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Meat and Alternatives - Be Wary of Portion Distortion

July 31, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

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Meat and Alternatives provide the body with protein, B vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc and magnesium. While foods in this group are important for your health, they shouldn't take the biggest space on the plate. You may be surprised that a serving of meat is only about the size of a deck of cards or your smart phone. 

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, recommends that adults need only 2-3 servings of meat and alternatives daily. Children and teens need 1-3 servings each day. 

shopping sense tip meat and alternativesWhat is a Serving?

  • 75 g (2 ½ oz) or 125 mL (1/2 cup) cooked fish, shellfish, poultry, lean meat
  • 175 mL (3/4 cup) cooked legumes
  • 150 g or 175 mL (3/4 cup) tofu
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 mL (2 Tbsp) peanut or nut butters
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) shelled nuts and seeds

Watch our VIDEO "Shopping Sense - Best Buys in Meat and Alternatives" for money saving tips in the Meat, Fish and Poultry Section of the grocery store.

Fishing for Good Health

It's a healthy practice to include at least two food guide servings of fish each week in your meal plan. Fish contains omega-3 fats that help reduce the risk of heart disease. Char, herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines are especially high in these healthy fats. Lower sodium canned fish is a good option to fresh or frozen.

Full of Beans

Health Canada advises eating dried beans and lentils often as a low-cost and healthy alternative to meat to reduce saturated fat and increase fibre intake. Using canned legumes such as navy beans, chick peas (garbanzo beans) and kidney beans also saves preparation time. Just be sure to give them a rinse before adding them to recipes to wash away some of the sodium. Here are some quick ways to add more legumes to your meal plan.

  • Try hummus (chickpea spread) as a spread on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise or butter.
  • Toss black beans into scrambled eggs and serve with salsa for a Mexican flare.
  • Add lentils or split peas to soups.
  • Serve baked beans with a garden salad and corn bread for a low-cost tasty dinner.
  • Add tofu to vegetable stir-fries.
  • Replace ground beef with lentils in spaghetti sauce.

REMEBER: Time-saving conveniences such as ready-to-go take out foods found in the deli section, and packaged frozen dinners are tempting when you're short of time. However, you will usually pay more for these convenience items and they're often higher in sodium and fat than the same foods made at home.


  • Choose fresh unseasoned meat, fish, poultry and tofu.
  • Look for "low-sodium" or "sodium reduced" canned beans or try dried beans, peas, and lentils.
  • Rinse canned beans, peas and lentils before adding them to soups and stews.
  • Frozen dinners are often high in sodium - check out the Percent Daily Value (%DV) on the Nutrition Facts table and choose those with the lowest sodium content. 
  • For more information, check out our Sodium Articles or these Sodium Fact Sheets.


Watch our VIDEO "Shopping Sense - Best Buys in Meat and Alternatives" for money saving tips in the Meat, Fish and Poultry Section of the grocery store.
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