With Protein Foods, Variety is the Key!
Protein foods include both animal and plant sources. We all need protein but most Americans eat enough. 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.
10 Tips for Choosing Protein
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 seafoodâ€”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 percent 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.
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 as these cooking methods 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 healthy 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 size. 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.
What counts as an ounce of protein foods?
- 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or seafood
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup cooked beans or peas
- 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
Note of Caution: High Protein Diets and Your Kidneys
As diets go, high-protein plans have staying power — but so do questions about their safety. One concern is for your kidneys, since it is their job to filter out protein by-products. Scientists have discovered that, among a middle-aged group, one in four people had signs of mild kidney decline. Because this compromises their protein-processing ability, high protein intake could damage their kidneys. Therefore, scientists are warning that high-protein diets are a bad choice for many who have unsuspected kidney problems — and you could be one of them.
If you want to try a high-protein diet and have any kidney disease risk factors — middle age, high blood pressure, or diabetes — first get a blood test for creatinine levels, a measure of your kidney function. If you have even mild kidney dysfunction, this study suggests a safe limit of three ounces of animal protein a day, which is the size of a deck of cards. The amount of protein in high-protein diets can go up to eight ounces per day.