With protein foods, variety is key: 10 tips for choosing protein

pub3206 rev 8 17pdf thumbnail

Download   pub3206 rev 8 17pdf / 0.98MB Publication ID: 3206

Protein foods include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds) sources. We all need protein—but most Americans eat enough, and some eat more than they need. How much is enough? Most people, ages 9 and older, should eat 5 to 7 ounces* of protein foods each day.

1. Vary your protein food choices

Eat a variety of foods from the Protein Foods Group each week. Experiment with main dishes made with beans or peas, nuts, soy, and seafood.

2. Choose seafood twice a week

Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week. Select a variety of seafood—include some that are higher in oils and low in mercury, such as salmon, trout, and herring.

3. Make meat and poultry lean or low fat

Choose lean or low-fat cuts of meat like round or sirloin and ground beef that is at least 90% lean. Trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin.

4. Have an egg

One egg a day, on average, doesn’t increase risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol and saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want.

5. Eat plant protein foods more often

Try beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black, or white beans; split peas; chickpeas; hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers), nuts, and seeds. They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.

* What counts as an ounce of protein foods? 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or seafood; 1 egg; ¼ cup cooked beans or peas; ½ ounce nuts or seeds; or 1 tablespoon peanut butter.

6. Nuts and seeds

Choose unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes to replace meat or poultry. Nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories, so eat small portions to keep calories in check.

7. Keep it tasty and healthy

Try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking—they don’t add extra fat. Some lean meats need slow, moist cooking to be tender—try a slow cooker for them. Avoid breading meat or poultry, which adds calories.

8. Make a healthful sandwich

Choose turkey, roast beef, canned tuna or salmon, or peanut butter for sandwiches. Many deli meats, such as regular bologna or salami, are high in fat and sodium—make them occasional treats only.

9. Think small when it comes to meat portions

Get the flavor you crave but in a smaller portion. Make or order a smaller burger or a “petite” size steak.

10. Check the sodium

Check the Nutrition Facts label to limit sodium. Salt is added to many canned foods—including beans and meats. Many processed meats—such as ham, sausage, and hot dogs—are high in sodium. Some fresh chicken, turkey, and pork are brined in a salt solution for flavor and tenderness.

Caribbean Casserole

Serving Size: 1 cup Yield: 10 servings


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, diced 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes, not drained 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1½ cups instant brown rice, uncooked
  • 1 can (16 ounces) black beans (or beans of your choice), not drained


  1. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped onion and diced green pepper to canola oil. Cook until tender but do not brown.
  3. Add tomatoes, beans (include liquid from both), oregano and garlic powder.
  4. Bring to a boil, stir in rice and cover.
  5. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: Total Calories: 202 kcal, Total Fat: 3 grams, Total Saturated Fat: 0 grams, Total Trans Fat: 0 grams, Total Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 gram, Total Carbohydrate: 38 grams, Total Protein: 7 grams, Percentage of Calories from Fat: 12, Total Cholesterol: 0 milligrams, Total Dietary Fiber: 8 grams, Sodium: 404 milligrams, Vitamin D: 0 percent, Vitamin C: 19 percent, Vitamin A: 7 percent, Folate: 19 percent, Calcium: 5 percent, Iron: 10 percent.

Source: SNAP-Ed Connection

Go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information.

3/26/2020 4:25:03 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture