What Is a Healthy Cut of Meat?

  • steak
    Making Choices
    Beef, poultry, pork or lamb. Prime, select or choice. Skinless, boneless, breast or thigh. The number of options when choosing meat can be dizzying. You know this food group provides important nutrients for your health, but how can you make the healthiest choices?

  • roasted-turkey-in-oven
    Protein, Iron, and Vitamins
    Meat and poultry supply many important nutrients your body needs, including protein, iron, and vitamins. Proteins help build up bones, blood, muscle and skin. Iron aids in carrying oxygen in your blood. Vitamins play all sorts of roles—serving the nervous system, building tissue, helping create red blood cells, and more.

  • Choose Safe Foods
    Meat's Downside
    The downside to meat is that some types can be high in saturated fat, which can raise the level of "bad" (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) cholesterol in your blood. High amounts of this type of cholesterol can up your risk for coronary heart disease. That’s why it’s important to stick to the recommended amounts for this food group. Recommendations vary by age, sex, and how much physical activity you get.

  • Meat
    Use Your Marbles
    So what’s a healthy cut of meat? Your best bet is to opt for the leanest cuts. In beef this means round steaks and roasts, top sirloin, top loin, and chuck shoulder. Buy cuts with very little marbling (white tracks of fat inside the muscle). Prime grade beef has the most marbling, choice beef has less, and select beef has the least.

  • fresh raw pork tenderloin on wooden cutting board
    Opt for Lean
    Hungry for the “other white meat?” The leanest cuts of pork are tenderloin, pork loin, center loin, and ham.

  • Ground beef
    Look at the Fat Percentage
    When making hamburgers or spaghetti with meatballs, go for extra lean ground beef. Look for a label boasting at least 90% lean—93% to 95% lean ground beef is even better.

  • chicken-breasts-on-pan
    Shed Your Skin
    Picking poultry? Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and turkey cutlets are the best route to take. If you’re roasting a whole turkey or chicken, remember to remove the skin before serving.

  • girls-eating-lunch-at-school
    Lighten Up Lunch
    Meat tastes great on a sandwich—but stick to the leaner, low-fat lunch meats like turkey, roast beef, or ham instead of processed meats that are higher in fat, such as salami and bologna.

  • Steaks on grill
    Go Against the Grain
    Feeling exotic? Try something out of the ordinary like ostrich, buffalo or emu. They’re lower in both total and saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Plus, you get to brag that you’ve actually tried them!

  • plate of bbq chicken
    Hunt for Alternatives
    Game meats are usually lower in fat than other types of meat, so give venison, rabbit or pheasant a try.

  • A Nutrient-Dense Resource
    A Nutrient-Dense Resource
    Lamb is rich in protein and other nutrients and makes a great addition to a healthy diet. Lean lamb cuts include leg, arm, and loin.

  • Raw beef steaks
    Go Easy on Giblets
    A note on organ meats, such as liver or giblets: While these may be rich in vitamins and iron, they’re also extra high in cholesterol. It’s a good idea to enjoy these only occasionally.

  • grilled-chicken-skewers
    Cook Your Best
    Here are some other healthy tips to consider when eating meat and poultry:

    • Instead of frying, try broiling, grilling, roasting or boiling.

    • Skip the breading and the gravy, both of which elevate the calorie and fat count.

    • Drain any fat that accumulates while cooking.

What Is a Healthy Cut of Meat?

About The Author

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 10
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.