Eat moderate amounts!
- Aim for at least 140 g of cooked oily fish and 140 g of cooked white fish each week.
- For red and processed meats, consume no more than 70 g per day on average (around 500g per week).
- Beans and pulses are inexpensive, high in fibre and lower in fat than animal sources of protein and one portion per day can also count as one of your 5-A-DAY!
Meat and meat products: Beef, pork, lamb, sausages, deli meats such as ham, meat based dishesWhat counts?
- Beans and pulses: Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peas, butter beans, baked beans, haricot beans, flageolet beans, soya beans.
- Fish: White fish: e.g. cod, coley, haddock, pollock, hake.
- Oily fish: e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel, fresh tuna, trout (oily fish are the richest source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids).
- Shellfish: Prawns, scallops, mussels, oysters, squid and crab.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, duck, goose.
- Other non-dairy sources of protein: Nuts, tofu, mycoprotein for example ‘quorn’.
What is a portion?
Some examples of portion sizes from current recommendations for this food group are:
- About 140 g cooked weight of fish (aim for two portions a week, one of which to be oily fish).
- The Department of Health has advised that people who eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day cut down to 70g. 70g is equivalent to a small steak (about the size of a pack of cards), 3 average-sized rashers of bacon or slices of ham, or a quarter-pounder beef burger.
- Three heaped tablespoons of beans or lentils (80g portion) is also one of your 5-A-DAY.
Cut down on fat when cooking meat
- Grill or bake meat rather than frying.
- Grill, bake, steam or poach fish rather than frying.
- Trim any visible fat and remove any skin on poultry before cooking.
- Try to use lower fat cuts of red meat such as pork leg joint, lean mince or topside of beef. Minimise the use of fats such as butter or oils when cooking meats and avoid adding extra fat where possible e.g. by using a non-stick pan.
- Drain the fat from your cooked mince before adding vegetables, herbs, spices and sauces.
- Use less meat and add more pulses, vegetables and starchy foods to your meals.
Recommendations on fish
Oily fish is recommended for the omega 3 fatty acids it provides but there are government recommendations for the maximum number of portions we should be eating each week. This is because oily fish can contain low levels of pollutants that can build up in the body.
These recommendations are different for men and women, and there is separate advice on swordfish.
Men and boys:
- Up to four portions of oily fish a week.
Women and girls:
- Up to two portions of oily fish a week for women and girls who may become pregnant in the future, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is because pollutants that may be found at low levels in oily fish can build up in our bodies over time and may affect the development of a baby in the womb in the future.
- Up to four portions of oily fish a week for women who won’t become pregnant in the future.
The one exception to the recommendations above is swordfish. Children, pregnant women and women who are trying to become pregnant should not eat swordfish. Other adults should eat no more than one portion of swordfish per week. This is because it can contain more mercury than other fish, and consuming high levels of mercury can cause health problems.
For more information about eating fish and shellfish when pregnant or trying for a baby, click here.
Fish and Sustainability
It is a fact that overfishing of some of the world’s oceans has lead to limited stocks of some species in certain zones. It is this discovery that has raised concerns about the appropriateness of the dietary advice to eat more fish. However, experts believe that with good fisheries management, the decline will be reversed.
As consumers of fish, we can also do our bit to help replenish these limited fish stocks:
- Choose as wide a variety of species as possible.
- Try experimenting with less familiar species for which stocks are believed to be more abundant, such as coley, gurnard and mackerel.
- Look out for ecolabels on certified fish products at the supermarket, such as the blue Marine Stewardship Council logo.
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Last reviewed February 2014. Next review due February 2017.