Protein foods, especially those of plant origin, are an integral part of a healthy diet. Include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, lean meats, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, lower-fat milk and lower fat dairy products in your diet.
Protein foods are good for you
You can eat a variety of protein foods in the context of healthy eating habits.
Protein foods contain important nutrients, for example:
Try to choose plant-based protein foods every day. These can provide you with more fiber and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods. This can benefit your heart health.
You don’t have to eat large amounts of protein foods to meet your nutritional needs. Try eating protein foods such as:
- lean meats and poultry
- lean cuts of beef, pork and game
- nuts and seeds
- nut butters
- Sun-flower seeds
- fish, seafood
- lower fat dairy products
- lower sodium cheeses
- peas such as chickpeas or split peas
- brown, green, red or other lentils
- dried peas such as black or kidney beans
- fortified soy beverages, tofu, soybeans or other soy products
Tips for vegetarians
Get the nutrients you need by:
- using Canada’s Food Guide plate
- choosing a variety of protein foods, including eggs and lower-fat dairy products
- If you only eat plant-based foods, choose a variety of healthy foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Include foods and beverages fortified with vitamin B12, as vitamin B12 is found naturally only in foods of animal origin.
- Choose and prepare healthy protein foods
- A wide choice of protein foods is available to you. Make healthy choices.
- Beans, peas and lentils
Dried Lentils, Beans Or Peas To Soak And Then Cook At Home
Low-Sodium Canned Lentils, Beans Or Peas, Or Rinse And Drain To Reduce The Amount Of Sodium
Nuts And Seeds
- Dried Roasted Seeds And Nuts With No Added:
- Fats (Oils)
- Sodium (Salt)
- Peanut Butter Or Other Nut Butters That Contain Peanuts Or Tree Nuts As The Only Ingredient. Choose A Product With Little Or No:
- Added Sodium
- Added Sugars
- Added Saturated Fat
- Fish And Seafood
- canned fish with little or no added sodium
- fresh or frozen fish or seafood that has not been:
- coated in dough
- Lean meats and poultry
- skinless poultry
- lean cuts of meat such as rounds and loins
- poultry and fresh or frozen meats without rich sauce
- meat prepared with little or no added sodium or saturated fat
- Milk and dairy products
- lower fat cheese
- lower fat milk with no added sugar
- lower fat plain yogurt with no added sugar
- Soy products and fortified soy beverages
- low sodium soy products
- fortified soy beverages with no added sugar
Preparation of protein foods
Try healthier ways to prepare your food. For example :
- cut visible fat from meats
- limit the amount of sauce or butter
- drain the fat that remains after cooking
- remove skin from poultry before cooking
Try cooking methods that require little or no added saturated fat. For example :
Boost the flavor with:
- herb, lemon or salsa seasoning
- small amounts of oils with good fats, including olive oil and canola oil
- snack ideas
Protein foods are good healthy and delicious snack choices. Try these tasty and easy-to-prepare options:
- hard boiled eggs
- nuts and seeds
- oven roasted chickpeas
- hummus with fresh vegetables
- lower fat yogurt with fresh fruit
- peanut butter on celery sticks
How to eat more plant-based protein foods
Here are ways to eat more plant-based protein foods:
- Add silken tofu to a soup to make it thicker and creamier.
- Try a bean salad, lentils, rice pilaf or even a bowl of vegetarian chili for dinner.
- Make your own trail mix by combining your favorite whole grain cereal with a handful of nuts and seeds.
- Spread the inside of a whole-grain pita bread with hummus and fill it with vegetables, such as romaine lettuce and shredded carrots.
- Many imitation meat products are highly processed and may add excess sodium or saturated fat to your diet. Use food labels to make a healthy choice.
Plan a few meatless meals each week. For your main dishes, try:
- beans in a burrito.
- tofu in a stir-fry .
- chickpeas and beans in tacos.
- lentils in soup, stew or stew.