Choosing the Right Meats

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Grilling is one of the lightest ways to cook, but to keep it that way, you want to pick leaner meats. Find out which cuts to look for.

Leaner Cuts
First off, here are the cuts you should be looking for:

  • Poultry: Skinless, white-meat chicken or turkey; ground turkey breast
  • Beef: Flank steak, top loin, sirloin, porterhouse, T-bone steak and tenderloin; 90% lean ground beef
  • Veal: Any trimmed cut
  • Pork: Pork chops or tenderloin
  • Lamb: Look for the word “loin”
  • Game: Rabbit and buffalo
  • Game birds: Pheasant, quail and ostrich

The American Heart Association certifies many cuts of beef and pork as low in fat and saturated fat. When browsing the meat aisle, check packaging for their symbol. Also, fish is a lean protein. While not technically "meat," you might try salmon, tuna, mahi mahi, halibut or tilapia — all sturdy enough for grilling.

The Calories and Fat
Think about it — you choose a lower-fat cut, but eat 10 or 12 ounces of it. That sabotages your healthy efforts. Aim for 3 to 4 ounces per serving — that's about the size of your palm or your smartphone.

You may see “lean” or “extra lean” on some meats. According to guidelines, meats marked “lean” must contain less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5 ounces. Meats labeled “extra lean” contain less than 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol. But be careful when grilling up anything that's "extra lean" — it may turn out rubbery or dried out. Here’s a colorful chart comparing 26 cuts of lean beef; remember, not all cuts are great for grilling.

More Tips
When shopping, look for meats that have the least amount of visible fat. If the cut is marbled, that means it's streaked with fat. For burgers, remember that ground turkey or chicken can have as much fat as ground beef because they often have a mix of dark meat and skin. Make sure you pick ground breast meat — or look for low-fat ground chicken or turkey.

Other Benefits
Not only are lean meats better for you, but they're better for your grill too. Fatty meats drip more and can cause more flare-ups, which can, in turn, burn your foods. Grease dripping on your grill also wears out the grill's metal parts faster.

Recipes to try:

Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is a frequent contributor to Food Network's Healthy Eats blog

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