Last column, I suggested making half of your plate fruits and vegetables, adding slightly more vegetables than fruit.

Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. For this week’s challenge, try going “Lean with Protein.”

Replace meat, poultry and seafood with an entrée of beans and peas. You can add beans to a colorful salad, soup or as a side dish.

Foods in the protein foods group are shown by the purple color of MyPlate. All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds are considered part of the protein foods group.

Beans and peas are also part of the vegetable group and are considered “unique foods.” Beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes. They include kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils. They are available in dry, canned and frozen forms. These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc. They are similar to meats, poultry and fish in their contribution of these nutrients. Therefore, they are considered part of the protein foods group.

Many people consider beans and peas as vegetarian alternatives for meat. However, they are also considered part of the vegetable group because they are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium, which are often low in the diets of many Americans. Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone, including people who also eat meat, poultry and fish regularly.

What is a serving size of beans and peas? For most beans and peas a serving size is 1/2 cup.

What are the serving sizes of other protein sources? Serving sizes of meat, poultry and fish are 2- to 3-ounce servings with a recommendation of two to three servings per day. Two eggs are considered a portion and 1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut butter are considered one protein serving. I am going to leave you with a recipe to try out this week for a change in menu.

I hope you’ll try making this slight change to your menu to try a plant protein food and enjoy the following recipe.


Cowboy Caviar

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of Louisiana hot sauce or Tabasco.

1 1/2 teaspoons salad oil.

1 clove garlic, minced.

1/8 teaspoon pepper.

1 can (15-ounce) black-eyed peas.

1 can (11-ounce) corn kernels.

2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions.

2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro.

1/2 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped.

1/2 teaspoon or less of salt to taste.

1 bag of tortilla chips or 2 cups of finely shredded cabbage.

Preparation: In a large bowl, mix vinegar, hot sauce, oil, garlic and pepper. Drain and rinse peas and corn. Add peas, corn, onions, cilantro and tomatoes. Mix gently to coat. Serve with chips as an appetizer/snack or add cabbage and mix to make a salad.

Mary Welch-Bezemek is a registered dietician and nutrition program coordinator for CalFresh, through the University of California Cooperative Extension.

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