Meat, Poultry and Fish

Updated:Feb 19,2014

Meat, Poultry and FishAHA Recommendation

  • Choose fish, shellfish, poultry without the skin, and trimmed lean meats, no more than 6 ounces, cooked, per day.
  • Enjoy at least 2 servings of baked or grilled fish each week, especially oily fish.
  • Choose low-sodium, low-fat seasonings such as spices, herbs and other flavorings in cooking and at the table.
  • Select meat substitutes such as dried beans, peas, lentils or tofu (soybean curd) in entrees, salads or soups.

Choose from

  • Fish and shellfish. Shrimp and crayfish are higher in cholesterol than most types of fish, but lower in saturated fat and total fat than most meats and poultry.
  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon. Some types of fish may contain high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants. Shark, swordfish, tilefish (golden bass or golden snapper) and king mackerel are examples. Women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or nursing — and young children — should avoid eating potentially contaminated fish.
  • Chicken and turkey (without skin); ground turkey.
  • Lean beef (round, sirloin, chuck, loin). Buy "choice" or "select" grades of beef rather than "prime."
  • Lean or extra lean ground beef (no more than 15% fat).
  • Lean veal (except commercially ground).
  • Lean ham, lean pork (tenderloin, loin chop). Ham and Canadian bacon are higher in sodium (salt) than other meats.
  • Lean lamb (leg, arm, loin).
  • Lean cuts of emu, buffalo and ostrich. These are very low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  • Wild game (rabbit, pheasant, venison, wild duck without skin). These usually have less fat than animals raised for market (duck, goose).
  • Processed sandwich meats (low-fat turkey, chicken, turkey ham, turkey pastrami or lean boiled ham). Check the amount of sodium; some have 25% or more of the daily value.

Shopping and preparation tips

  1. A 3-ounce cooked portion is about the size of a deck of cards. To help you judge serving sizes, a 3-ounce portion equals:
    • 1/2 of a chicken breast or a chicken leg with thigh (without skin)
    • 3/4 cup of flaked fish
    • 2 thin slices of lean roast beef (each slice 3" x 3" x 1/4")
  2. Choose cuts of meat that have the least amount of visible fat and trim this visible fat off of meats. Buy "choice " or " select " grades of beef rather than "prime."
  3. Instead of frying, prepare meats by baking, broiling, roasting, microwaving or stir-frying. Pour off the fat after browning.
  4. Remove the skin and fat under the skin before cooking poultry pieces. (The exception is when roasting a whole chicken or turkey. Remove the skin before carving and serving the meat.) Choose whole turkeys that have not been injected with fats or broths.
  5. Chill meat juices after cooking, so that you can easily skim off the hardened fat. Then you can add the juices to stews, soups and gravy.
  6. Look for frozen dinners and entries that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  7. A one-cup serving of cooked beans, peas or lentils, or soybean curd (tofu) can replace a 2-ounce serving of meat, poultry or fish.  Two ounces of peanut butter counts as 1 ounce of meat.
  8. Organ meats are very high in cholesterol. However, liver is rich in iron and vitamins. A small serving (3 ounces) is OK about once a month.
Note: Adults over age 50 should get vitamin B-12 from lean meat, fortified foods or vitamin supplements to meet the recommended intake of 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 per day.

Related AHA publications:

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