Food Groups

Meat & Beans

The meat and beans group includes:

  • Meat: beef, pork, poultry, fish
  • Dry beans and peas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs

Nutrition and Health

Foods in the meat and beans group are high in protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, iron and magnesium.  These nutrients are needed for energy, growth and repair of body tissues.  Some foods in this group need to be eaten in moderation because of their saturated fat or cholesterol content.

Foods that are high in saturated fat or cholesterol can raise your LDL or “bad” cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease. Beef, pork and lamb are high in saturated fat, and should be eaten in moderation.  Egg yolks are organ meats are high in cholesterol, so try to limit these foods. Egg whites are low in cholesterol, and can be eaten more frequently.

Fish, nuts and seeds are high in unsaturated or “good” fat.  Fatty fish such as salmon, trout and herring are full of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and can decrease your risk of heart disease.  The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fatty fish per week.  Nuts and seeds are also healthy choices, but should be eaten in moderation because they are high in calories.

Dried beans and peas share the same nutrients as the other foods in this group, but beans and peas are also a good source of fiber. Choose dried beans and peas often.

Recommended Intake

The amount you need depends on your age, gender, height, weight and level of activity.

Moderately active individuals need about:

Women
 

2-3 years

2 ounces

4-8 years

3-4 ounces

9-18 years

5 ounces

19-30 years

5 ½ ounces

31+ years

5 ounces

Men
 

2-3 years

2 ounces

4-8 years

3-4 ounces

9-13 years

5 ounces

14-18 years

6 ounces

19-30 years

6 ½ ounces

31-50 years

6 ounces

51+ years

5 ½ ounces

 

 

 

 

 


*Individualized needs can be found at www.mypyramid.gov.

TIP: a 3-ounce piece
of meat is about the size
of a deck of cards.

Measuring Ounces
One ounce from the meat and beans group is
equal to:

· 1 ounce of meat, fish or poultry
· 1 egg
· ¼ cup cooked dried beans or tofu
· 1 Tbsp peanut butter
· ½ ounce of nuts or seeds

Making Healthy Choices
Choose fish, nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas often. Opt for nuts and peanut butter without added sugar and sodium. When eating eggs, try to limit the number of egg yolks you consume. Purchase lean cuts of beef such as lean ground beef, top loin, top sirloin, round steaks and roasts, chuck shoulder and arm roasts. Poultry is a leaner choice than beef, but remove the skin because it is high in fat. Use healthy cooking methods for meat like broiling, roasting, and baking. Processed meats tend to be high in fat and sodium, so try to choose brands that have less.

Tips for Adding More Beans, Nuts and Seeds
· Sprinkle beans, nuts or seeds on top of salads
· Add beans to casseroles and soups
· Replace meat with black beans in quesadillas or tacos
· Use pinto beans and kidney beans in chili
· Choose a small handful of nuts or seeds as a snack

Vegetarians
Vegetarians can get enough protein by choosing a variety of foods including beans, nuts, and seeds. Some vegetarians can also get protein from eggs and foods in the milk group. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and plant sources do not typically contain enough of all amino acids. If a wide variety of foods are eaten from the meat and beans group and the grain group, you can get enough of all amino acids. Vegetarians may also need to pay attention to their intake of zinc, iron, calcium and vitamin B12. Lacto or lacto-ovo vegetarians can get calcium, zinc and vitamin B12 from foods in the milk group. Vegan sources of these nutrients include:

· Zinc: beans, zinc fortified breakfast cereal, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds
· Iron: beans, lentils, peas, greens, iron fortified breakfast cereal, and whole wheat bread
· Calcium: dark green leafy vegetables, calcium fortified orange juice, calcium fortified soy or rice milk, calcium fortified tofu, and calcium fortified breakfast cereals
· Vitamin B12: B12 fortified breakfast cereals, B12 fortified soy beverages and B12 fortified veggie burgers


Why is it important to include fish, nuts, and seeds?
Many people do not make varied choices from this food group, selecting meat or poultry everyday as their main dishes. Varying choices and including fish, nuts, and seeds in meals can boost intake of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Most fat in the diet should come from MUFAs and PUFAs. Some of the PUFAs are essential for health—the body cannot create them from other fats.


Some fish (such as salmon, trout, and herring) are high in a type of PUFA called “omega-3 fatty acids.” The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are commonly called “EPA” and “DHA.” There is some limited evidence that suggests eating fish rich in EPA and DHA may reduce the risk for mortality from cardiovascular disease. (EPA is eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA is docosahexaeonoic acid.)


Some nuts and seeds (flax, walnuts) are excellent sources of essential fatty acids, and some (sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts) are good sources of vitamin E.