Beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat are all good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals so it is important to eat some foods from this group every day.
Beans and pulses
Good plant sources of protein include nuts and pulses such as:
Pulses are cheap so make your food budget go further by using them to replace some of the meat in casseroles or stews.
You could also try substituting Quorn, soya or tofu for meat in all sorts of dishes.
Pulses are particularly important for people who don’t get protein by eating meat, fish or dairy products.
Fish is a good source of protein. Try to eat it at least twice a week and make sure one portion a week is an oily fish.
White fish such as cod, haddock and pollock are low in fat.
Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon or trout are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease and stroke.
You can choose from fresh, frozen or canned, but remember canned and smoked fish can often be high in salt.
How much oily fish you should eat
You should eat at least one portion of oily fish a week. A portion of oily fish is around 140 grams when cooked.
However, because oily fish can contain low levels of pollutants that can build up in the body, the following maximum portions are recommended:
Men and boys
Men and boys can eat up to four portions of oily fish a week.
Women and girls
Women and girls who may become pregnant in the future, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should eat no more than two portions a week. This is because pollutants found in oily fish may affect the development of a baby in the womb in the future.
Women who won’t become pregnant in the future can eat up to four portions of oily fish a week.
Eating fish during pregnancy
During pregnancy, eating fish is good for your health and the development of your baby. But if you are pregnant, or trying for a baby, you should avoid some types of fish and limit the amount you eat of some others.
Further information is available at:
Eggs are a tasty alternative to meat or fish and are easy and quick to prepare.
They are a good source of protein and vitamins A and D.
Previous advice put a restriction on the number of eggs you could eat each week because egg yolks have a high cholesterol content.
However, research now shows that cholesterol found in foods including eggs has a smaller effect on blood levels of cholesterol than saturated fat.
Eggs are low in saturated fat therefore most people don’t need to limit how many eggs they have.
Eggs can be consumed as part of a healthy diet.
Information on the safety of eating raw eggs and how they should be stored is available at:
However, some meats are high in fat, especially saturated fat.
The type of meat product you choose and how you cook it, can make a big difference to the saturated fat content.
There is also strong evidence to suggest red meat and processed meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer.
Red and processed meat
It is recommended that people who eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day cut down to 70g or less. This could help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
Processed meat refers to meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. This includes sausages, bacon, ham, salami and pâtés.
Liver and liver products
However, because they are such a rich source of vitamin A, be careful not to eat too much liver and liver product foods.
Having too much vitamin A – more than 1, 500 micrograms of vitamin A per day from food and supplements – over many years may make your bones more likely to fracture when you are older.
Women who have been through the menopause and older men should avoid having more than 1, 500 micrograms of vitamin A per week from food and supplements, as they are at a higher risk of bone fracture.
People who eat liver or liver pâté once a week may be having more than an average of 1, 500 micrograms of vitamin A per day.
If you eat liver or liver products every week, you may want to consider cutting back.
You should avoid taking any supplements that contain vitamin A and fish liver oils, which are also high in vitamin A.
Pregnant women should avoid vitamin A supplements, and liver and liver products.
Meat and pregnancy
Pregnant women should avoid:
- pâté of all types, including vegetable pâté as they can contain listeria, a type of bacteria that could harm your unborn baby
- liver and liver products as these foods are very high in vitamin A, and too much vitamin A can harm an unborn child
- supplements containing vitamin A including fish liver oils, except if you are advised to take these by your GP
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Storing, preparing and cooking meat
Good food hygiene is especially important when dealing with meat, because of the bacteria that meat can contain.
It's important to store, prepare and cook meat safely to stop bacteria from spreading, and to avoid food poisoning.
Further information is available at: