How Many Meat and Alternatives Do You Need?

Foods in the Meat and Alternatives group provide nutrients such as protein iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins (like vitamin B12). But you don't need to eat a lot from this group to satisfy your nutritional needs. Find out how much you need each day. 

Bonus!  Watch the video to see this information in action.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-3 servings a day depending on your age and if you are a man or a woman.

Children   Teens   Adults  
2-3   4-8   9-13   14-18 years   19-50 years   51+ years  
Boys and Girls   Girls   Boys   Women   Men   Women   Men  
1   1   1-2   2   3   2   3   2   3  

Take a closer look at what one Food Guide serving is:

Examples of one food guide serving of meat and alternatives:

  • 75 g (½ cup) cooked lean meat like beef, pork, lamb, goat, venison and moose
  • 75 g (½ cup) cooked poultry like chicken, duck and turkey
  • 75 g (½ cup) cooked ground meat or poultry
  • 75 g (½ cup) cooked fish like trout, mackerel and salmon including canned salmon and
  • 75 g (½ cup) canned tuna* or canned salmon
  • 75 g (½ cup) cooked shellfish like shrimp, clams and mussels
  • 2 eggs
  • 175 mL (¾ cup) cooked beans, peas, lentils, hummus and tofu
  • 30 mL (2 Tbsp) of nut butters like peanut butter, almond butter or soy butter
  • 60 mL (1/4 cup) nuts and seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, flaxseeds

*Choose tuna that is labelled “light”. Look for skipjack or tongol on the label. They have  less mercury than “white” (albacore) tuna.

Find out more about Food Guide Servings in the Meat and Alternatives food group.

How to get enough meat and alternative servings

Here’s an example of what your day could look like if you spread out your Meat and Alternatives choices throughout the day:


  • 1 boiled egg
  • whole wheat English muffin with 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • orange slices
  • 1 cup milk 

1 Food Guide serving


  • Soba noodles (noodles, broth, ¼ cup salmon, colourful veggies, ¼ cup tofu)
  • Yogurt topped with berries 

1 Food Guide serving


  • Beef and bean chili (125 mL cup beef, 80 mL cup beans) with shredded cheese
  • Brown rice
  • Green salad with carrots and tomato slices
  • Milk 

1 Food Guide serving


3 Food Guide serving

Did you know? Because the total number of Food Guide servings for Meat and Alternatives is small, you may want to eat half portions throughout the day. For example, one egg at breakfast counts as half a serving. 

How to save money when buying meat and meat alternatives products

  • Eggs are more than just for breakfast. As an alternative to more expensive meats, use eggs to make an omelette or frittata for dinner; or make an egg salad for lunch.
  • Use beans and lentils more often. Try canned baked beans on whole grain toast for dinner. Add 1 can kidney or other bean to pasta or rice salads. Add 125 mL (½ cup) lentils to soups or stews to thicken them instead of cream.
  • Canned fish is inexpensive and convenient. Make canned tuna or salmon sandwiches, or use in casseroles and salads.
  • Roast a whole chicken instead of using pre-cut chicken parts. Use the leftovers for sandwiches or add to soups and casseroles.
  • Buy poultry with skin on and bone-in as it is less expensive. Remove the skin before cooking as it is high in fat.
  • Check for meat, poultry or fish counter specials. Ground beef can be a less expensive choice. Other budget-friendly cuts of meat include stew meat, shoulder (pork), chuck/blade, brisket point (less tender), cross rib, sirloin tip, outside round or bottom, inside round, or organ meat.

Try these recipes:

Tofu Vegetable Soup

Red Cabbage and Pasta Soup with Beans

Egg Bhurji

Mango Chicken Wraps

Thai Curry Turkey

Vermicelli with Broccoli and Grilled Beef

You may also be interested in:

All about poultry

All about legumes

All about eggs

All about lentils

Last Update – May 1, 2018

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