Choosing the Right Meats

Related To:

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

Keep Reading

Next Up

Fermented Fundamentals

Fermentation is the latest DIY food trend to hit the mainstream. It may seem complicated, but it doesn't have to be. Follow these tips for homemade yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and more.

How to Roast Peppers: A Step-by-Step Guide

Tasty, versatile roasted peppers are a snap when you follow these easy tips.

Take the Right Temperature

Hot Tips from Food Network Kitchens' Katherine Alford: To check a steak for doneness, insert a thermometer into the side, not the top. Aim the tip of the thermometer toward the center of the meat.

Grill Veggies Right

Hot Tips From Food Network Kitchens' Katherine Alford: You don't need a special basket to grill vegetables.

The New Age of Potato Salad: 7 Ways to Do It Up Right

Never gloopy, these new-age picks — each with its own flavor-boosting edge — deserve a spot on your cookout menu, starting now.

The Secret to Kid-Friendly Meat? Easy Marinades — Get the Recipes

One mom shares two tried-and-true marinades for simple, flavorful meat that her children adore.

How to Master Meat: Chef Tim Love's Tips and Advice for a Scorching July 4th Cookout

Hear from Chef Tim Love, a judge on Chopped Grill Masters, for his hot new grilling tips just in time for the 4th of July.

VOTE: Star vs. Chopped Healthy Appetizer Showdown

This week, lightened-up appetizers are on the menu. Aarti Sequeira and Alex Guarnaschelli are facing off with their best flavor-packed, better-for-you party starters. Whose will you serve at your next summer party?

Latest Stories