USDA Food Guide and MyPyramid (Lesson 2 Part B)

Elizabeth S. Reames, Charles, Sharman J.

Meat, Fish, Poultry and Beans

Foods in this group include beef, pork, fish, shellfish, veal, eggs, poultry, tofu, dried beans and nuts. These foods are valuable sources of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. Although iron and zinc are found in some plant foods, our bodies use these nutrients better when they come from animal sources.

Protein: Helps to build and repair body tissues.

B vitamins: Help keep skin and nerves healthy, help regulate the digestive system and help use energy from food.

Iron: Helps to build healthy blood. Without enough iron, you may become anemic. When you are anemic, you tire faster and more often. You may also feel dizzy and out of breath. Iron helps you resist infections. Iron in meats is called heme iron. Foods of plant origin contain non-heme iron. Egg yolks have mostly non-heme iron. Heme iron in meats is better absorbed by the body. To make non-heme iron more absorbable, add a vitamin C-rich food or a small amount of meat to your meal.

Zinc: This mineral is important for the brain to develop and function. Zinc also plays an important role in pregnancy. Women who have low levels of zinc early in pregnancy are more at risk of having a low-birth-weight infant. Low-birth-weight infants have more severe complications and are less likely to live beyond infancy than infants who have normal birth weights. Zinc is necessary to have a healthy immune system to fight infections and illness.

When you don't get enough zinc, any health problems you have, such as an infection, burn or diabetes, could worsen.

How Much Meat to Eat?

Foods from this group should be eaten in moderation. Adults, teens and children need to eat 5.5 ounce-equivalents daily from the meat and bean group of the USDA Food Guide. The DASH Eating Plan recommends 6 ounces or less of meat, poultry or fish.

How Much is a Serving?

Both the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan recommend a 1 ounce-equivalent: 1 ounce of cooked lean meats, poultry, or fish (without bones). One egg counts as one ounce of meat. Try to have no more than three to four eggs a week because eggs are high in cholesterol. The USDA Food Guide equivalents are: 1/4 cup of cooked dried beans, peas or tofu as 1 ounce; 1 tablespoon of peanut butter as 1 ounce of meat and ½ ounce of nuts or seeds counts as 1 ounce of meat. The DASH Eating Plan’s equivalents are: 1½ ounces of nuts, ½ ounce seeds and ½ cup cooked dry beans.

We need 5.5 ounces of cooked lean meat each day. Let's see how we can get this amount from the different foods in the meat group. For example, 5.5 ounces might come from:

  • One egg for breakfast = 1 ounce of lean meat
  • Two ounces sliced turkey in a sandwich at lunch
  • One-half ounce cashews
  • Two ounces cooked lean hamburger for dinner

        = Five and one-half ounces for the day.

Lowering the Fat in Your Diet

Most of the fat we consume comes from the meat group. Some ways to cut down on the fat intake from foods in this group include:

  1. Select lower-fat choices of beef and pork from the meat group. Generally, beef cuts with loin or round in the name and pork cuts with loin in the name are the leanest choices. In addition, select USDA Select grade for beef. Select grade is generally leaner than Choice because it has less marbling (fat) and less fat on the edges. The fewer white specks you see in beef, the leaner the meat.

  2. Select fish and poultry more often than beef. Fish and poultry are lower in fat content than beef. The fat in poultry is mainly in the skin. The Louisiana State University Department of Poultry Science recommends to cook poultry with the skin on, then remove the skin before eating. The poultry will be moister and more flavorful by following that procedure.

  3. Cook in ways to reduce rather than add fat. Broil or roast on a rack. These cooking methods require no added fat. Tenderize lean cuts by cooking slowly with moist heat, cooking in liquid or marinating. Pounding and slicing across the grain also help. Remove fat from soups, stews and casseroles by chilling them and skimming the hardened fat from the top. Cut off all visible fat from the meat before cooking and eating.

  4. Eat less meat. When we enjoy smaller portions of meat, we fill the rest of our plates with fruit, vegetables, beans and rice, noodles or bread. Stretch smaller portions of meat and make them more interesting by cooking them with vegetables in soups, stews, casseroles and stir-fried dishes.

