Protein Foods

Foods high in protein such as fish, chicken, meats, soy products, and cheese, are all called “protein foods.” You may also hear them referred to as ‘meats or meat substitutes.”

The biggest difference among foods in this group is how much fat they contain, and for the vegetarian proteins, whether they have carbohydrate.

Protein Choices

Plant-Based Proteins

Plant-based protein foods provide quality protein, healthy fats, and fiber. They vary in how much fat and carbohdyrate they contain, so make sure to read labels.

  • Beans such as black, kidney, and pinto
  • Bean products like baked beans and refried beans
  • Hummus and falafel
  • Lentils such as brown, green, or yellow
  • Peas such as black-eyed or split peas
  • Edamame
  • Soy nuts
  • Nuts and spreads like almond butter, cashew butter, or peanut butter
  • Tempeh, tofu
  • Products like meatless "chicken" nuggets, "beef" crumbles, "burgers", "bacon", "sausage", and "hot dogs"

Fish and Seafood

Try to include fish at least 2 times per week.

  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like Albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, sardines, and salmon
  • Other fish including catfish, cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, orange roughy, and tilapia
  • Shellfish including clams, crab, imitation shellfish, lobster, scallops, shrimp, oysters.

Poultry

Choose poultry without the skin for less saturated fat and cholesterol.

  • Chicken, turkey, cornish hen

Cheese and Eggs

  • Reduced-fat cheese or regular cheese in small amounts 
  • Cottage cheese
  • Whole eggs

Game

  • Buffalo, ostrich, rabbit, venison
  • Dove, duck, goose, or pheasant (no skin)

Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb

If you decide to have these, choose the leanest options, which are:

  • Select or Choice grades of beef trimmed of fat including: chuck, rib, rump roast, round, sirloin, cubed, flank, porterhouse, T-bone steak, tenderloin
  • Beef jerky
  • Lamb: chop, leg, or roast
  • Organ meats: heart, kidney, liver
  • Veal: loin chop or roast
  • Pork: Canadian bacon, center loin chop, ham, tenderloin
  • Last Reviewed: August 24, 2017
  • Last Edited: September 15, 2017

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