Eat More Chicken, Fish and Beans

Updated:Dec 2,2014

Man Holding Plate of ChickenYou’ve already read about three important types of low-fat foods: fruits, veggies and whole grains. What about meats?

Why Are Chicken, Fish and Beans Better Than Red Meat?

In general, red meats (beef, pork and lamb) have more cholesterol and saturated (bad) fat than chicken, fish and vegetable proteins such as beans. Cholesterol and saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse. Chicken and fish have less saturated fat than most red meat.  The unsaturated fats in fish, such as salmon, actually have health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and some plant sources, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Beans don’t contain cholesterol, only animal products do. There are many types of beans – pinto, kidney, garbanzo, soybeans, etc. – and they’re all good for you. Put lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas on the list, too! None of them have cholesterol unless they’re prepared with meat (such as pork and beans) or with lard  (such as refried beans).

Tips for People Who Like Meat

It’s OK to eat red meat as long as you limit the amount. The American Heart Association recommends that people  limit lean meat, skinless chicken and fish to less than six ounces per day, total.  Fish (3.5 oz./serving) should be eaten at least twice per week, preferably fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring. 

Use the tips below to lower the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you get when you eat meat.
  • One portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards or three ounces.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat. Lean cuts usually contain the words “round,” “loin” or “sirloin” on the package.
  • Trim off as much fat as you can before cooking, and pour off the melted fat after cooking.
  • Use healthier cooking methods: bake, broil, stew and grill.
Note: Eating a lot of meat is not a healthy way to lose weight, especially if you have heart disease. See the “5 Goals to Losing Weight” for better ways to lose weight.

How to Use More Chicken, Fish and Beans

Breakfast

  • Sprinkle chopped, unsalted almonds, peanuts or walnuts on your oatmeal or cereal.
  • Make scrambled eggs or omelets using 1 egg yolk for every 2 egg whites, or use cholesterol-free egg substitutes.
  • Prepare soy-protein meat substitutes (low-sodium) for bacon and sausage.

  • Sprinkle chopped, unsalted almonds, peanuts or walnuts on your oatmeal or cereal.
  • Make scrambled eggs or omelets using 1 egg yolk for every 2 egg whites, or use cholesterol-free egg substitutes.
  • Prepare soy-protein meat substitutes (low-sodium) for bacon and sausage.

  • Slice up leftover chicken for sandwiches.
  • Have a bowl of low sodium bean or lentil soup.
  • Eat a tuna sandwich (with just a little low-fat mayonnaise  or skip the mayo and mix tuna with a ripe avocado).
  • Make a chef’s salad with leftover chicken, low-fat, low sodium cheese and hard-boiled egg whites.
  • Have a seafood salad.

  • Grill, bake or microwave chicken breasts. Remove skin before cooking.
  • Sprinkle fish fillets with low-fat Italian dressing, and bake them.
  • Wrap a whole fish in foil with lemon and onion slices; then bake or grill.
  • Add beans, unsalted nuts or low-fat, low sodium cheese to your salad.
  • Make low sodium bean soup or a casserole.
  • Make black bean burgers or garbanzo bean burgers from scratch.


Many people choose not to eat meat for religious reasons or because of other concerns, including health. You can get all the nutrients your body needs without eating meat. For people who don’t want to eat meat (or much meat), there are many healthy ways to get enough protein.

Meals Without Meat

Beans, peas and lentils

are excellent substitutes for meat no cholesterol, almost no fat, and plenty of protein, vitamins and fiber. Choose any type: pinto, kidney, garbanzo, soybeans, lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, etc. Try bean  products also, such as tofu (soybean curd) and hummus (a garbanzo bean spread for whole wheat bread or  crackers).

are excellent substitutes for meat no cholesterol, almost no fat, and plenty of protein, vitamins and fiber. Choose any type: pinto, kidney, garbanzo, soybeans, lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, etc. Try bean  products also, such as tofu (soybean curd) and hummus (a garbanzo bean spread for whole wheat bread or  crackers).

are also a good source of protein, vitamins and fiber. Unsalted nuts contain fat, but mostly the good types of fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Unsalted nuts are high in calories, so limit portions to a quarter cup (small  handful) or 1.5 oz.  Peanut butter (no salt added) is good, too, as long as it’s labeled “Old Fashioned” or  “Natural”.

are another high-protein option. You can buy non-fat and low-fat dairy foods, such as nonfat or 1% milk, yogurt and nonfat, low sodium cottage cheese, and low-fat or part-skim, low sodium cheeses.  You have to be careful with eggs because of  their high cholesterol content. Just remember that the white part of the egg contains the protein and the  yellow (yolk) contains the fat and cholesterol.*

*People with heart disease should have no more than two egg yolks a week, but you can have as many egg whites as you like.

Salmon or shellfish such as shrimp, crab and lobster are good sources of protein.  Shellfish contain more cholesterol than most types of fish, but they are very low in saturated fat, and a healthful alternative to meat.



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This content was last reviewed on 01/10/2013.

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