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Buying the Right Protein for Your Diet


Let's not forget about poultry. Poultry can be one of your leanest animal protein sources, but lose the skin—pure fat! You can buy poultry with the skin if it's more reasonably priced. You can even cook poultry with the skin for some added moistness; just be sure to remove it before eating.

Your leanest poultry choices are these:

  • Skinless chicken breast
  • Turkey breast (white meat, no skin)
  • Cornish game hen (no skin)
  • Ground chicken or turkey breast (look for white meat only/no skin added)
  • Duck and pheasant (no skin)

Fish and Seafood

When choosing seafood, almost anything goes. Scout the aisle and pick up anything that looks fresh and appealing. Fresh fish and seafood should have bright skin, bulging eyes (for whole fish), firm flesh, and no fishy smell. You might have heard that some fish are fattier than others. It's true, but the amount of fat is so small that all fish and seafood remain great choices nutritionally. In addition, the type of fat found in fish is polyunsaturated (more specifically, omega-3 fatty acid), which has been shown to do positive things in the fight against heart disease and cancer. What's more, all types of fish supply excellent high-quality protein, along with other vitamins and minerals.

Your leanest fish choices are these:

  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Sea bass
  • Whiting
  • Halibut
  • Red snapper
  • Haddock
  • Shellfish (crab, crayfish, lobster, and shrimp)
  • Monkfish
  • Perch
  • Tuna
  • Mullet
  • Mollusks (abalone, clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, and squid)
Fattier fish include the following:
Wild Salmon Albacore tuna
Mackerel Bluefish
Herring Shad
Eel Catfish


Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein, iron, and vitamin A—but they also provide a lot of cholesterol, about 213 mg, to get technical. Furthermore, there are approximately 5 grams of fat in just one yolk. Not bad if you only eat whole eggs occasionally. Otherwise, think about using only the whites of the eggs, or grab a carton of the egg substitutes (no cholesterol and low in fat) that are generally sold in the frozen section. Also, some supermarkets carry straight, preseparated whites in refrigerated cartons.

Legumes (Dried Beans, Peas, and Lentils)

Definitely add some legumes to your shopping list. Legumes supply protein, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and B-vitamins. Most impressive is that dried beans, peas, and lentils are the only high-protein foods that provide ample amounts of fiber. Get creative and make a meatless meal a couple of times each week.

Look for these:

Baked beans Great northern beans
Pinto beans Black beans
Kidney beans Split peas
Black-eyed peas Lentils
Tofu Cannelloni beans
Lima beans Vegetarian chili
Navy beans White beans
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) Hummus

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition © 2005 by Joy Bauer. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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