Appearances can be misleading and the meat department in the grocery store is no exception. If you are watching your weight after the holidays’ feasting, chances are you are opting for chicken over all that marbled beef.

You don’t have to make that choice. Weekly meal plans can be veritable calorie-sensible smorgasbords, even when you are trying to take off the pounds. The key is moderation. Pay attention to portion size. With that in mind, you will find that, along with poultry and fish, beef and pork can be good weight-watching choices. In some instances, they are even preferable.

How much protein you need depends on your age, size and activity level. The rule of thumb for nutritionists is to multiply your body weight by .013 to determine your minimum daily requirement in ounces. For example, a person who weighs 140 pounds needs 1.8 ounces of protein, a person who weighs 200 pounds needs 2.6 ounces of protein and a person who weighs 250 pounds needs 3.2 ounces of protein. Many foods provide protein, but if you are trying to lose weight, keep in mind that some come with more unwanted calories than others.

The recommended serving size of protein sources is three to four ounces. A chicken breast or pork chop is within this range, but attention must be paid to steaks and roasts because, typically, they are larger. However, when recommended serving sizes are compared head to head, lean cuts of beef or pork and almost all fish are actually lower in calories than chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks. Go the vegetarian route and you will find that a meal of beans (a cup of cooked beans provides approximately two ounces of protein) with vegetables like broccoli, carrots and cauliflower will leave you surprisingly full with even fewer calories.

Losing weight does not mean denying yourself your favorite foods and losing your muscle mass. Choose a wide range of protein sources. Just consume in moderation.

My Pyramid, The Food Chart and NutritionData  provide useful information for calorie-conscious food shopping.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]