Lean meats


Protein is an essential part of any healthy eating plan. Some protein sources are fattier and have more calories than others. Here are some tips to help you find those leaner meat cuts as well as how to cook protein in the healthiest way possible. 


1. Remember Myplate.gov

Try to keep each meal balanced. 25% of your plate should be filled with a lean protein source.

2. Look for lean cuts

In general, chicken, turkey and fish are going to be your leanest meats. Smart shopping can make these choices even healthier.

  • Chicken and turkey (poultry): The dark meat and skin are the fattiest portions, so try and stick with the breast. Make sure when getting ground poultry the label says either “low fat” or breast. Ground lean chicken is a great choice for any recipe that asks for ground beef.
  • Fish: Very high in protein and a great source of unsaturated, healthy fat.

3. When choosing beef, make it lean

Substitute out the fattier cuts of beef, and choose round, chuck, sirloin and tenderloin (also the leanest when it comes to pork).
When using ground beef, always use 90% fat-free or higher. Also look for “choice” or “select” on the label rather than “prime,” as that has more fat.
Remember, chicken, turkey and fish are always much healthier choices. Try to choose beef only once in awhile. Keep this in mind with fattier beef cuts like bacon and sausage.

4. Cook it right

  • Trim the fat: This includes the skin. When roasting poultry, it’s fine to leave the skin on. Remember to remove the skin layer before you put it on the plate.
  • Low-fat cooking methods: Steaming, grilling, poaching, baking and broiling keep the fat off. Sautéing or frying in oil (even olive oil) dramatically increases the fat content. How you cook a healthy meal changes its amount of calories.
  • Use marinades: This will tenderize the meat and add any flavor that may have been lost by removing the fat.
  • Skim and drain: If marinating or cooking meat in liquid (such as soups or stews), let the meat soak for a day or so. Then, skim off the fat prior to cooking. After cooking, drain or pat off the fat to cut down on the calories even more.
  • Use spices: Lightly seasoning lean meats with rosemary, sage, thyme or any of your favorite spices helps add flavor while keeping fat, salts and sugar low.

5. Don’t forget other sources of protein

Remember, beans, nuts, tofu, seitan, tempeh and whole grains such as quinoa can be great sources of protein. There are some great brands of meatless “chicken” nuggets, patties, meatballs and ground meat substitutes.

6. Check out our lean meat recipe section

Our lean meat recipe section has some yummy ideas.