University of Illinois Extension

Meat, Beans, Eggs, Dried Beans, and Nuts Group

Protein-rich foods are needed by our bodies for building blood and maintaining muscle mass. In the past, the protein food has been the main emphasis on meal planning, but today, we know that large servings of meat are not necessary for good health. recommends that an individual consuming 2,000 calories a day eat 5 ½ ounces from this group.

Foods from the Meat Group provide us with protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Meat is also a source of dietary fat and cholesterol, so it is important that we choose lower-fat meats and preparation methods.

Dried beans, peas, and lentils are plant foods, but they are also excellent sources of protein and fit into this food group, too. When combined with grain foods, these foods provide complete protein and can be substituted for meat for some of our meals. When choosing foods other than meats, the following foods are equal to one ounce of meat:

While the foods in this group generally are not high in calcium there are some exceptions: ½ cup of tofu processed with calcium sulfate has 260 milligrams of calcium, 3 ounces of salmon canned with bones has 205 milligrams, and 1 ounce of sardines with edible bones has 90 milligrams.

As with other foods, try to choose lower sodium foods from the Meat Group more often. Lower sodium foods in this group include beef, chicken, turkey, and fresh or frozen fish prepared without salt. Fresh pork is also a good choice, but ham, sausages, hotdogs, and lunchmeats are higher in sodium. Canned meats such as smoked sausages, stew, tuna, or salmon also are higher in sodium and should be eaten less frequently.

Pay attention to how you purchase, store, and cook meat. For more information on meat safety, visit