Protein Foods

Tips to Help You Make Wise Choices from the Protein Foods Group

  • Go Lean with Protein:grilled chicken on top of a salad

    • Start with a lean choice:
      • The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
      • The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
      • Choose extra lean ground beef. The label should say at least “90% lean.” You may be able to find ground beef that is 93% or 95% lean.
      • Buy skinless chicken parts, or take off the skin before cooking.
      • Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choices.
      • Choose lean turkey, roast beef, ham, or low-fat luncheon meats for sandwiches instead of luncheon/deli meats with more fat, such as regular bologna or salami.
    • Keep it lean: salmon steak with veggies
      • Trim away all of the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
      • Broil, grill, roast, poach, or boil meat, poultry, or fish instead of frying.
      • Drain off any fat that appears during cooking.
      • Skip or limit the breading on meat, poultry, or fish. Breading adds calories. It will also cause the food to soak up more fat during frying.
      • Prepare beans and peas without added fats.
      • Choose and prepare foods without high fat sauces or gravies.
  • Vary Your Protein Choices:soybeans

    • Choose seafood at least twice a week as the main protein food. Look for seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and herring. Some ideas are:
      • Salmon steak or filet
      • Salmon loaf
      • Grilled or baked trout
    • Choose beans, peas, or soy products as a main dish or part of a meal often. Some choices are:
      • Chili with kidney or pinto beans
      • Stir- fried tofu
      • Split pea, lentil, minestrone, or white bean soups
      • Baked beans
      • Black bean enchiladas
      • Garbanzo or kidney beans on a chef’s salad
      • Rice and beans
      • Veggie burgers
      • Hummus (chickpeas) spread on pita bread
    • Choose unsalted nuts as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes. Use nuts to replace meat or poultry, not in addition to these items:
      • Use pine nuts in pesto sauce for pasta.
      • Add slivered almonds to steamed vegetables.
      • Add toasted peanuts or cashews to a vegetable stir fry instead of meat.
      • Sprinkle a few nuts on top of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.
      • Add walnuts or pecans to a green salad instead of cheese or meat.
  • What to Look for on the Food Label:ants on a log

    • Check the Nutrition Facts label for the saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium content of packaged foods.
      • Processed meats such as hams, sausages, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the ingredient and Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake.
      • Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __.”
      • Lower fat versions of many processed meats are available. Look on the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less fat and saturated fat.
  • Keep It Safe to Eat:

    • Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
    • Do not wash or rinse meat or poultry.
    • Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and counter tops in hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next one.
    • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices don’t drip onto other foods.
    • Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms. Use a meat thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry, to make sure that the meat is cooked all the way through.
    • Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
    • Plan ahead to defrost foods. Never defrost food on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Thaw food by placing it in the refrigerator, submerging air-tight packaged food in cold tap water (change water every 30 minutes), or defrosting on a plate in the microwave.
    • Avoid raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs and raw or undercooked meat and poultry.
    • Women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should avoid some types of fish and eat types lower in mercury. Call 1‑888‑SAFEFOOD for more information.
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