Section Title

Using Proteins


Tips for BuyinG

Choose lean proteins, such as:

  • Round steaks and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, round tip), top sirloin and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
  • Extra lean ground beef. The label should say at least 90% lean.
  • Pork loin, tenderloin, and center loin.
  • Skinless chicken parts (or take off the skin before cooking).
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets.
  • Choose lean turkey, roast beef, ham, or low-salt luncheon meats for sandwiches instead of meats with more fat such as regular bologna or salami.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts label for the saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium content of packaged foods. Processed meats such as ham, sausage, hot dogs and luncheon meats have added sodium.

Tips for Using

  • Trim away all of the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
  • Broil, grill, roast or poach instead of frying.
  • Drain off any fat that appears during cooking.
  • Skip or limit the breading on meat, poultry, or fish. Breading adds calories and causes the food to soak up more fat during frying.
  • Prepare beans and peas without added fats.
  • Choose and prepare foods without high fat sauces or gravies.
  • Choose seafood at least twice a week. Look for seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring.
  • Choose beans, peas or soy products as a main dish or part of a meal often. Some choices are:

Stir-fried tofu

Split pea, lentil, white bean or minestrone soups

Baked beans

Black bean enchiladas

Garbanzo or kidney beans added
to a salad

Rice and beans   

Veggie burgers

Hummus (chickpeas) spread on
pita bread



Choose unsalted nuts as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes. Here are some ideas:



Use pine nuts in pesto sauce with whole-grain pasta

Add toasted peanuts or cashews to a
vegetable stir fry in place of meat

Add slivered almonds to steamed vegetables                                                                       

Sprinkle a few nuts on top of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt

Add walnuts or pecans to a green salad instead of cheese or meat



Tips for Handling

  • Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Do not wash or rinse meat or poultry.
  • Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and counter tops in hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next one.
  • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices don’t drip onto other foods.
  • Cook foods to a safe temperature. Use a meat thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry, to make sure that the meat is cooked all the way through. Use this guide!
  • Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
  • Plan ahead to defrost foods. Never defrost food on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Thaw food by placing it in the refrigerator, submerging air-tight packaged food in cold tap water (change water every 30 minutes), or defrosting on a plate in the microwave.
  • Avoid raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs and raw or undercooked meat and poultry.
  • Women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should avoid some types of fish and eat types lower in mercury.

Using Proteins on a Budget

While some proteins may be the spendier items on your shopping list, such as those you find at the meat counter, there are many ways to incorporate proteins on a budget. Here are some quick tips:

  • Use healthy, affordable proteins like beans, eggs, and canned fish several times per week...replace half the ground meat in tacos with your favorite beans, use canned tuna or salmon in your next casserole or top a salad with hard boiled eggs for protein power.
  • Check store flyers before you shop. If you have enough space in your freezer, buy in bulk whatever is on deep discount and freeze what you won’t use right away.
  • Time-saving tip: Dried beans are great when you have the time to soak them, but canned beans are a great time-saver for weeknight meals. Rinse and drain before using to cut the sodium by almost half, or look for low-sodium or no salt-added versions.
  • Chuck or bottom round roast has less fat and is often less expensive than sirloin.
  • Greek Yogurt has twice the protein as other yogurt, but watch out for sugars. Read the label. It's usually better to buy plain Greek yogurt and add your own ingredients like fruit or nuts.
  • One egg costs about 10 cents and has about 4-6 g of protein. If you're watching your fat and cholesterol, two egg whites have no fat or cholesterol and 7-10 g of protein.
  • Find a protein that is on sale and plan your meals around that