Learn About the Five Food Groups with Olivia Kinkade, Part 4: Protein

Photo of Olivia Kinkade, clinical nutrition department team member at United Hospital Center.

Recommended by Olivia Kinkade, clinical nutrition department team member at United Hospital Center.

We are embarking upon a food group journey in recognition of National Nutrition Awareness Month! Join us to discover interesting details on the five main food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. Our adventure continues with the protein food group.

What foods are in the protein foods group?

The protein food group comprises seafood; meat, poultry, and eggs; beans, peans, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy. Beans, peas, and lentils serve double duty – these are also part of the vegetable food group!

Have fun with your meals – vary the types of protein you include in your diet. Your body needs a variety of protein foods to increase nutrients. When selecting protein items at the grocery store, try to aim for lean or low-fat meat and poultry, like 93% lean ground beef, pork loin, and skinless chicken breast. Reach for seafood choices higher in beneficial fatty acids (think omega3’s), like salmon, anchovies, and trout. Vegetarian protein options include beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Why should I vary the protein foods in my diet?

Protein foods provide your body with nutrients vital for health and maintenance. While many Americans meet the protein recommendations for meat, poultry, and eggs, they fail to meet the seafood and nuts, seeds, and soy product recommendations. Including these foods in your diet grants your body essential nutrients, like unsaturated fats, dietary fiber, and vitamin D – and these foods do not contain as much sodium and saturated fat as processed meat and poultry.

Discover the following nutritional benefits of protein:

  • Certain protein foods, like fatty cuts of beef, port, and lamb; regular ground beef, regular sausage, hot dogs, and bacon; some luncheon meats like bologna and salami; and poultry such as duck, contain a higher amount of saturated fat. To keep the amount of saturated fat in your diet to a minimum (recommended less than 10% of your overall diet), try to limit these above foods in your meal plan.
  • Meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, lentils, eggs, nuts, seeds, and soy products supply many nutrients, like protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

How much food from the protein foods group should be included in my daily diet? What counts as an ounce-equivalent in the protein foods group?

Our bodies are all unique. The serving of protein foods you should include in your diet depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. Most Americans eat enough protein foods but need to select leaner varieties of meat and poultry and increase the variety of protein foods selected, choosing meats less often. Breastfeeding and pregnant women also have different nutritional protein intake needs.

In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered a 1 ounce-equivalent from the protein foods group.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the protein food group!  Join here at UHCHouseCall.com to discover more about the remaining four food groups.

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