More Deliciously Healthy Ways to Cook with Ground Meat

stuffed peppers


Food Styling: Maggie Ruggiero Prop Styling: Pam Morris

Photo by: Anna Williams

Anna Williams

Here's your guide to healthiest ground meat picks.


High in protein and iron, beef is arguably the most popular choice. Ninety-seven percent lean may appear to be the best choice, but cutting all of the fat will also slash too much of the flavor. Ninety percent lean offers a nice balance, providing good flavor without going overboard on calories. A 3-ounce cooked portion (about the size of a smartphone) contains 180 calories, 3 grams saturated fat, 21 grams of protein and 12 percent of the daily requirement for iron.

Best uses: tacos, burgers, Sloppy Joes, Mini Meatballs

Lamb is chock-full of B vitamins and has amazing flavor. It's a little higher in fat and calories, so use in recipes where a little can go a long way. A 3-ounce cooked portion contains 241 calories, 7 grams of saturated fat, 21 grams of protein and 8 percent of daily iron.

Best uses: ragus and meat sauce, Meatball Sliders

This once unheard-of meat became a favorite of chefs and home cooks alike as a tasty and lower fat alternative to beef. Grass-fed bison may also be a smart choice. That same 3-ounce cooked portion has 152 calories, 3 grams saturated fat, 22 grams of protein and 15 percent daily iron.

Best uses: chili, burgers, Slimmed-Down Patty Melt

Switching to poultry may seem like a no-brainer, but buyer beware: Packages labeled "ground turkey" can have just as much (if not more) fat as fatty cuts of red meat. Choose ground breast meat to ensure there's no dark meat or skin added to the mix. In 3 ounces of cooked ground turkey breast there are 120 calories, less than 1 gram saturated fat, 26 grams of protein and 2 percent iron.

Best uses: meatloaf, goulash, Turkey Burgers, Turkey-and-Rice Stuffed Peppers (above, from Food Network Magazine)


As with turkey, ground breast meat is the way to go. Ground chicken can dry out quickly, so use it in the right type of recipes to prevent it from getting tough and chewy. A 3-ounce portion contains 120 calories, less than 1 gram saturated fat, 23 grams of protein and 6 percent iron.

Best uses: Game Time Chili, tacos, burritos

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

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