MyPlate: Your Protein Routine

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch

MyPlate is a fun tool used to identify the five food groups we should try to include in each of our meals. The point of MyPlate is to assist with making healthy lifestyle changes or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The five food groups featured on MyPlate are vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and dairy. In past weeks we have discussed fruits, vegetables, and grains, this article will feature the different types of proteins and the importance of choosing lean and low-fat proteins.

Protein is not only meats like chicken, beef, and pork. It can be eggs, fish, nuts, beans, seeds, and more. These foods are essential in our diets because they supply many nutrients including iron, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin E. An example of the role these nutrients play in our body is iron being used to transport oxygen in the blood or B vitamins helping the body release energy. Protein also serves as the building blocks for our bones, our muscles, our cartilage, our blood, and even our skin.

The amount of protein you need does vary on age, level of physical activity, and sex. The average amount for adults is typically about 5-6 ounces each day. Whether or not you chose to include meat in your daily diet, it is still crucial to be mindful of the type of fat and the amount of fat in our protein option. There are three different types of fat we consume: unsaturated, saturated, and trans-fat.

Unsaturated fat is known as the “healthy” fat, it has not been shown to have negative effects on our health. Unsaturated fats can be found in avocados, olives, peanuts, other nuts, seeds, and fish like salmon. Saturated fat is typically found in animal products and we want to limit the amount we are consuming. Saturated fat is found in butter, cheese, pork, and more. Lastly, trans-fat is the “unhealthy” fat we want to avoid as much as possible. Trans fat is typically found in fast food, processed food, and some snacks and desserts. Both trans-fat and saturated fat have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (FDA Saturated Fat Fact Sheet). For more information on the types of fats and amounts of each you should consume please look for resources from Steps to Health, the USDA, and MyPlate.

Tips to Include Lean Meats as Your Protein Choice

  1. Choose the leanest cuts of beef like round steaks and roasts, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder.
  2. Choose lean pork like pork loin, tenderloin, and ham.
  3. Choose the ground beef that is 92%lean/8%fat or even lower fat percentage.
  4. Buy skinless chicken or remove the skin before you cook.
  5. Skinless chicken breast is one of the leanest poultry choices.
  6. Look for low-fat luncheon meats for sandwiches

Tips for Other Protein Choices

  1. Try to incorporate seafood into your meals at least twice a week.
  2. Use beans, peas, or soy products as a main dish or part of meal often. This could include:
    1. Rice and beans.
    2. Chili with kidney or pinto beans
    3. Stir-fried tofu
    4. Veggie burgers
    5. Hummus with veggies and pita bread
  3. Choose unsalted nuts as a snack, add them to a salad, or other meal.

For example:

  1. Add sliced almonds to roasted veggies.
  2. Use nuts and seeds as the topping for a yogurt parfait.
  3. Use pine nuts in pesto sauce for pasta

Chili with Red Beans

Makes 8 servings

Serving Size: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ½ pound of lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 can of light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of dark red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 can of corn, rinsed and drained
  • 28 ounces of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning

Directions

  1. Cook meat over medium heat until browned in a large pot.
  2. Remove meat and drain fat.
  3. Wipe pan and cook onion until soft.
  4. Add back the cooked meat, beans, corn, tomatoes, and seasoning.
  5. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir several times.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 150, Total Fat 1.5g, Protein 12g, Carbohydrate 22g, Fiber 5g, Sodium 400 mg. 

Recipe is from Steps to Health program Take Control. Adapted from cooking with EFNEP.