Can you eat meat and lose weight? Yes. Meat is not as bad as many people are led to believe. It is a weight-loss-friendly food because of its high protein and low raw calorie content. You only need to identify the right type of meat to consume. Lean meats for weight loss are your best healthy alternatives.
Most weight loss diets discourage the consumption of meat due to various reasons such as increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease (42). However, meat has nutrients required in the growth, maintenance, and repair of body tissue. It contains proteins, heme irons, and micronutrients like selenium, zinc, and B-12 that are useful in the body (21). Therefore, if you love the taste of meat in your mouth, you can still lose weight by choosing healthy alternatives, particularly the lean meats.
Diabetes.co.uk defines lean meats as those that are relatively lower in fats and calories than the conventional meats (24). They are packed with satiating, muscle-building protein despite their low calorific value. USDA defines lean as having 4.5 grams or fewer of saturated fat, less than 10 grams of total fats, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 100-grams of cooked beef serving. Extra lean has 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
What Are The Best Lean Meats For Weight Loss?
When on a low-carb diet, fatty meats are often recommended. However, lean meats are best if you are on a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet (17). Recommended lean meats for weight loss include meats from free range animals. These are considered by many to be healthier than the factory farmed ones that are raised in confinement.
The organic and grass-fed meats have a little more of the natural anti-inflammatories, omega-3 fatty acids. Animals raised for organic meat graze in open pasture, consume 100% organic forage and feed, and are not injected with copious amounts of antibiotics or hormones. In addition to this, grass fed meats have more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that has been associated with improved body composition and weight loss (14). Here are the best lean meats to eat for lunch for weight loss, as well as dinner:
1. Grass-Fed Beef
Meat from cattle has the high-quality proteins and essential amino acids needed for a strong and healthy body. Compared to conventionally raised meat, grass fed beef is naturally leaner with fewer calories and more omega-3 fatty acids. Sirloin steak is one of the leanest cuts of all beef cuts. Others include top round, loin, brisket flat-half, and flank steak (11).
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Poultry has less fats and more proteins compared to red meat. However, red meat has more zinc, iron, selenium, and B vitamins. An analysis done by Silliker Inc. laboratory established that organic free-range chicken has lower fat content than caged chicken when skin is not removed. However, when skin was removed, the fat content was similar (27).
This proves that skinless chicken breast is the leanest cut of chicken with lower calories and high protein per gram. Other leanest parts of the chicken are breast tenderloins. Alternatively, you can go for thighs or drumsticks which are cheaper than the breasts. They contain the same amount of protein as skinless chicken breast, but have slightly more in saturated fats and more unsaturated fats.
Chicken breasts are very easy to cook and because they have no bones, you can cut them and roast with herbs and spices, or put them in salad or soup after stir frying. You can glaze, marinate, or stuff this lean meat as long as you avoid additives that will interfere with its natural nutritional content.
3. Pork Tenderloin
Pork fat is the 8th among the100 most nutritious foods listed by BBC (37). The fat in pork contains more unsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids) than lamb and beef. It also contains more of the monounsaturated fat oleic acid that is ready to be used by the body.
Tenderloin is one of the leanest cuts of pork. Based on a study done by scientists at the USDA, University of Maryland and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it was established that 3 ounce serving of pork tenderloin has slightly less fat than a skinless chicken breast i.e 2.98 g for tenderloin and 3.03 g for chicken breast (26).
Another research study published in Nutrients established that a diet rich in fresh lean pork can result in significant reduction in weight, % body fat, waist circumference, fat mass, BMI, and belly fat, with no reduction in muscle mass (16). This may be because the amino acid profile of pork protein results in greater fat burning (5). Other lean pork cuts are pork (loin) chops and pork top loin or sirloin roasts.
4. White-Fleshed Fish
White-fleshed fish are super lean and an excellent source of lean protein. They include cod, pollock, haddock, flounder, tilapia, halibut, Monkfish, bream, mullet, and plaice among others (9). Usually, they have 10–25% as much omega-3 fat as higher-calorie, higher-fat, darker-fleshed fish such as coho or sockeye salmon.
5. Salmon And Other Fatty Fish
Loaded with healthy fats, high-quality protein, and a number of essential nutrients, this fatty fish is very healthy and satisfying, making you feel full for a longer period with fewer calories. Generally, seafood has significant amounts of iodine that is required for proper functioning of the thyroid for optimum metabolism (20). Also, omega-3 fatty acids in salmon help reduce inflammation that is associated with metabolic disease and obesity (4). Other types of fatty fish for weight loss include sardines, trout, mackerel, and herring.
This is a high-protein low-calorie food. Being a lean fish, it is low in fats, making it an excellent weight-loss option for you to increase protein intake while minimizing total fats and calories.
You can eat tuna straight from the can, make tuna patties, top them onto sprout crackers, or make a healthy tuna salad.
