Blog Weight Loss Food For Weight Loss Lean Meats for Weight Loss: Staying on Track with Your Fitness Goals Without Sacrificing Flavor

Lean Meats for Weight Loss: Staying on Track with Your Fitness Goals Without Sacrificing Flavor

Can you eat meat and lose weight? Yes. Meat may not be as bad as many people believe. It is a weight-loss-friendly food due to its high protein and low raw calorie content. You must identify the right type of meat to consume. Lean meats for weight loss are your best healthy alternatives.

Most weight loss diets discourage meat consumption due to various reasons such as increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease (42). However, meat contains nutrients that are required in the growth, maintenance, and repair of body tissue. It contains proteins, heme irons, and micronutrients such as selenium, zinc, and B-12 that are useful in the body (21). Therefore, if you love the taste of meat, you can lose weight by choosing healthy alternatives in appropriate portion sizes, particularly lean meats.

What Is Lean Meat? defines lean meats as those that are relatively low in fats and calories(24). They’re packed with satiating, muscle-building protein despite their low calorific value. USDA defines lean meat 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 serving. Extra-lean meat has 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

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What Are the Best Lean Meats for Weight Loss?

When you’re on a low-carb diet, fatty meats are sometimes recommended to make up for the calories that carbohydrates would normally provide. However, lean meats are best if you’re on a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet (17). Recommended lean meats for weight loss include meats from free-range animals. They are considered by many to be more humane than factory-farmed meats.

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Grass-fed meats are believed to have a little more of the natural anti-inflammatories, omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, grass-fed meats have more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that may have modest effects on weight loss (14). Here are the best lean meats to eat for weight loss: 

1. Grass-fed beef

Meat from cattle has the high-quality proteins and essential amino acids that are required for a strong and healthy body. In comparison to conventionally raised meat, grass-fed beef is believed to be 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).

2. Chicken

Poultry has less fats and more proteins than red meat. However, red meat has more zinc, iron, selenium, and B vitamins. An analysis performed in Canada by Silliker Inc. laboratory found organic free-range chicken to have lower fat content than caged chicken when the skin is not removed. However, when the skin was removed, the fat content was found to be similar (27).

This suggests that skinless chicken breast is the leanest cut of chicken with lower calories and high protein per gram. Other lean parts of the chicken are breast tenderloins. Alternatively, you can opt for thighs or drumsticks, which are cheaper than breasts. They contain the same amount of protein as skinless chicken breasts, but have slightly more saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Removing the skin helps reduce the fat content, regardless of the cut.

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Boneless chicken breasts are incredibly easy to cook and as they have no bones, you can cut them and roast them with herbs and spices, or put them in salad or soup after stir-frying. You can glaze, marinate, or stuff this lean meat in many different ways. 

lean meats for weight loss  

 3. Pork tenderloin

Pork fat is eighth on the 100 most nutritious foods listed by BBC (37). The fat in pork contains more unsaturated fats than lamb and beef. It also contains more of the monounsaturated fat oleic acid that’s one of the healthy fats that is also found in olive oil..

Tenderloin is one of the leanest cuts of pork. Based on a study by scientists at the USDA, University of Maryland, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it was established that a 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).

Further research published in Nutrients established that a diet that is rich in fresh lean pork can result in a significant reduction in weight, body fat, waist circumference, fat mass, BMI, and belly fat, with no reduction in muscle mass (16). Other lean pork cuts include pork (loin) chops, pork top loin, and 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, and mullet (9). They usually have 10–25% as much omega-3 fat as higher-calorie, higher-fat, darker-fleshed fish such as coho or sockeye salmon.

Read more: How to Make the Perfect Keto Taco With Multiple Stuffings, Shells, and Meats Variations

5.  Salmon and other fatty fish

Loaded with healthy fats, high-quality protein, and a number of essential nutrients, this fatty fish is incredibly healthy and satisfying, and makes 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). In addition, omega-3 fatty acids in salmon may 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.

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6. Tuna

This is a high-protein, low-calorie food. As a lean fish, it is low in fats, which makes 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, eat it with whole grain crackers, or make a healthy tuna salad.

7.  Rabbit

One 3-ounce serving of rabbit contributes just 3 grams of fat and contains 147 calories, which makes it one of the leanest meats you’ll come across. With 28 grams of protein, the nutrient composition of rabbit meat makes it perfect for losing weight and building muscle. 

8. Venison

This mostly comes from deer and contains much less fat than rabbits. However, it has fewer calories than rabbit and slightly fewer proteins. You can add it to stews and casseroles to make it good and tender, or tenderize it before cooking. It’s a great substitute for beef. 

9. Pheasant

Around 70% of the calories in pheasant are pure protein and only about 24% comes from fat. Pheasant can be roasted or cooked slowly in a stew. Due to the low fat content, it is often wrapped with bacon or rubbed with lard before roasting so it doesn’t become too hard. 

