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Making the Healthy Cut: Fish, Poultry and Lean Meats

lean raw chicken

While 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.
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Last reviewed 6/2015

*All health/medical information on this website has been reviewed and approved by the American Heart Association, based on scientific research and American Heart Association guidelines. Use this link for more information on our content editorial process.