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Community Diet and Nutrition Services

Go lean with protein

In general

  • Start with a lean choice:
    • The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (round eye, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
    • The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
    • Choose extra lean ground beef. The label should say at least "90% lean." You may be able to find ground beef that is 93% or 95% lean.
    • Buy skinless chicken parts, or take off the skin before cooking.
    • Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choices.
    • Choose lean turkey, roast beef, ham or low-fat luncheon meats for sandwiches instead of luncheon meats with more fat, such as regular bologna or salami.
  • Keep it lean:
    • Trim away all of the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
    • Broil, grill, roast, poach or boil meat, poultry or fish instead of frying.
    • Drain off any fat that appears during cooking.
    • Skip or limit the breading on meat, poultry or fish. Breading adds fat and calories. It will also cause the food to soak up more fat during frying.
    • Prepare dry beans and peas without added fats.
    • Choose and prepare foods without high-fat sauces or gravies

Vary your protein choices

  • Choose fish more often for lunch or dinner. Look for fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring.
    Some ideas are:
    • Salmon steak or filet
    • Salmon loaf
    • Grilled or baked trout
  • Choose dry beans or peas as a main dish or part of a meal often. Some choices are:
    • Chili with kidney or pinto beans
    • Stir-fried tofu
    • Split pea, lentil, minestrone or white bean soups
    • Baked beans
    • Black bean enchiladas
    • Garbanzo or kidney beans on a chef’s salad
    • Rice and beans
    • Veggie burgers or garden burgers
    • Hummus (chickpeas) spread on pita bread
  • Choose nuts as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes. Use nuts to replace meat or poultry, not in addition to these items:
    • Use pine nuts in pesto sauce for pasta.
    • Add slivered almonds to steamed vegetables.
    • Add toasted peanuts or cashews to a vegetable stir fry instead of meat.
    • Sprinkle a few nuts on top of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.
    • Add walnuts or pecans to a green salad instead of cheese or meat

What to look for on the food label

  • Check the Nutrition Facts label for the saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium content of packaged foods.
  • Processed meats such as hams, sausages, frankfurters and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the ingredient and Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake.
  • Fresh chicken, turkey and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __.”
  • Lower fat versions of many processed meats are available. Look on the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less fat and saturated fat.

Keep it safe to eat

  • Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Do not wash or rinse meat or poultry.
  • Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and counter tops in hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next one.
  • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices don't drip onto other foods.
  • Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill microorganisms. Use a meat thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry, to make sure that the meat is cooked all the way through.
  • Chill (refrigerate) perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
  • Plan ahead to defrost foods. Never defrost food on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Thaw food by placing it in the refrigerator, submerging air-tight packaged food in cold tap water, or defrosting on a plate in the microwave.
  • Avoid raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs and raw or undercooked meat and poultry.
  • Women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children should avoid some types of fish and eat types lower in mercury. See www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/admehg3.html or call 1-888-SAFEFOOD for more information.

Courtesy ChooseMyPlate.gov

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