes: Peas, beans, lentils, soy/tofu, chickpea spreads like hummus and beyond
  • Nuts: This includes butters like peanut butter
  • Seeds: Chia, flaxseeds, hemp, sunflower and more
  • Eggs
  • Dairy: Milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt and beyond
  • Whole grains

What pescatarians don’t eat:

Pescatarians can enjoy a very diverse diet. There are just a few things they cannot eat.

  • Chicken
  • Steak and beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Turkey
  • Anything considered wild game, which includes deer, elk, caribou and duck

Is it Healthy to be a Pescatarian?

Being pescatarian may be one diet that delivers on its promise. People on this diet are at a lower risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. In fact, one study found that women who were pescatarians gained 2.5 fewer pounds than women who ate meat. Because the diet consists primarily of fish and vegetables, you are getting healthy amounts of vitamins, nutrients, fatty acids and Omega 3s. Omega 3s can also improve heart health, lower the risk of cancer, help with weight loss and maintenance and fight depression. Pescatarians also nourish their bodies while forgoing fattening red meats, which can cause a variety of health concerns—including upping your risk of Type 2 Diabetes and pumping your body with harmful hormones.

It’s important to note that while pescatarians can enjoy a healthy diet, meal planning is key. If you decide to become a pescatarian, make sure to plan out meals so you can get enough iron. Some fish also contain higher levels of mercury, which is another thing to look out for. A good starting point, as we said earlier, could be to swap out one red meat or poultry meal per week with fish. And if you like the effects you’re seeing, go with it!

Cory is a veteran health industry writer and content creator. His work has been featured in major publications such as MyFitnessPal, Healthy Living, and Low Carb Fanatics. His health industry writing career spans over nearly two decades.

In his free time, Cory enjoys snowboarding, fictional writing, and online chess.