One single 3-ounce serving of rabbit contributes just 3-grams of fat and contains just 147 calories, making it one of the leanest meats that you will come across. With 28-grams of protein, the nutrient composition of rabbit meat makes it perfect for losing weight and building muscle.
It mostly comes from deer and has much less fat than that of rabbits. However, it has fewer calories than rabbit and slightly fewer proteins. You can add stew and casseroles to make it good and tender, or tenderize it before cooking. It is a great substitute for beef because it tastes like red meat.
78% of the calories in pheasant are attributed to pure protein. Only 22% comes from fat. Pheasants can be roasted or cooked slowly in a stew. Due to the low-fat content, they must be wrapped with bacon or rubbed with lard before roasting so that they do not become too hard.
If you cannot go without red meat, then ostrich meat is your best alternative. It tastes so much like beef but has less fat than chicken or turkey. One serving of ostrich has 200% of the daily recommended vitamin B-12. Choline in ostrich helps in fat loss.
11. Frozen Shrimp
High amounts of sodium are added to shrimp during processing. Select frozen shrimp with only natural sodium of around 120–220 mg per 100-gram serving.
Bison, which is naturally grass-fed, has half the fat and fewer calories than red meat.
Bison cooks fast and when cooked in high temperatures or for too long, it becomes tough. Vitamin B-12 in buffalo meat will boost your energy and minimize the risk of insulin resistance. Bison has a less inflammatory fat profile (39).
Other than chicken, the other white-meat poultry is turkey. The high content of DHA omega-3 acids in turkey may boost brain function, improve your mood and turn off fat genes, preventing fat cells from growing in size. Ground turkey is a valued alternative to ground beef, and it can be included in burger, tacos, and soups.
Table showing some nutrients in 100grams of best lean meats to eat for weight loss:
|Lean meat||Water (g)||Energy (kcal)||Protein (g)||Total lipid (fat) (g)||Calcium (mg)||Iron (mg)||Magnesium (mg)||Phosphorus (mg)||Potassium (mg)||Sodium (mg)||Zinc (mg)||Selenium (mg)||Choline, total (mg)||Vitamin B-12 (µg)||Fatty acids, total saturated (g)||Fatty acids, total monounsaturated (g)|
|Chicken, chicken roll, roasted||63.54||189||28.81||7.38||15||1.21||25||194||242||241||2.09||21.9||78.5||0.33||2.032||2.649|
|Pork, tenderloin, baked||66.87||154||26.9||4.33||0.99||31||323||536||594||2.35||0.123||43.9||103.7||0.62||1.444||1.656|
|Fish, haddock, smoked||71.48||116||25.23||0.96||49||1.4||54||251||415||763||0.5||42.9||92.3||1.6||0.173||0.157|
|Salmon, steamed or poached||68.39||160||25.78||5.53||9||0.48||31||295||391||407||0.49||39.5||119||4.44||1.019||1.695|
|Tuna, canned, water pack||78.14||86||19.44||0.96||17||1.63||23||139||179||247||0.69||70.6||29.3||2.55||0.211||0.107|
|Rabbit, wild, cooked||61.11||172||32.88||3.5||18||4.83||31||239||342||207||2.37||15.1||129.4||6.48||1.046||0.946|
|Pheasant, cooked, total edible||54.2||239||32.4||12.1||16||1.43||22||242||271||43||1.37||20.7||85.8||0.72||3.908||5.627|
Health Benefits Of Lean Meats
Reasonable quantities of meat are good for you. Benefits of lean meats are:
● They digest faster than most foods. In particular, shellfish and fish digest quickly, followed by chicken, beef, and lastly pork.
● Lean red meats are a great source of zinc, iron, and B12. For instance, iron, which encourages healthy red blood production and prevents anemia, is necessary for infants, adolescent girls and menstruating women, expectant women, and endurance athletes.
● They contain essential nutrients. For instance, selenium in poultry boosts the immune system and has antioxidant properties that help prevent free radicals from damaging cells. Choline in some lean meats helps reduce inflammation and in nerve functioning.
● CLA in grass-fed meats is converted to weight loss supplements because though to a small extent, it may help reduce body fat levels (14).
● Eating fish more than once a week may help reduce the risk of developing dementia in older adults.
Side Effects Of Consuming Meat
Excessive meat consumption is unhealthy. Risks of lean meats include:
● Free range animals might carry more bacterial infections that can lead to diseases.
● Pig factory farms use excessive antibiotics. These can lead to development of “superbugs” in humans that can cause antibiotic resistance which results in conditions such as UTI (7).
● Salmonella bacteria can cause food poisoning (34).
● They provide some levels of purines which may increase the chances of gout in susceptible individuals (24).
