Quarter Portion Your Protein

Today’s blog is going to explore the Meat and Alternatives food group in more detail.

From my last blog: “Meat and Alternatives are the portion of Canada’s Food Guide that provide us with the important nutrient protein and are the best source of iron-containing foods.”

Why is this food group so important? Meat and Alternatives provide many nutrients such as protein, fat, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc. Meat alternatives are a less expensive protein source that are also high in fibre and low in fat. Some types of fish are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been found to have heart health benefits. Small amounts of foods from this food group will fulfill your nutritional needs, so at a meal, Meat and Alternative should make up a quarter of our plates.

One food guide serving of Meat and Alternatives is:
• 2 1/2 oz of cooked lean meat, poultry, fish or shellfish
• 3/4 cup of cooked beans
• 2 tbsp of peanut butter
• 2 eggs

As far as what is recommended when it comes to this food group:
• Choose meat alternatives (beans, eggs, hummus, lentils, nuts, peanut butter or other nut butters, seeds and tofu) more often.
• Choose lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt.
• Try to eat two Food Guide servings of heart-healthy fish (char, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout) each week.

Lean is best! At the meat counter, look for meats that have the least visible amount of fat and are the least marbled. At the deli counter, buy sparingly. Deli meats tend to be much higher in salt and can also be higher in fat. Your best buys at the deli counter are going to be lean cuts of roast beef, chicken, turkey and ham. Instead of buying deli meats, try cooking your own beef, chicken and turkey and freeze the leftovers to use in sandwiches later.

Here are some tips to include healthier Meat and Alternatives into your day:
Lean meat and poultry. Use cooked and cut up pieces of meat and poultry in salads, soups, stews and stir fries.
Fish. Season fish with herbs and lemon rather than rich sauces. Use healthier cooking methods such as broiling, poaching, grilling or baking. Use canned salmon or tuna in salads and pasta dishes.
Meat Alternatives. Use beans, peas, lentils and nuts in place of meat several times a week. Add them to burritos, casseroles, dips, salads, soups, stir fries and trail mix. Use canned beans (black, kidney, navy) for convenience or soak and cook dried beans or lentils (chick peas and brown, green or red lentils) when you have the time.
Eggs. Enjoy them boiled, poached, scrambled or in frittatas and omelettes.

When choosing Meat and Alternatives:
• Look for lean meats such as beef, lamb, pork, veal and game meats such as caribou, deer and moose. Lean or extra lean cuts of meat include eye of round roast or steak, inside round roast, outside round roast, rump roast, sirloin steak, strip loin steak and lean and extra lean ground meat or ground poultry.
• If you eat them, choose sodium reduced and lower fat varieties of processed luncheon meats, sausages and prepackaged meats.
• Buy fresh or frozen meat, fish and poultry without breading or rich sauces.

Whatever options you decide to include from the Meat and Alternatives food group, make sure they are lean, lower in fat and salt and prepared in a healthy manner.

In the next couple of weeks, I am going to tackle the specific food groups, nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If you have certain questions about any of these topics, please send them my way and I’ll include them in my blogs.

If you have any nutrition topics you would like me to write about or have a question you would like answered, email me at [email protected]. I would really like to hear from you!