Meat & Alternatives Tips

Tip #1: Choose meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu more often

By choosing these meat alternatives more often, you can reduce your intake of saturated fat. This type of fat is typically found in animal products and which tends to raise the bad cholesterol (LDL) in our blood.

Plant based foods in this group, such as beans, peas, lentils and tofu provide similar nutrients to meat, with less the fat. They have the added bonus of fibre – something we could all use more of. Nuts and seeds are also good meat alternatives, eat them in moderation – they can add a lot of fat and calories if eaten in large portions.

To include more meat alternatives:

  • Replace some or all of the meat in mixed dishes such as chili, casseroles and stews with tofu, beans or lentils.
  • Add nuts and seeds to a stir fry.
  • Add a hard cooked egg or nuts to a salad.

Tip #2: Eat at least two Food Guide servings of fish each week

Fish is an excellent source of a good type of fat – omega 3 fats. Eating fish more often may help reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke. This is partly due to the omega 3 fats and other nutrients in fish, but also because eating fish may reduce our intake of other higher fat meats (which are higher in saturated fat). Of course, this only works if we don’t add a lot of extra fat in the preparation of the fish, such as in frying or using a lot of sauces. Use herbs and lemon to season fish and try baking, grilling or steaming.

What are good choices?
All fish contain omega -3 fats, but the following varieties have very high amounts:

  • Char
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Rainbow trout
  • Salmon Sardines

Some fish such as fresh tuna, shark and swordfish may contain larger amounts of mercury – check Health Canada’s advice on limiting these fish.

Tip #3: Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt.

Meat and poultry are good sources of many important nutrients as listed above. You can benefit from the nutrients in these foods while limiting any extra fat by:

  • Choosing leaner cuts of meat.
  • Trimming off any visible fat.
  • Eating skinless poultry.
  • Using lower fat preparation methods such as baking, broiling or barbecuing.

Which cuts of meat are lean?

For meats including beef, pork, veal, lamb and game meats such as moose, caribou and deer, look for:

  • inside or outside round roast
  • eye of round roast or steak
  • strip loin steak
  • sirloin steak
  • rump roast
  • lean (17% or less fat) or extra lean (10% or less fat) ground meat .

For poultry choose:

  • lean (17% or less fat) or extra lean (10% or less fat) ground poultry
  • poultry without the skin
  • baked or grilled options rather than fried.


  • Plain shellfish are all relatively low in fat and include: clams, crab, lobster, mussels, oyster, scallops and shrimp.
  • Enjoy these grilled or baked rather than fried or served with high fat sauces and dips.

How to keep them lean

Frying or adding rich sauces or gravy will increase the fat content of any of these foods. Instead, enjoy their flavour by baking, broiling, roasting or poaching, and add extra flavour by using herbs, juices and fresh salsas.

Luncheon meats – corned beef, salami, ham, smoked meat, hot dogs and pepperoni – tend to be very high in sodium and fat. Try limiting these or choose lower -fat and lower sodium varieties. Deli Meats, ham and sausages that are part of Health Check are lean or extra lean and are lower in sodium.