Protein Foods

The Protein Foods Group which includes meats, nuts, beans, poultry, fish, eggs, and seed provides many essential nutrients like protein, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.  These nutrients are important because they help our skin, bones, blood, muscles, nervous system and immune system.  The Dietary Guidelines recommend that we eat 5.5 ounces of meats, nuts and beans each day.


Unfortunately however, eating food from this group also carries a certain health risk because meats are high in calories and they often can contain high levels of saturated fat (“bad fat”) and cholesterol which can raise the LDL (low-density lipoprotein, “bad  cholesterol“) levels in our blood.   The health consequence of eating too many calories is weight gain, and higher levels of saturated fat and LDL cholesterol is believed to increase coronary heart disease.


In general, we should keep our meat portions small and keep our meats lean.  This can be accomplished by limiting consumption of meats that are known to be high in saturated fat, such as bacon, sausages, ground beef and hot dogs.  In addition, when we are consuming meats, we should limit our portions.  And, we should also learn to “trim the fat” on the meat we consume.  “Trim the fat,” basically means that if you see fat present on the meat, you should remove it before cooking it or eating it.   You can also limit your saturated fat intake from meat by remove the skin before eating and by utilizing cooking methods that do not add fat (Grill, Broil or roast instead of frying).

Moreover, selecting fish as the meat choice can also enhance a healthy balanced diet because certain fish such as herring, trout and salmon, provide a type of unsaturated fat (“healthy fat”) called omega-3 fatty acids.   It is believed that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Beans & Peas

Dry beans and peas such pinto beans, black-eyed peas, lentils and lima beans, are considered an alternative to meat.  These food products can be a good substitute for meat because while they also provide protein and a number of other essential nutrients they are naturally low-fat foods that also provide dietary fiber.

Nuts & Seeds

Like fish, nuts and seeds such as cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts can be considered as an alternative to meat.  Nuts and seeds also provide protein, and they are good sources of vitamin E.  Consuming nuts and seeds as a substitute for meat can also help us to get the healthy fats called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids that we need in our diets.  These unsaturated fats are essential because our bodies cannot create them from other fats we consume.