Making the Healthy Cut: Fish, Poultry and Lean Meats

Updated:Jun 25,2015

lean raw chickenWhile your dinner plate should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry add delicious flavor and can provide lean protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins. Protein may help 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 skinless poultry and fish cooked using healthier methods. If you choose to eat red meat, select the leanest cuts available.


  • Healthiest choices are:
    • Skinless chicken and skinless turkey with visible fat removed
    • Lean ground turkey or chicken – Be sure to read the labels as some ground turkey can add saturated fat to your diet. Choose at least 90% or 95% lean.
    • Wild game can be 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 and all visible fat before cooking.
    • Even better, buy an entire chicken or turkey and cut apart the pieces yourself. Choose birds that have not been injected with anything.

Pork & Beef

  • If you choose to eat red meat, select the leanest cuts available.
  • A portion of meat should be 3 ounces cooked (4 ounces uncooked). This is about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.
  • Instead of frying, prepare lean 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.
  • 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 © 2015 American Heart Association. This recipe/article 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

Last reviewed 6/2015