What should I be eating part 4: meat and alternatives

Today I will discuss meat and alternatives. This core food group offers a wide variety of options to choose from such as lean meats, fish, tofu, eggs, poultry, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans. This group will most commonly be known for contributing protein, which we need for muscle growth and development. But protein also helps to keep us feeling full and satisfied between meals.

First, a little refresher. To date we have covered:

  1. Grains and cereals
  2. Vegetables
  3. Fruits

Why are meat and alternatives important?

Were you aware that this food group offers zinc, B group vitamins and iron? You might be wondering why our bodies need these? Iron helps deliver oxygen to our organs so we can function at our peak. B group vitamins assist in various metabolic processes that ensure our body converts fat and carbohydrates into energy. Lastly zinc aids in the breakdown of fat and protein, but also keeps our immune system functioning to fight off infection, as well as supporting fertility.

In addition to protein and essential fats, legumes, nuts and seeds also provide an array of minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals for good health. Those of you that do not eat meat for ethical, environmental or personal reasons, you can still achieve adequate protein and nutrient intake and by consuming sufficient eggs, tofu, dairy, seeds, nuts and legumes in your diet.

How much meat or alternatives do I need?


1 – 3 years: 1 serve/day

4 – 8 years: 1.5 serves/day


9 – 18 years: 2.5 serves/day


19 – 50 years: 3 serves/day

51 – >70 years: 2.5 serves/day


19 – 50 years: 2.5 serves/day

51 – >70 years: 2 serves/day

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your requirements go up too, so you can nourish your baby and produce protein-rich breast milk.

  • Pregnant women require 3.5 serves/day
  • Breastfeeding women require 2.5 serves/day
A collection of food sources of protein - meats, eggs, nuts and seeds
Photo credit: Healthy Food Planet

What constitutes a meat or alternative serve?

A standard seve is typically 500-600kJ. This could be:

  • 65g cooked lean red meat such as lamb (fat trimmed), beef, pork, kangaroo, veal (90-100g raw)
  • 80g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100g raw)
  • 100g cooked fish fillet (115g raw) or a small (90g) can of tuna, salmon or sardines
  • 2 x large eggs (120g total)
  • 1 cup (150g) cooked lentils, beans or legumes, chick or split peas
  • 170g tofu
  • 30g nuts or seeds, peanut, almond or any other nut butter
(Photo credit: News.com.au)
(Photo credit: News.com.au)

Do sausages and processed meats cause cancer?

In October 2015 the World Health Organization [sic] issued a press release outlining findings that consumption of red meat probably causes cancer (colorectal, possibly pancreatic and prostate) in humans, and that the consumption of processed meats causes colorectal cancer.

The key here is the AMOUNT of these foods that are consumed.

For every extra 50g of processed meat eaten daily, your risk of colorectal cancer increases by 18%.

Do watch your intake of sausages and processed meats as these are exactly that, heavily processed and tend to offer varying amounts of sodium and saturated fat, often well above guidelines. Try to keep these foods as sometimes foods and not everyday foods.

Stay tuned for the 5th and final post on the core food groups, dairy.

Thanks for stopping by, Madeleine (THG)

About Madeleine at That Healthy Girl

Dietitian/Nutritionist/Registered Nurse

1 Comment

  1. […] as red meat. Do you know what a recommended serving of meat looks like? See my earlier blog post on meat and alternatives for more information. If you buy your meat from a butcher, ask to have certain sizes cut for you. […]

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