A balanced diet comprises food items from five food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein) that are known to deliver all necessary nutrients that an individual requires. A balanced diet not only helps in maintaining health but it also helps to lower the risk of diseases. Dietary guidelines around the world explain that all individuals must include protein as a part of their regular meals because micronutrients in proteins assist tissues in repairing muscle, organs, and bones and helps transport vital molecules where they are needed, for example, the protein hemoglobin transmits oxygen throughout our body. Research also indicates that the right amount of protein consumption can help individuals in losing weight.
However, consumption of a high-protein diet for a long period has also been linked with several health complications like cancer, kidney damage, severe constipation, etc. But a well balanced diet needs to have fruits and vegetables to provide essential vitamins, minerals, neutraceuticals, fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants. A healthy eating plate must contain whole grains ¼ of plate, vegetables and fruits ½ of plate, protein ¼ of plate, healthy plant oil in moderation, at least 8 glass of fluid per day and active lifestyle. It is beneficial to not eat only high protein but a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables at early age so that they can develop the habit of eating organic food. This will help parents to eat less amount of bakery items, sweets and junk food.
A wide variety of plant-based and animal-based food items are great sources of protein such as red meat, which provides vitamin B12 that helps in making DNA. It keeps the nerves and red blood cells healthy, and provides the body with zinc that allows the immune system to work properly. Chicken breast is another most popular protein-rich option. Whole eggs are high in protein and are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Almonds are rich in essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium. Cottage cheese is a great source of calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and various other nutrients. Broccoli is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, potassium and provides bioactive nutrients that are known to help protect against cancer. Lentils are high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, manganese, and various other nutrients. Fish (all types) is rich in essential nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids.
Best Known Protein Sources
When opting for high-protein food articles make sure that you select healthier options. For example, grass-fed lean meats and pasture-raised poultry, wild/freshwater fish, brown eggs, grass-fed and organic dairy, legumes, nuts, whole grains, etc., and avoid high-fat and processed meat.
According to United States Department of Agriculture guidelines, it is recommended that an individual should consume at least 3 ounces (85 grams) of proteins per meal. 3 ounces equals the size of your palm, or half of a boneless, skinless chicken breast, or one skinless chicken leg with thigh, or two thin slices of lean roast beef. Remember, it is important to reduce the portion size to decrease the amount of fat and cholesterol in your daily meals.
Tips to Eating Meat in a Healthy Way
- Cut off any visible fat from meat before cooking it. Remove any remaining visible fat from lamb and beef before eating.
- You can leave on the skin for cooking when roasting chicken or turkey. The skin helps keep poultry tender and flavorful. However, remove the skin and the fat underneath it before eating.
- Grilling at high temperature causes cancer due to formation of heterocyclic amines and polycyclic hydrocarbon amines on the surface of meat. While grilling, try to flip the meat frequently this reduces the formation of harmful compounds on the surface of the meat. Grill meat on medium heat.
- Grilling and baking melts away the fat in meat and poultry. So when you cook meat or poultry in your oven, be sure to put it on a rack on a baking pan so that the fat drips away. After cooking ground beef or poultry, drain the fat from the pan and rinse the meat with hot water. Blot the meat with a paper towel to remove any remaining fat and the water.
- Choose low-fat marinades such as lemon, turmeric or yogurt. These are called natural meat tenderizers. They will also help in easier digestion.
- Add different spices like garlic and ginger to enhance the taste and nutritive value.
- Include fruits and green vegetables in your diet while consuming meat. Pair meat with vegetables such as peas and pumpkin, etc.
- Avoid eating naan, poori or pasta with meat. Opt for wheat chapatti instead.
- Keep yourself hydrated with water and juices. Drink plenty of water before consuming meat. This will prevent you from getting a heartburn.
With these few simple changes on your plate, meat and poultry can still be a part of tasty and healthy meals. It is important to learn how to choose the healthiest selections of meat and poultry and learn how to prepare them using low-fat methods.