Choose More

  • Baked or stewed chicken with the skin removed. Remove the skin after the chicken is cooked.
  • Roast turkey.
  • Lean ground beef or ground turkey.
  • Fish canned in water.
  • Leaner cuts of beef (Beef cuts with loin or round in the name are generally leaner choices.)
  • Lower-fat packaged lunch meats, like turkey ham, smoked or baked chicken breast, very thinly sliced chicken, turkey, ham, roast beef, boiled ham, honey loaf, turkey pastrami and lower-fat hot dogs.
  • Poached or hard-cooked eggs.
  • Dry beans and peas cooked without added fat such as bacon grease or ham hocks.
  • Peanut butter limited to 2 tablespoons.
  • Nuts once in a while.

Choose Less

  • Fried chicken or turkey.
  • Regular ground beef or pork.
  • Fish canned in oil.
  • Beef cuts higher in fat, such as brisket, chuck blade roast steak or ribs.
  • Regular sandwich meats like salami and bologna, hot dogs and sausage.
  • Fried or scrambled eggs.
  • Dry beans and peas cooked with added fat such as bacon grease, lard or ham hocks.
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts

Food Safety

Many cases of foodborne illness result from the mishandling of food in the home. Prevent foodborne illness by handling, cooking and storing food properly.

  1. Cook meats to proper degree of doneness. A good one-time purchase for your money is a meat thermometer. A meat thermometer tells you the degree of doneness of the meat or poultry. Beef, except for ground beef, can be cooked to rare (145 degrees F); pork should reach at least 160 degrees F and poultry should reach at least 180 degrees. The exception is turkey breast, which is safe at 170 degrees F. The USDA recommends thorough cooking of raw meat products. Disease-producing bacteria are destroyed when the meat is fully cooked.

    Ground beef should be cooked until it's well-done or cooked to at least 160 degrees F. An instant read thermometer is the best way to check temperature and the safest practice. If you don't have a thermometer, ground beef should be gray. Cook ground beef until you do not see any pink and juices run clear. Never eat ground beef rare or raw! Ground meat is especially susceptible to bacteria because the surface can be contaminated, and the grinding spreads the bacteria throughout the meat. Disease-producing bacteria are destroyed when meat is fully cooked.

  2. Do not allow cooked meat to stand at room temperature. It is a good candidate for bacterial growth at temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees F. Refrigerate leftovers immediately.

  3. Marinate meats properly. While marinating, meats should be covered and refrigerated. Do not use marinade for basting.

  4. Keep hot foods hot (140 degrees to 165 degrees F). Bacteria can multiply rapidly at lower temperatures.

  5. Watch out for cross contamination. Do not expose food to the drippings from raw meat; for example, don't put cooked meat back on the same unwashed cutting board that held raw meat, and don't cut vegetables on the same board.

    Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water after they've come in contact with raw meat. Non-wooden cutting boards that can be thoroughly scrubbed in hot water are preferred.

  6. Do not partially cook food, then finish cooking it the next day. Partial cooking encourages bacterial growth, which may not be destroyed in further cooking.

  7. Keep refrigerator and freezer at proper temperatures. Refrigerators should be 40 degrees F or slightly below; freezers at 0 degrees F.

Web Sites to Visit:

  • - Click on Concerned About Calories.
  • - Click on Safe Handling to learn more about food safety. Click on Short Cuts to learn how to cut a whole chicken. Click on Chicken Parts to learn about the different parts of the chicken. Click on Talking Chicken too.
  • - Visit this site for low-fat cooking methods and cuts of beef, beef safety and healthy beef recipes.
  • - Click on Beef Facts.
  • - Click on Food & Nutrition Info for nutrition facts, recipes, and cooking tips.
  • - Click on Basic Egg Facts, Food/Nutrition, Egg Recipes, and Egg Safety.

Milk and Dairy Products

Calcium is another important part of the diet. It's the mineral your body uses to build bones and teeth. When you don't get enough calcium when you're young, you could suffer from osteoporosis when you get older. This is a painful disease in which the bones become brittle and break easily.

Getting enough calcium is especially important during pregnancy. Your baby needs calcium to build its bones and teeth. Since your baby gets its nourishment from you, it is important that you eat a diet high in calcium. Breast-feeding women also need extra calcium for themselves and their babies. Babies, young children and teen-agers need calcium because their bones and teeth are growing very fast.

Milk and milk products are our best source of calcium. Good non-dairy sources include sardines and other fish canned with the bones, dark green leafy vegetables and shellfish. Foods made with milk and milk products like macaroni and cheese, cream soups, puddings, custards and tacos also provide calcium. It's important to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods every day.

It's easy to get calcium without extra fat. Learn to read the labels and select low-fat or non-fat products. In fact, skim and low-fat milks have more calcium than regular milk.

If you have trouble drinking milk because of bloating and gas, you probably have lactose intolerance. That means you don't have the lactase enzyme needed to digest the lactose (sugar) in milk. Choose lactose- reduced milk, acidophilus milk, Lactaid tablets or drops or fermented dairy products such as buttermilk and yogurt or simply try drinking smaller amounts of milk at a time.

You Can Stretch Your Food Dollars By:

  • Choosing large containers; they generally cost less per serving.
  • Buying store brands; these are usually less expensive.
  • Using non-fat dry milk; it can be reconstituted or reconstituted and mixed half and half with fluid milk.
  • Using evaporated milk; it can be reconstituted by adding an equal amount of water and used in place of fluid milk in recipes.

Tips That Will Help

Canned evaporated milk and non-fat dry milk can be used in most recipes calling for fresh fluid milk. Here's how to mix...

  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/2 cup water = 1 cup regular milk
  • 1/2 cup skimmed evaporated milk and 1/2 cup water = 1 cup skimmed milk
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk and 2/3 cup water = 1 cup skimmed milk

Evaporated Milk

  • Use evaporated milk straight from the can in making mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, puddings and many other dishes.
  • Chill evaporated milk, and you can whip it just like cream.
  • Evaporated skimmed milk has all the calcium and protein of milk without the fat.
  • Evaporated milk must be stored in the refrigerator after opening.

Fresh fluid milk, milk products, opened canned milk and reconstituted dry milk should be kept refrigerated and covered. This will help it to stay fresh a long time. Store nonfat dry milk powder in a tightly covered container in a cool dry place.

How Much Calcium Do You Need?

If your age is:

You need this much calcium:


500 mg


800 mg


1300 mg


1000 mg


1200 mg

Pregnant and nursing teens
up to age 18

1300 mg

Pregnant and Nursing women
19 and older

1000 mg

* Professionals in the area of nutrition believe we need more calcium. The National Institutes of Health recommends 1,000 mg for premenopausal and estrogen-treated women. They also recommend 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women not treated with estrogen.

How do we interpret the calcium needs into daily intake? Well, the USDA Food Guide recommends 3 cups from the milk group daily and the DASH Eating Plan recommends 2 – 3 cups daily. One cup equivalent is: 1 cup low-fat/fat-free milk or yogurt, 1½ ounces low-fat or fat-free natural cheese, 2 ounces low-fat/fat-free processed cheese. One cup of milk provides 300 milligrams of calcium.

Putting the Pieces Together to Build a Nutritious Diet

Our bodies are like cars. Cars need gas to go. We need food to go, grow and be healthy. Food we eat breaks down inside our bodies into nutrients. Nutrients are the tiny individual parts of foods that our bodies need to live. Nutrients include: protein - for building and repair; carbohydrate - for energy; fat - for energy; vitamins - help protein, fat and carbohydrate do their jobs; minerals - body structure and help other nutrients do their jobs.

Eating the right types and amounts of foods is important for us to get all the nutrients we need to be healthy.

Variety and balance are the important ideas for a good food plan. No one food contains all the nutrients we need. Following the Food Guide helps us to eat a variety of foods. Eating a variety of foods helps us get all of the needed nutrients.

Calcium, vitamins A and C and iron are included on the Nutrition Facts label because they are problem nutrients.

Web Sites To Visit

3/24/2005 5:07:23 AM
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