Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans food group

Healthy meat and salad image

 

The lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans food group is a varied food group that encompasses both animal and plant-based foods. This food group provides many essential nutrients including: Protein, iodine, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and essential fatty acids such as omega-3.

There are many health benefits associated with this food group. Evidence statements from the Australian Dietary Guidelines recognise lean meats are a good source of iron, which is particularly important during infancy and for women of child-bearing age. A standard serve of 65g per day or 130g every second day is recommended to meet iron and zinc requirements.

However overconsumption of red meat (amounts greater than 100–120g) has been linked to increased risk of some cancers, including colorectal cancer. The strongest link between meat and cancer appears to be with processed deli meats,1 such as ham, bacon and salami. Processed meats are typically higher in salt, saturated fat and contain compounds which may be associated with an increased risk of some cancers and are therefore labelled as discretionary foods.2 For a perspective on meat and cancer risk from a leading nutrition expert, check out the Thinking Nutrition blog on the topic.

Aside from meat, consumption of fish has been associated with reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, as well as decreased risk of dementia in older adults. In addition, consumption of nuts (65–100g per day), has been associated with a reduction in blood cholesterol. Contrary to popular belief, eggs are not associated with increased health risks, including coronary heart disease.3

For those who do not wish to include meat or animal products in their diet, such as individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet, alternatives include nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and tofu.4These foods provide many of the same nutrients as animal-based foods, although the iron and zinc from animal foods is more easily absorbed by the body when compared to plant foods. However the vitamin C found in fruit and vegetables will help the absorption of iron from these non-animal foods. Also vitamin B12 is only found in animal products and a supplement may be desirable if eating a non-animal diet. See an Accredited Practising Dietitian for more tailored advice.


Serve recommendations

 
Age group 
Serves
Men

19–50

3

 

51–70

2.5

 

70+

2.5

Women

19–50

2.5

 

51–70

2

 

70+

2

 

Pregnant

3.5

 

Breastfeeding <18

2.5

 

Breastfeeding >18

2.5

Children

1–2 y/o boys and girls

1

 

2–3 y/o boys and girls

1

 

4–8 y/o boys and girls

1.5

 

9–11 y/o boys and girls

2.5

 

12–13 y/o boys and girls

2.5

 

14–18 y/o boys and girls

2.5

Adapted from the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines.

A standard serve is equivalent to:

  • 65g cooked lean red meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat or kangaroo (about 90–100g raw)

• or 130g cooked weight of the same foods every second day5

  • 80g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100g raw)

  • 100g cooked fish fillet (about 115g raw) or one small can of fish

  • 2 large (120g) eggs

  • 1 cup (150g) cooked or canned legumes/beans, such as lentils, chickpeas or split peas preferably with no added salt

  • 170g tofu

  • 30g nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter, tahini or other nut or seed paste with no added salt.*6

* Only to be used occasionally as a substitute for other foods in the group.

Use the Nutrition Calculator to calculate recommended serves of the five food groups for each age and gender group.

Links

Learn more about lean meats by visiting the Meat and Livestock Australia website.

Other useful resources include:

• How to make every bite count: A guide to nutritious family meals for babies and toddlers

• Your guide to healthy, balanced meals: Making healthy main meals tasty and easy 

• Are you getting enough iron? Practical tips to ensure you are getting enough iron 

Legumes and nutrition

Egg Nutrition Council Position Statements

Egg Nutrition Council downloadable resources for health professionals


More nutrition information about nuts and seeds is available at the Nuts for Life website, including:

• Several factsheets on different nut and seed foods

• Nutrient composition of tree nuts

• 2+5+A handful a day factsheets.




1 Bouvard V, Loomis D, Guyton K, Grosse Y, Ghissassi F, Benbrahim-Tallaa L et al. Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. Lancet Oncol. 2015;16(16):1599-1600.

2 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

3 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

4 National Health and Medical Research Council. A modelling system to inform the revision of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2011.

5 ;National Health and Medical Research Council. Eat for Health Educator Guide, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013, p. 17. Available: 

https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55b_educator_guide_140321.pdf

6 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.