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Meat and alternatives


Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pulses, beans and nuts are rich in protein.

They also provide other very important vitamins and minerals such as iron. Choose a variety of different foods from this group.

What is included?

  • Lean red meat including beef, mutton, lamb and pork
  • Poultry including chicken, turkey and duck
  • Fish including fresh, frozen and tinned varieties of white, oily and shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Pulses including beans of all kinds, such as peas, chickpeas and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetable-based protein sources such as tofu and mycoprotein

How much should I eat?

Enjoy two servings a day. Eat a variety of choices. Include fish at least twice per week – one being an oily fish.

What is a portion?

  • 50–75g (half the size of the palm of your hand) cooked lean beef, lamb, pork or mince
  • 50–75g (half the size of the palm of your hand) cooked poultry
  • 100g cooked fish
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup cooked beans, peas or lentils 
  • 40g unsalted nuts or seeds
  • 100g cooked soya or tofu

Top tips

  • Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry – trim off visible excess fat
  • Limit processed meats and poultry such as sausages, bacon, cured meats, chicken nuggets and chicken goujons – don't eat them every day
  • Eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which is oily – e.g. mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout and herring
  • Watch out for meat and poultry products with pastry, batter or breadcrumbs as they will be higher in salt and fat – choose these less often
  • Avoid adding extra fat when cooking – bake, steam or grill instead
  • Replace some of the meat in dishes such as stews and casseroles with pulses. Pulses contain fibre which keeps you feeling full for longer
  • Choose unsalted varieties of nuts

Red meat

Red meat includes beef, mutton, lamb and pork. Red meat is an important source of iron. Having vitamin C, such as a glass of orange juice, in the same meal as an iron-rich food, can increase the amount of iron you absorb.

  • Eat twice or three times per week.
  • Choose lean varieties, remove excess fat
  • One serving is 50–75g (half the size of the palm of your hand) cooked lean beef, lamb, pork or mince
  • Limit processed and cured red meat including ham, sausages, luncheon meats and salami. These are high in fat and salt
  • Avoid adding extra fat when cooking – bake, steam or grill instead

Poultry

Poultry includes chicken, turkey and duck. Poultry is rich in protein and low in fat if the skin is removed. Eat twice or three times a week. One serving is 50–75g of cooked poultry - half the size of the palm of your hand

  • Remove the skin as this contains most of the fat
  • Limit processed poultry such as chicken nuggets and goujons. These can be high in fat and salt
  • Cook with as little fat as possible, choosing to bake, grill or steam more often

Fish

Fish includes fresh, frozen and tinned varieties of white, oily and shellfish. Include fish at least twice each week, one of these being an oily fish. One serving is 100g fish.

  • Oily fish provides omega-3 fats that help to keep your heart and brain healthy. Oily fish includes mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines and herring. Tuna does not count as an oily fish.
  • White fish and shellfish are low in fat and calories.
  • Choose fish without breadcrumbs, coatings or sauces more often.
  • Choose fish from sustainable sources

Eggs

Eggs are a good source of protein, iron and vitamins. One serving is two eggs.

While there is some cholesterol in eggs, this has little effect on a healthy adult's cholesterol levels. It is okay to eat up to seven eggs per week. 

Pulses, beans, nuts and other plant-based protein sources

Try to include more plant sources of protein. Pulses and beans are inexpensive, low in fat and a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
One serving is:

  • ¾ cup cooked beans, peas or lentils 
  • 40g nuts or seeds
  • 100g cooked soya or tofu

Replace some of the meat in dishes such as stews and casseroles with pulses. 

  • Tinned pulses can be used straight away. Dried pulses need to be soaked and cooked before using.
  • Choose unsalted varieties of nuts
  • Nuts are high in calories, keep the serving size small

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