How to Eat Sardines

Preconception Pregnancy Recipes

Sardines. Isn’t your mouth watering already? Kidding. Personally, I love to eat fish but I’m always a little weirded out by the actual fish part of the equation! So back before baby #1 when I learned that sardines were a great preconception and pregnancy food due to their high omega-3 fat and low mercury content, my reaction was “But do I have to??”

Of course you don’t have to. Other types of fish as well as leafy greens and seeds like flax, hemp and chia are also good sources of omega-3s, which are critical for a baby’s brain development. It’s just that fish are a very convenient source of this important nutrient, so much so that just last week the FDA updated their recommendations on fish consumption for pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as women who may become pregnant.

The new guidelines recommend that these women consume 2-3 servings (8-12 ounces total) of low-mercury fish per week. Choosing low-mercury sources is important because all fish contains some mercury, which is stored in the body for several weeks once consumed. If you accumulate a lot of it when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it can be toxic to your baby’s developing brain and nervous system.

Sardines, along with anchovies, salmon, cod, tilapia, shrimp and a number of other species listed in the FDA’s “best choices” category are low-mercury choices. What I like about sardines is that they’re easy to eat – just pop open the can. You don’t have to prep a whole meal like you would if you were cooking a fish fillet. Tuna holds this convenience, too, of course, but only one type of tuna (canned light) makes the best choices list and some groups think pregnant women shouldn’t eat tuna at all.

Sardines are a safe and delicious way for pregnant women to meet FDA recs for fish consumption Click To Tweet

So I rolled up my sleeves and set about learning to like sardines. Honestly, once they’re prepped in a dish like this they taste just like tuna. This also makes them a great option for kids, since young children should also limit their consumption of high-mercury seafood.

Yup, that’s a sardine spine! AKA a great source of calcium for mamas and mamas to be.

Unlike tuna, sardines are packed whole, so you have to mash them up yourself for a dish like this. Most brands don’t pack them with the head on (phew!) but you will find their spines in there! The spine is actually a great source of calcium and you won’t notice it once the sardines are all mashed up.

I like to eat them on fancy toast, but you can also enjoy this salad as a sandwich or on crackers. Double the recipe and you’ll have a healthy lunch ready to go for a few days. Note that the recipe below is for a two ounce serving, whereas the FDA encourages women to consume 2-3 four ounce servings a week. So you could actually eat this every day, if you are so inclined!

The FDA partnered with the EPA on these recommendations and they put together this convenient chart explaining which types of seafood to choose. Pin it for reference!

Sardine Toast

Course Lunch, Snack
Servings 2 servings


  • 1 tin sardines about 4 oz.
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp minced onion
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped celery
  • 2 tbsp chopped jarred red pepper about 1/2 pepper
  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • cracked black pepper optional


  1. Lightly toast two slices of bread (or save half the recipe for later).
  2. Drain sardines and place in a small mixing bowl.
  3. Add lemon juice, mayonnaise, onions, celery and red pepper to mixing bowl. Stir to combine, mashing the sardines as you go.
  4. Spread sardine mixture over toast. Top with cracked black pepper if desired.

Recipe Notes

The sardine mixture is also great as a sandwich or on crackers.

Note that one serving of this recipe contains about two ounces of fish. The FDA recommends that women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or may become pregnant consume 8-12 ounces of seafood per week.

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