Healthy Eating: The Protein Group

brca world - proteinWritten by Emily Kelley

All foods that are made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans & peas, eggs, soy, unsalted nuts, & seeds are included in the protein group.  To get the best amount of nutrients from this group, it is best to eat a variety of foods. The recommended serving amount varies between men & women & different ages, as well.  Women, ages 19-30 should have 5 ½ oz; ages 31-50 should have 5 oz; and ages 51 & up should have 5 oz.  Men, between the ages of 19-30 should have 6 ½ oz; ages 31-50 should have 6 oz; and ages 51 & up should have 5 ½ oz.

A 1 oz. serving from the meat group is 1 oz. meat, poultry, or fish. One egg, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 Tbsp. nut butter, ½ oz. nuts & seeds are all equivalent to a 1 oz. serving of protein. Protein rich foods supply B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, & magnesium. The B vitamins from these foods aid in the function of the nervous system, forming red blood cells, and building tissues. Protein is an important part of having healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

When eating meat & poultry, it is best to choose low fat items. Consuming foods high in saturated fat raises LDL (“bad” cholesterol). This increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Many meats are high in saturated fat, so limit how many of those you eat to help keep your cholesterol level in the healthy range.  Eggs and organ meats are high in cholesterol, so it’s important to limit the amount of these foods that you consume, as well.

When choosing seafood, choose omega-3 rich fish, like salmon, trout, herring, Atlantic & Pacific mackerel, & Pacific oysters.  Eight ounces of seafood a week may help reduce the risk of heart disease. (Unless you are a vegetarian, then stick to nuts & seeds).

Nuts and seeds may help lower the risk of heart disease. They are high in calories, so eat small servings. Also, keep in mind when eating nuts or seeds, those should be in place of, not along with, other protein foods. Vegetarians can get the protein they need by choosing a variety of eggs & milk products (if you eat eggs & milk), nuts & seeds, nut butter, peas, and soy products.

Here are some tips from USDA’s My Plate:

10 Tips – Healthy Protein Foods

The USDA and Choose My Plate provide a number of tips on how to effectively incorporate protein into a healthy, balanced diet. Here are a few:

  • Choose lean meat products including roast beef, turkey or low-fat luncheon meats for sandwiches versus deli and regular luncheon meats such as salami or bologna.
  • The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts, top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
  • There are lean pork options such as center loin, pork loin, and tenderloin. Choose these options over other potentially higher fat options.
  • The leanest poultry choices are boneless and skinless chicken breast and turkey. Purchase boneless, skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets, as they are the leanest protein choices.
  • Remove all visible fat from meat and poultry before cooking.
  • Avoid frying your meat, poultry or fish. It’s better if you broil, grill, roast, poach or boil it instead.
  • Drain off any fat that appears during cooking. Drain fat that seems to be cooking when preparing meats.
  • Limit or skip the breading on meat, fish and poultry. When you add breading, you add calories. In addition, breading will cause the food product to absorb more fat particularly during frying.
  • Avoid fat sauces and use herbs, spices, olive oil and fresh vegetables and nonfat marinades.
  • Replace meat and poultry with fish, nuts and seeds. Fish, nuts and seeds are healthier alternatives since they contain healthy oils.
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