University of Illinois Extension
 

The Meats, Fish, Meat Substitutes, Eggs and Cheese Group

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Foods in this group include meats (like beef, chicken, and pork), fish (like salmon, tuna, and shrimp), meat substitutes (like tofu, and products that resemble meat or fish but are made with soy), eggs, and cheese. These foods are grouped together, because the majority of the calories they contain come from protein and/or fat. Cooked beans, peas, and lentils also are in this group because of the protein that they contain, but are also considered starchy vegetables because of their carbohydrate content. While some meat substitutes and cheeses may contain small amounts of carbohydrate, the main macronutrients in these foods are protein and fat. Nuts are also often placed in this group because nuts contain some protein, but they are also high in fat.

Protein is very important in our daily diet. We need protein to maintain muscles, make enzymes, and keep our immune system working well. However, items in this group can be high in calories. Also, meat, eggs, and cheeses in particular can be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. People with diabetes need to make heart-healthy choices when choosing foods from this group because of their increased risk for cardiovascular complications. See the section titled Eating for Cardiovascular Health.

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One Serving from the Meats, Fish, Meat Substitutes, Eggs and Cheese Group

One serving from the meats, fish, meat substitutes, eggs, and cheese group usually contains about 7 grams of protein, but the amount of calories, carbohydrate, and fat in foods from this group varies depending on the type of food. For instance some meats like salami contain a higher amount of fat than lean meats like chicken. Foods in this group with higher amounts of fat per serving also contain more calories per serving. The carbohydrate content of foods in this group also varies. For instance, meats and eggs do not contain any carbohydrate, but beans and soy do. Chicken and fish will contain less fat than hot dogs or cheese.

Examples of one serving from this group would include:

  • 1 ounce cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
  • 1 ounce cheese
  • 1/2 cup tofu
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 1 ounce of soyburger

The serving sizes of foods in this group are very small. Since not many people eat one ounce of meat or cheese at a time, 3 servings (3 ounces) of food from this group is usually considered to be a portion. Ask your health care provider or dietitian how many servings you should eat from this group every day.

Nuts, Beans, and Soy Products

Nuts, beans, and some soy products are good sources of fiber since they are also vegetables, or legumes. Although nuts contain both fiber and protein, they are also high in fat. When nuts are eaten in smaller amounts, they are usually considered to be a serving from the fat group, but when they are eaten in larger amounts they are considered a serving of high-fat meat. For instance ½ tablespoon of peanut butter is considered to be one serving from the fat group, but one tablespoon of peanut butter is considered one serving from the meat and meat substitutes group. Like nuts, soybeans and beans contain both carbohydrate and protein. Unlike nuts, however, they are usually low in fat. One cup of whole soybeans or beans contains about 8 grams of fiber. Processing will lower the fiber content of some soy products, such as tofu.

Tips for Choosing Foods from Meats, Fish, Meat Substitutes, Eggs and Cheese Group

  • Choose foods from this group that have between 35 and 60 calories and 0-3 grams of fat per serving whenever possible to reduce your saturated fat and total fat intake. Fish and skinless white meat poultry are good choices, as are lean whole meats like lean pork chops or lean steaks.
  • Read Nutrition Facts labels carefully. If any product contains close to 15 grams of carbohydrate as well as 7 grams of protein per serving, it would count as both a meat and starch serving.
  • Choose foods from this group that are low in cholesterol such as poultry, meat substitutes made from soy, or some beef items.
  • Meats that have been breaded, like fried chicken or fish, contain about 15 grams of carbohydrate in a 3 ounce portion. Be sure to count this portion as one starch and three meat servings. For example, a small fried chicken breast sandwich would provide 3 meat servings and 1 starch serving from the chicken and 2 starch servings from the bun.

Back to: Food Groups and Diabetes

This document is a source of information only, and is not medical advice.