It seems the sunshine and warm temperatures are here. The smell of burgers coming from my neighbour’s deck can only mean one thing…barbeque season. With people firing up their grills, this makes it the perfect time to write about the meat and alternatives group on Canada’s Food Guide.
Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2 servings of meat and alternatives each day for females 14 and older. Males of the same age group require an additional serving, for a total of 3 servings per day. One serving of cooked meat, chicken, or fish is 75 grams (2.5 oz) and Canada’s Food guide recommends that Canadians select lean meat, trim visible fat from meat and remove skin from poultry. All the foods in the meat and alternatives group are rich in protein, but variety is important because different foods are rich in different nutrients. I will highlight some of the nutrition features of beef, pork, chicken and fish below and I will write about protein sources suitable for lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans in my next blog.
Beef is an excellent source of protein that is rich in iron. Iron plays a role in carrying oxygen around your body. Choosing lean cuts of beef and trimming off the fat is important to reduce your intake of saturated fat. Some lean beef choices include eye of round, sirloin tip, flank and extra lean ground beef. When trimmed and cooked, all of these cuts have less than 3.5g of saturated fat per food guide serving and at least 1.7 mg or iron. The recommended dietary allowance for iron is 8 mg per day for males 18 and over and females 51 or older. Younger females, 19-50, have higher needs, requiring 18 mg of iron per day.
Lean cuts of pork such as roasted pork tenderloin, roasted centre chop and lean ham, all provide less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving after the fat is trimmed. Pork, like beef, is rich in iron. Pork is also an excellent source of thiamin which is important to energy metabolism. If you are trying to reduce your sodium, be sure to limit your intake of cured meats such as ham.
Chicken is an excellent source of niacin which is important to energy metabolism. Removing the skin and choosing white meat decreases the amount of fat and saturated fat per serving. For example a 75 g serving of roasted chicken breast with the skin has 1.75 grams of saturated fat compared to 0.41 grams when the skin is removed.
Fish, especially fatty fish, are rich in Omega 3s and Vitamin D. Omega 3s have been linked to decreased risk of heart disease. Vitamin D is important in maintaining strong bones and teeth. Links between inadequate Vitamin D and many health conditions, including cancer, are being researched. One food guide serving of baked or broiled Atlantic farmed salmon contains 204 IU vitamin D. 75 grams of baked or broiled trout provides 150 grams of vitamin D. Canned light tuna in water is leaner but still provides 36 IU of vitamin D. Remember that Canada’s Food Guide recommends Canadians eat at least 2 food guide servings of fish per week.
As you can see beef, pork, poultry and fish can all be lean, nutrient dense choices in a healthy balanced diet but variety is important. Canada’s food guide recommends that Canadians have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often. Canada’s food guide depicts many alternatives to meat on the food guide for all Canadians, not only those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. In the next blog I will write about some of the highlights of the meat alternatives.
The nutrient content information for the foods discussed has come from the Canadian Nutrient File 2007b available online at Health Canada. If you are looking for more nutrient information on the foods discussed or other foods the Canadian Nutrient File is a searchable database.