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With Protein Foods, Variety is Key

During the holidays, we often have a chance to taste new foods and old family favorites. Remember to vary your protein sources. We all need protein in our diet to build and repair our cells and maintain good health. People age 9 or older need 5 to 7 ounces of protein foods each day. When you are choosing protein foods, include foods from animal sources (meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs) and foods from plant sources (beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds).

Try these 10 tips adapted from

  1. Vary your protein food choices.  How about navy bean or split pea soup on a cold winter day? Consider soy nuts for a protein-rich snack during the holidays.
  2. Choose seafood twice a week.  Would tuna salad sandwiches or salmon patties offer a change of pace on your menu?
  3. Choose lean or extra-lean cuts of meat. Look for "round" or "sirloin" as part of the name of the cut.  Be sure to trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin.
  4. Have an egg.  Eggs are inexpensive, high-quality sources of protein.  One egg a day, on average, does not increase your risk for heart disease.  However, follow the advice of your health-care provider.
  5. Add plant protein foods to your menu more often.  Try kidney beans, lentils, split peas, white beans, and black beans.  Add some beans to your taco meat, chili or casseroles to add fiber and vitamins.
  6. Sprinkle on nuts and seeds.  Add some crunchy, unsalted sunflower seeds or peanuts to your salads or main dishes.  Remember, though, that nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories, so eat small portions.
  7. Try grilling, broiling, roasting, and baking.  These cooking methods do not add extra fat.  If you buy a less-tender cut of meat, such as round steak, try cutting it into chunks and cooking it in a slow cooker to tenderize the meat.
  8. Make a hearty, healthful sandwich. How about a turkey, roast beef or a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread?
  9. Know your portion sizes.  A 3-ounce serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.  One-half cup of cooked beans or lentils counts as 2 ounces. Most people need only two servings (6 ounces total) of protein foods per day.
  10. Check the sodium.  Read and compare Nutrition Facts labels. Canned and processed foods often are higher in sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service


Filed under: nutrition
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