Budget-Friendly healthy protein foods

By Jennifer Bridge

 he protein foods group consists of foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soybeans and soy products, nuts, and seeds.

 he amount of food from the protein foods group a person needs depends on age, gender, and level of physical activity. Most Americans eat enough from this group, but need to make leaner choices and add more variety. To find your individual protein needs, visit https://www.choosemyplate.gov/resources/MyPlatePlan.

 ou can find healthy, low-cost protein foods throughout the grocery store. Look in the fresh meat case, frozen foods section, dairy case, and canned and pantry food aisles.

· To lower fresh meat costs, look for specials or sales on meat and seafood. Buy the family-sized or value pack, and freeze what you do not use. Choose lean meats like chicken, turkey, or trimmed pork loin. When choosing ground beef, make sure it is at least 93 percent lean. When cooking meats, try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking to avoid adding extra fat. Some lean meats need slow, moist cooking to be tender — try a slow cooker for them. Avoid breading meat or poultry, which adds calories.

· Beans and peas, such as kidney beans, split peas, and lentils are very budget-friendly. Use these foods for main or side dishes. They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber. Beans and peas cost far less than a similar amount of other protein foods.

· Seafood does not have to be expensive. Try buying canned tuna, salmon, or sardines. They store well and are a low cost option. Use canned tuna or salmon for sandwiches in place of deli meats, which are often higher in sodium. Make salmon patties or add canned tuna to a garden salad for quick meals.

· Have an egg! Eggs are a great low-cost option that is easy to prepare. One egg a day, on average, does not increase your risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices.

Making protein choices for a healthy lifestyle can be simple and low-cost with planning and creativity.

 ry Omelet on the Go for a quick, budget-friendly dinner or make-ahead breakfast.

Omelet on the Go

1 cup diced ham

2 1/2 cups any chopped, sautéed fresh vegetables (such as mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach)

1 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese

9 large eggs

1/4 cup low-fat milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine ham, sautéed vegetables, and cheese. Divide the mixture evenly among muffin tins.

3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture over the ham and vegetable mixture, filling each muffin tin to the top.

4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm.

5. Store leftover omelets in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat in a microwave oven for 20 seconds to 40 seconds.

Note: Omelets can be served on a toasted English muffin, bagel, or other bread for a breakfast sandwich.

Makes 12 servings

Serving size: 1 omelet

Nutrition facts per serving: 110 calories; 6g total fat; 2.5g saturated fat; 0g trans fat; 150mg cholesterol; 170mg sodium; 2g carbohydrate; 0g fiber; 1g sugar; 10g protein; 8% Daily Value of vitamin A; 10% Daily Value of vitamin C; 8% Daily Value of calcium; 6% Daily Value of iron.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

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