U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Beans, Peas, and Lentils

Beans, Peas, and Lentils

Image
measuring cup
Beans, peas, and lentils are unique foods

Learn more

Image
bean icon
How to count beans, peas, and lentils

Learn more

Beans, peas, and lentils are unique foods

Beans, peas, and lentils belong to a group of vegetables called “pulses.” This group includes all beans, peas, and lentils cooked from dry, canned, or frozen, such as: kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, pink beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, pigeon peas, mung beans, and lentils. Lentils come in varieties that are mostly identified by their colors, such as brown, black, red, and green. Green peas, green lima beans, and green (string) beans are not part of the beans, peas, and lentils subgroup because their nutrient content is more similar to other vegetable subgroups. Green peas and green lima beans are grouped with Starchy Vegetables. Green (string) beans are grouped with Other Vegetables such as onions, avocado, beets, and cabbage.

 

Image
12 wooden spoons of different beans and peas

 

You can choose to count beans, peas, and lentils as part of the Vegetable Group or the Protein Foods Group depending on how they fit into your overall eating pattern. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium, similar to vegetables. They are also excellent sources of plant protein and provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc, similar to protein foods. Because they are similar to meats, poultry, and seafood in their contribution of certain nutrients, beans, peas, and lentils are vegetarian options within the Protein Foods Group. Due to their high nutrient content, consuming beans, peas, and lentils is recommended for everyone, including people who also eat meat, poultry, and seafood regularly.

How to count beans, peas, and lentils:

Generally, individuals who regularly eat meat, poultry, and seafood would count beans, peas, and lentils in the Vegetable Group. Vegetarians, vegans, and individuals who seldom eat meat, poultry, or seafood would count some of the beans, peas, and lentils they eat in the Protein Foods Group. Here's an example for both ways:

Count the number of ounce-equivalents of all meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, and soy products eaten.
 

1

If the total is equal to or more than the suggested intake from the Protein Foods Group (which ranges from 2 ounce-equivalents for the 1,000 calorie plan to 7 ounce-equivalents for the 2,800 calorie plan and above) then count any beans, peas, or lentils eaten as part of the Beans, Peas, and Lentils subgroup in the Vegetable Group.

2

If the total is less than the suggested intake from the Protein Foods Group, then count any beans, peas, and lentils eaten toward the suggested intake level until it is reached. (1/4 cup of cooked beans, peas, or lentils counts as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group.) After the suggested intake level in the Protein Foods Group is reached, count any additional beans, peas, or lentils eaten as part of the Beans, Peas, and Lentils subgroup in the Vegetable Group.

Note: Click on the top row to expand the table. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to turn your phone to see the full table.

Foods eaten (Protein Foods Group only – not a complete daily list)

  • 3½ ounces chicken
  • 2 ounces tuna fish
  • ½ cup black beans

The 3½ ounces of chicken and 2 ounces of tuna fish equal 5½ ounce-equivalents in the Protein Foods Group, which meets the recommendation at this calorie level. Therefore, the ½ cup of black beans counts as ½ cup of vegetables, towards meeting the 1½ cups per week recommendation for the Beans, Peas, and Lentils subgroup in the 2,000-calorie plan.

Foods eaten (Protein Foods Group only – not a complete daily list)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ Tbsp. peanut butter
  • ½ cup chickpeas

The 2 eggs and 1½ Tbsp. peanut butter equal 3½ ounce-equivalents in the Protein Foods Group. Two more ounces are needed to meet the 5½ ounce recommendation for this group. This ½ cup of chickpeas can help with meeting the remaining 2-ounce equivalents needed to meet the recommendations for the Protein Foods Group. 

Image
DGA logo

MyPlate.gov is based on the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025

Learn more

Image
Start Simple app on phone and watch

Start Simple with MyPlate App

Build healthy eating habits one goal at a time! Download the Start Simple with MyPlate app today.

Learn more