Dear Dietician Debbie,
From what I’ve seen, it is recommended that a person divide her or his plate into three parts. One part is a lean protein serving, another part a complex carb, and the biggest part is none starchy veggies, which would constitute about 2 servings of non-starchy veggies.
I believe that the lean protein part could be beans in place of meat or fish. However, if a person does have a serving of lean meat or fish in the protein part, and the person had a servings of beans, could the beans then be counted as the starch part? And then, if the person had lean protein from meat or fish, and had complex carbs from brown rice in the starch part, could the beans then be in the veggie part as one serving along with one serving of non-starch veggies?
Thanks! – Larry
According to the USDA, beans can be either protein or vegetable. The problem with that is high load of carbohydrate when grains are also present. For weight management, blood sugar control and heart disease prevention, here’s how I’d consider beans: beans can be the protein, or the starch, or both for a double serving, but not the vegetables. The non-starchy vegetables are much lower in carbohydrate and protein than beans yet full of micronutrients and phytochemicals generally not present in the other food groups.
You’ll want some low-calorie plant matter that isn’t so dense to fill you up anyway. Think of fresh diced tomatoes complementing chili or carrots & celery paired with hummus. The vitamin C found in fruits and vegetables also help the body absorb the type of iron found in beans, peas and lentils. See our answer to What should you do/eat to maintain your IRON level? for more specifics.
A meal guide is a great way to plan meals and help choose portions. Don’t overlook flexibility, though. Considering your day as a whole, if you have an egg and oatmeal with nuts + dried fruit for breakfast, a bean and cheese burrito for lunch with broccoli and an orange, then a full plate of vegetable stir fry with 3 oz chicken for dinner you’d still end up with the correct balance of food groups (not counting dairy).
– Debbie J., MS, RD
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