Protein foods are good for you

Protein foods are good for you

You can eat a variety of protein foods as part of a healthy eating pattern.

Protein foods contain important nutrients such as:

  • protein
  • vitamins
  • metal

Choose protein foods that come from plants more often. Plant protein foods can provide more fiber and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods. This can be beneficial for your heart health.

You do not need to eat large amounts of protein foods to meet your nutritional needs. Try to eat protein foods such as:

  • egg
  • Lean meat and poultry
    • Low-fat cuts of beef, pork, and wild game
    • turkey
    • chicken
  • Nuts and seeds
    • Peanuts
    • almonds
    • cashew
    • nut butter
    • sunflower seeds
  • fish and shellfish
    • trout
    • Shrimp
    • salmon
    • scalloped oysters
    • sardine
    • mackerel
  • Low-fat dairy products
    • milk
    • Yogurt
    • Low sodium cheese
  • Beans, peas and lentils
    • Brown, green, red or other lentils
    • Peas like chickpeas and peas
    • Dried beans such as black beans and kidney beans
  • Fortified soy drinks, tofu, soybeans, and other soy products

Choosing and preparing healthy protein foods

There are different types of protein foods to choose from. Make healthy choices.

Beans, peas and lentils


  • Dried beans, peas and lentils to soak and cook at home
  • Canned beans, peas, and lentils are low in sodium, or rinse and drain to reduce sodium.

Nuts and seeds


  • Dry Roasted Nuts and Seeds Without Addition:
    • sugars
    • fats (oils)
    • sodium salt)
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter that contains peanuts or nuts as the sole ingredient. Choose those with little or no additives:
    • sodium
    • sugars
    • Saturated fat

fish and shellfish


  • Canned fish with little or no sodium
  • Fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen that have not been:
    • breaded
    • Multiply
    • intense fear

Lean meat


  • Skinless poultry
  • Lean cuts of meat such as sirloin and round meat
  • Fresh or frozen meat and poultry without rich sauces
  • Prepared meats with little or no added sodium or saturated fats

Milk and dairy products


  • Low fat cheese
  • Low fat unsweetened yogurt
  • Low fat unsweetened milk

Soy products and fortified soy drinks


  • Low Sodium Soy Products
  • Unsweetened soy drinks

Prepare protein foods

Try healthy ways to prepare your food by:

  • Drain excess fat after cooking
  • Trim visible fat from meat
  • Remove the skin from poultry before cooking
  • Limit the amount of sauces, butter or gravy

Try cooking methods that use little or no added saturated fat. These include methods such as:

  • the bread
  • Questioning
  • roasting
  • Overfishing

Enhance flavor by:

  • Seasoning with herbs, lemon or sauce
  • Use small amounts of oils with healthy fats such as olive and canola

Snack ideas

Protein foods are healthy and delicious snacks. Try these quick and delicious options:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Oven roasted chickpeas
  • Hummus with fresh vegetables
  • Peanut butter on celery sticks
  • Low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit

How to eat more protein foods that come from plants

Here are some easy ways to eat more protein foods that come from plants:

  • Add soft tofu to blended soups to make it thicker and creamier.
  • Try a bean, lentil and rice pilaf salad or a bowl of vegetarian chili for lunch.
  • Create your own blend by combining your favorite whole grain cereal with a handful of nuts and seeds.
  • Spread the chickpeas into a whole-grain loaf and fill it with vegetables like lettuce and shredded carrots.

Each week, plan two meatless meals. As a main dish, try using:

  • Beans in a burrito
  • Tofu in fried vegetables
  • Hummus and beans in tacos
  • Lentils in soup, stew or casserole

Make a healthy choice

What you eat on a regular basis is important to your health.

  • Choose foods with little or no sodium, sugar, or saturated fat.
  • Compare the Nutrition Facts table to foods to choose products that are lower in sodium, sugar or saturated fat.

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