Meat & Poultry That Makes the Healthy Cut

Updated:Nov 14,2014

lean raw chickenWhile half of a dinner plate should be covered in fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry add delicious flavor and are important sources of lean protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins. Protein helps people feel full and satisfied until the next meal. Protein is essential for building muscle and keeping strong – especially as a person ages. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 6 ounces, cooked per day of lean meat or poultry without skin.

So, to pick a perfect portion of lean protein to fill ¼ of your plate, follow these tips:

Poultry: Chicken, Turkey & Birds

  • Healthiest choices are:
    • Skinless chicken and skinless turkey – the majority of the fat is in the skin
    • Lean ground turkey or chicken – Be sure to read the labels as some ground turkey has a lot of fat in it. Choose at least 90% or 95% lean.
    • In some areas of the country, wild game such as pheasant, duck and goose are available; wild versions are much lower in fat than animals raised for market.
  • Budget Tips:
    • Buy chicken or turkey parts with skin-on or bone-in, which tend to be less expensive. Just remove the skin before cooking.
    • Even better, buy an entire chicken or turkey and cut apart the pieces yourself. Choose whole turkeys that have not been injected with fats or broths.

Meat: Pork & Beef

  • A 3-ounce cooked (4-ounce uncooked) piece of meat is a healthy portion size; this is similar to the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.
  • Instead of frying, prepare meats by baking, broiling, roasting or stir-frying.
  • Healthiest choices are:
    • Beef and pork labeled “loin” and “round” – they usually have the least fat
    • Use “choice” or “select” grades of beef rather than “prime,” and be sure to trim the fat off the edges before cooking.
    • For hamburgers or meatloaf, choose 95% extra lean ground beef. If you have to purchase ground beef that is 90% lean or less, pour off the fat after browning; to remove even more fat, place the meat in a colander and rinse under warm water.
  • Budget tip: The healthiest cuts of meat that are also the least expensive are beef sirloin, lean ground beef, flat-iron steak and bone-in-pork loin chops.

Article copyright © 2014 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.