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MyPlate Week, Day 1: The Power of Protein

June 6, 2011

What was once a category called “Meat and Beans” in past Food Pyramids is now simply “Proteins” on MyPlate, broadening the protein category to a variety of other food sources. This protein food group includes all foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soy, nuts, and seeds. Furthermore, the recommendation states all meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat.

With an assortment of protein food sources available, we can utilize the MyPlate tool effectively to enjoy a healthy variety of protein food sources AND meet our protein needs with each and every meal.


Protein plays many roles that support many of our body’s functions. Proteins are part of all our body’s tissues, including muscles, organs and bones. They make up the hormones and enzymes that regulate body processes and can even serve as an energy source. It’s important that we eat enough protein daily (typically 5-7 ounces) to support growth and maintenance of tissues, and to replace protein that is broken down by the body.


Calorie-for-calorie, lean beef is one of the most nutrient-rich foods to fuel an active and healthy lifestyle. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides on average 150 calories, and is an excellent source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, selenium and phosphorus; and a good source of choline, niacin, vitamin B6, iron and riboflavin. There are more than 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean including summer grilling favorites like the Sirloin, Tenderloin, T-Bone steak and 95 percent lean Ground Beef. With more than 29 lean cuts—easily complementing vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy— lean beef can improve the taste and satisfaction of a meal while maximizing the nutrients consumed to keep a healthy body. Having a summer grilling party? Have every guest bring a side, and you supply the BEEF- many of the 29 lean cuts are crowd pleasers.


There are so many great protein options outside of meat and beans. Nuts, such as almonds for example, are excellent alternatives for individuals who prefer non-meat sources. Whole almonds are a naturally high source of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Additionally, a one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) provides 3.5 grams of fiber, 9 grams monounsaturated fats, and 6 grams of protein.

A few simple ingredient substitutions make it easy to incorporate almonds into everyday recipes. Try making “nut crumbs” by coarsely grinding almonds in a food processor. Use them as a wholesome gratin topping for casseroles, or sprinkle on pasta and rice dishes.

Instead of peanut butter, almond butter is a nutritious and hearty topping for bagels or as a sandwich spread and it’s easy to make at home. Just chop whole natural almonds in a food processor and blend with a little vegetable oil and salt and until almost smooth.

Disclosure: Katie is an employee of the California Beef Council.


  1. “Beef Nutrition Newsroom.” The Beef Checkoff Program. Web. 3 June 2011. <;.
  2. “Health Professionals.” California Almonds. Almond Board of California, 2010. Web. 3 June 2011.<;.
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