Lean Meats And Veggies For Weight Loss Recipe
Here is a lean meat and vegetables recipe example from Women’s Health Magazine for dinner:
Turkey Carrot Mushroom Dumplings
One serving of this meal contains:
● Calories- 48
● Fat- 1 g
● Protein- 3 g
● Carbs- 4 g
● Sodium- 87 mg
● 1 lb ground turkey
● 1/2 cup mushrooms finely chopped
● 3/4 cup carrots finely julienned
● 1 teaspoon rice wine
● 2 teaspoons soy sauce
● 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
● 2 teaspoon cornstarch
● 1 teaspoon sesame oil
● 1/8 teaspoon salt
● 30 dumpling wrappers
1. Put water in a microwavable bowl, then add carrots and cover. Cook for 3 minutes or until tender, drain the water and let the carrots cool.
2. Transfer the carrots to a larger bowl, then mix with mushrooms, turkey, rice wine, soy sauce, onion powder, sesame oil, salt and cornstarch. Stir until they mix well.
3. Using a round teaspoon, scoop the mixture and fill the dumpling wrapper, then seal. Repeat until all wrappers are filled.
4. Boil water in a steamer pot, then place the dumplings in a parchment paper-lined steamer. Steam for about 15 minutes for the dumplings to cook well.
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Important Things To Note
● Always consider where the meat is coming from. Though expensive, it is advisable to go for organic meat.
● Always select beef cuts that have a lower amount of saturated fats per serving. Also, it is recommended that before eating, trim the fat from the edges of the meat to enjoy more proteins and fewer fats. Some people do not trim the fats before cooking because they add flavor.
● Cooking meat properly can help mitigate a number of health risks. For this reason, cook meat at the right temperatures to kill parasites and bacteria like salmonella and trichinosis. Leaner meats like rabbit and venison cook slowly, therefore cook them nice and slow.
● Processed and flavored pork contains high amounts of added sodium, therefore select unprocessed pork. This applies to other meats as well.
● Removing skin in both chicken breasts and drumsticks encourages consumption of lesser fats. Also, buy chicken from cruelty-free farms because the stress level of chicken at the time of slaughtering can affect its protein expression.
● As much as skinless chicken is healthier, cooking with fatty skin may be a better alternative when using high heat, as vegetable oil can become carcinogenic at high temperatures. Also, cooking with skin makes the meat moister (39).
● Proper handling of raw chicken and maintaining good food hygiene can help prevent the risk of salmonella.
● Rabbit should be taken as part of a balanced diet because it is so low in fat that if eaten alone over a period of time, can cause rabbit starvation.
● Always go for tuna that is canned in water and not oil for weight loss.
● Cured pork variations such as ham and bacon contains nitrate and related preservatives that are associated with cancer, so avoid.
● The risk of contracting mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) that results in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD are minimal. This is because the United States Department of Agriculture mandates that all spinal cord and brain materials are removed from high-risk cattle.
1. How Much Protein To Lose Weight?
A healthy adult should get 10-35 percent of their calories from protein (22). Protein intake for weight loss depends on how much you weigh and your physical activity. For instance, if you exercise at a moderate level, then you should consume between a half and ¾ of a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (23).
2. Is Ground Beef Healthy?
Lean ground beef is healthier than the conventional minced meat. It contains high-quality protein, and you just need a little of it to gain the nutrients (9). It also has other healthy nutrients such as zinc, iron, and vitamin B12. It is recommended that you pay attention to the portion size by taking ground beef with beans or grated vegetables.
In as much as digestion is not affected significantly by whether meat was grass-fed or grain-fed, chicken was free or caged, there is a difference in digestion when it comes to ground beef and steak. In a 2013 study done in older men, it was established that minced beef is digested and absorbed faster than beef steak (25). This leads to an increase in the availability of amino acids, as well as greater postprandial retention of protein. Always go for 95% lean ground beef (39).
3. Does Protein Make You Fat?
As much as foods that are high in proteins are weight-loss-friendly because this nutrient is the most filling, too much protein intake for a long period of time results in weight gain because when excess proteins are consumed, they are stored as fat (8). Therefore, only consume the right amounts of proteins for weight loss, and healthy meats with lean fat mentioned above.
Completely cutting out meat intake for weight loss may be unhealthy because these foods are rich in nutrients. The trick is to be intentional and to balance out your nutritional requirements based on your diet. If you are not allergic to any of the lean meats for weight loss above, you can incorporate them in your healthy weight loss journey after getting approval from your dietician or general physician.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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29. Pheasant, cooked, total edible (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
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31. Pork, tenderloin, baked (2020, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
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34. Salmonella Food Poisoning (2019, healthline.com)
35. Shrimp, canned (2020, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
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38. TOP 5 LEAN MEATS FOR WEIGHT LOSS AND MUSCLE GROWTH (2016, spaexperience.org.uk)
39. Top 13 Lean Protein Foods You Should Eat (2018, healthline.com)
40. Tuna, canned, water pack (2020, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
41. Turkey, canned (2020, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
43. Venison/deer, cured (2020, fdc.nal.usda.gov)