Meat, Fish, Eggs, Beans, Pulses & Nuts

A piece of steak

You need to eat the foods in this group to get enough protein which the body needs to grow and develop. These foods also contain nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. To make sure you don’t eat too much fat, choose leaner cuts of meat and trim off any visible fat and skin. When you cook them, bake or grill instead of frying.

But don’t forget, you do need some fat in your diet and not all types of fat are unhealthy. The fats found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and oily fish are good for you. In fact when it comes to fish, it is recommended that you eat two portions a week and that at least one of these is an oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel or sardines.

Nutrients Provided

The main nutrients provided by this group of foods are:

  • Protein
  • Iron
  • B vitamins (especially vitamin B12 from meat and fish)
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium

Practical Advice

  • Eat moderate amounts of foods from this group and choose lower fat versions where possible.
  • These foods should cover about  a third of your plate. 
  • Choose lean meats and remove visible fat.
  • Take the skin off chicken or turkey.
  • Limit chicken and fish cooked in batter or breadcrumb coatings.
  • Cook these foods without adding fat e.g. by grilling, roasting, baking or in a casserole.
  • Aim to eat at least two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oil-rich (oily fish include mackerel, salmon, trout, kippers, pilchards, sardine and fresh tuna -  but canned tuna doesn’t count because the processing removes most of the beneficial oils).

If you are a Vegetarian

It is especially important if you are vegetarian to get your protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 from sources other than meat.  Choose from the foods listed below:

  • Soya based foods including tofu
  • Beans, lentils and chick peas
  • Seeds, nuts and nut butters (like peanut butter)

If you eat these foods in combination with cereal foods (such as wholemeal bread, rice, pasta) these will provide you with proteins that are equivalent to those found in meat.

Some vegetarians still eat eggs, milk and fish. These provide a more complete form of protein equivalent to that in meat.

B vitamins can be obtained by eating fortified breakfast cereals, soya foods and yeast extracts (such as marmite or vegemite).

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