Fernando Says, “Go Lean With Protein!”

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Fernando from Southeast Texas Food Bank joined us at the Center today to talk to us about the ins and outs of protein. (This information is courtesy of Fernando at Southeast Texas Food Bank and ChooseMyPlate.gov Protein is important to have in a nutritious diet, but Americans have access to more than their fair share of it. While protein is necessary, portion control is important. Here are some key things to remember:

The Protein Food Group is no longer called the “Meat and Beans Group”

The name change from “meat and beans group” to “proteins food group” was done as a reminder to get proteins from a variety of sources, such as:

  • Seafood
  • Lean Meats & Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dry Beans & Peas
  • Soy Products
  • Unsalted Nuts & Seeds


How Much Protein Do We Need?

  • We should only get 5 – 6 1/2 ounce equivalents daily.
  • The protein choices that we eat should be lean or low-fat.


What Would Be Protein Equivalents by Ounce?

In general, 1 ounce equivalent from the Protein Foods group is:

  • 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish
  • 1/4 c. cooked beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter
  • 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds


What About Those Portion Sizes?

A portion size of meat is about the size of a deck of cards or 3 ounces.

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1 ounce of nuts or beans =

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What Are The Health Benefits of Protein?

  • Protein functions as “building blocks” in the body.
  • It is one of three nutrients that the body uses for energy (along with carbohydrates and fat).
  • Protein prolongs feelings of fullness.

What Are Other Nutritional Benefits of Protein?

Foods in the Protein Foods Group supply many nutrients including:

  • Protein
  • B Vitamins
  • Vitamin E
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium


How to Make Wise Choices Involving Protein?

Start with lean choices:

  • Buy lean cuts of beef and pork
  • Choose extra lean ground meats
  • Buy skinless chicken parts

Keep it lean:

  • Trim visible fat
  • Avoid frying and use alternative cooking methods for meats
  • Drain off fat after cooking
  • Prepare beans and peas without added fats
  • Prepare foods without high fat sauces and gravies


What Impacts Can a High Fat Diet Have on You?


photo courtesy of thatsnotfood.com

Some choices in the Protein Foods Group are high in:

  • saturated fat

High intake of fats makes it difficult to control total calories consumed.

  • cholesterol

Raised levels of “bad” (LDL) blood cholesterol increases risk for coronary heart disease.

You Should Check Food Labels


photo courtesy of ncagr.gov

Read the Nutrition Facts label on processed foods, looking for amounts of:

  • saturated fat
  • trans fat
  • cholesterol
  • sodium


You Should Vary Your Choices…


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photo courtesy of nccatch.org

Adults should eat at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood weekly.

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) contribute to prevention of heart disease.

Choices with high omega-3’s and lower level of mercury:

  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Pacific Oysters
  • Trout
  • Atlantic and Pacific Mackerel

Nuts and Seeds:

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Peanuts and certain tree nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Nuts are high in calories, so they should be eaten in smaller portions.

Use nuts or seeds to replace some of your other protein foods, not added on.

Choose unsalted nuts or seeds.

Beans, Peas, & Soy

  • Excellent sources of plant protein
  • High in fiber
  • Low fat, with no saturated fat
  • Low sodium
  • Choose cooking methods that don’t add fat and sodium

Vegetarian Diet

Getting adequate protein on a vegetarian diet is possible with the right variety and amounts of food.

Protein Sources:

  • Beans & Peas
  • Nuts, nut butters, and seeds
  • Soy products
  • Eggs (ovo-vegetarians)
  • Milk (lacto-vegetarians) – not part of the protein foods group!


What Can I Do to Manage My Protein?

  • For the next two weeks, focus on eating a variety of protein foods.
  • Find ways to replace high-fat protein foods you are already eating with lean options.
  • Start incorporating seafood into your weekly menu with the goal of 8 ounces each week.


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