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Facts About Meal Pattern – Meat and Meat Alternates for Kids

Meat and Meat Alternates

  • Serve at lunch and supper.
  • Served as part of the snack.
  • May be served as additional items at breakfast.
  • Include a serving of cooked lean meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal), poultry, fish, cheese, cooked dry beans or peas, eggs, alternate protein product, peanut butter or other nut or seed butters (almond, sesame, sunflower), or nuts or seeds, yogurt, or any combination.
  • Serve the meat/meat alternate as the entree (main dish) or as part of the main entree and in one other menu item.

Nuts and seeds may fulfill:

        • all of the meat/meat alternate requirement for the snack; and
        • up to one-half of the required portion for lunch or supper.

Nuts and seeds must be combined with another meat/meat alternate to fulfill the lunch or supper requirement. For determining combinations, 1 ounce of nuts or seeds is equal to l ounce of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish. The nuts and seeds that may be used as a meat alternate include peanuts, soy nuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, and pecans), and seeds (sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin).

Caution: Children under 4 are at the highest risk of choking. USDA recommends that nuts and/or seeds only be served to them ground or finely chopped in a prepared food. Refer to page 140 in the Reference Section for more information on choking risks.

Yogurt is very popular with children. It has a smooth texture, and can be flavored for children’s tastes. Low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt may be used as a topping on potatoes (instead of butter or sour cream). Flavored yogurt goes well with fruit and fresh vegetables at meals. Plain, flavored, or sweetened yogurt, made with low-fat or fat-free milk, provides additional sources of calcium. Commercially prepared yogurt may be served as a meat/meat alternate.

For breakfast and snack you may serve 4 oz (weight) or ½ cup (volume) of plain, sweetened or flavored yogurt to equal 1 ounce of the meat/meat alternate component. For lunch and supper you may serve 8 oz. (weight) or 1 cup (volume) yogurt to equal 2 ounces of the meat/meat alternate component. For younger children, 2 ounces (weight) or ¼ cup (volume) fulfills the equivalent of ½ ounce of the meat/meat alternate requirement. Homemade yogurt, frozen yogurt or other yogurt flavored products (i.e., yogurt bars, yogurt-covered fruit and/or nuts) or similar products may not be credited. (Fruit-flavored yogurt is credited equally as plain or sweetened yogurt.)

Question: Is the fruit flavoring within yogurt creditable towards the fruit component?

Answer: No, the fruit within yogurt whether blended, mixed, or presented on top cannot be credited towards the fruit requirement. It is considered part of the creditable yogurt. Extra fruit provided, as a separate component, i.e. fresh strawberries, canned peaches, or banana slices can count towards the fruit component.