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10. Ostrich

If you can’t go without red meat, ostrich meat is a great alternative. It tastes so much like beef but has less fat than chicken or turkey. One serving of ostrich has over 200% of the daily recommended vitamin B-12. 

lean meats for weight loss

11. Frozen shrimp

Shrimp is an excellent source of lean protein. It also thaws and cooks quickly for when you’re in a hurry or haven’t planned ahead. High amounts of sodium are sometimes added to shrimp during processing. Choose frozen shrimp with only natural sodium of around 120–220 mg per 100-gram serving.

12. Buffalo /bison

Bison, which is most often grass-fed, contains fewer calories and fat than beef.

It cooks fast and when it is cooked in high temperatures or for too long, it becomes tough. Bison also typically has a less inflammatory fat profile (39).

13. Turkey

The only other lean white-meat poultry than chicken is turkey. Ground turkey is a valued alternative to ground beef and can be included in burgers, tacos, and soups. Turkey breast can also be sliced for sandwiches or chopped into a salad. 

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Nutrients in 100 grams of the best lean meats to eat for weight loss:

Lean meat Water (g) Energy (kcal) Protein (g) Total lipid (fat) (g)
Bison 65.09 179 25.45 8.62
Ground beef 56.32 260 25.54 16.82
Chicken, chicken roll, roasted 63.54 189 28.81 7.38
Pork, tenderloin, baked 66.87 154 26.9 4.33
Fish, haddock, smoked 71.48 116 25.23 0.96
Salmon, steamed or poached 68.39 160 25.78 5.53
Tuna, canned, water pack 78.14 86 19.44 0.96
Rabbit, wild, cooked 61.11 172 32.88 3.5
Venison/deer, cured 57.86 187 35.11 4.08
Pheasant, cooked, total edible 54.2 239 32.4 12.1
Ostrich, cooked 66.56 174 25.93 7.01
Shrimp, canned 75.85 100 20.42 1.36
Turkey, canned 64.9 185 25.3 8.1

Health Benefits of Lean Meats

Reasonable quantities of meat are good for you. The benefits of lean meats include:

  • They’re a good protein source with fewer calories and saturated fat than non-lean meats (24).
  • Lean red meats are an excellent source of zinc, iron, and B12. For example, iron, which encourages healthy red blood production and prevents anemia, is necessary for everyone but particularly infants, adolescent girls, menstruating women, expectant women, and endurance athletes.
  • They contain essential nutrients. For example, selenium in poultry supports the immune system and has antioxidant properties that help prevent free radicals from damaging cells. Choline in some lean meats helps with brain and nervous system functioning.
  • CLA in grass-fed meats is often marketed in weight loss supplements because, as it can help reduce body fat levels to a certain extent (14).
  • Eating fish more than once a week may help reduce the risk of developing dementia in older adults.
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Side Effects of Consuming Meat

Excessive meat consumption can be unhealthy. The risks of lean meats include:

  • Conventional farms may use antibiotics. These can contribute to the development of “superbugs” that can cause antibiotic-resistant infections (7).
  • Salmonella, E. coli, or other pathogens can cause food poisoning if meats are not cooked thoroughly (34).
  • They provide some levels of purines that may increase the chances of gout in susceptible individuals (24).

Read more: Your Guide to Cauliflower Steak: The Perfect Meatless Dish for Meat Lovers


  • How much protein do I need to lose weight?

A healthy adult should get 10-35 percent of their calories from protein (22). Protein intake for weight loss is dependent on factors such as how much you weigh and your physical activity. For example, if you exercise at a moderate level, some sources say you should consume between ½ and ¾ grams of protein per pound of body weight (23).

  • Is ground beef healthy?

Lean ground beef is healthier than fattier minced meats. It contains high-quality protein and you only need a little of it to gain the nutrients (9). It also contains other healthy nutrients such as zinc, iron, and vitamin B12. It is recommended that you pay attention to the portion size.

Digestion is not significantly affected by whether meat is grass-fed or grain-fed or whether chicken is free or caged, but there is a difference in digestion when it comes to the physical form such as ground beef and steak. In a 2013 study of 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, in addition to greater postprandial retention of protein, but it does not affect rates of muscle protein synthesis. Always opt for 95% lean ground beef (39).

  • Does Protein Make You Fat?

Foods that are high in proteins are weight-loss-friendly as this nutrient is the most filling, but too much protein intake for a long period of time will result in weight gain because when excess proteins are consumed, they’re either burned for energy or stored as fat (8). Therefore, you should try to consume the right amounts of proteins for weight loss and the healthy meats with lean fat that are mentioned above.

The Bottom Line

Completely stopping your meat intake for weight loss may be less than ideal as these foods are rich in nutrients. The trick is to be intentional and balance out your nutritional requirements based on your diet.  If you’re not allergic to any of the above lean meats for weight loss and you don’t need to limit your meat or protein intake for medical reasons, you can include them in your healthy weight loss journey. You should talk to your healthcare provider for more individualized advice. 


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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