Food & Nutrition

The 5 Best Meats to Eat—and 2 to Avoid

There’s one main tip that will make choosing what cut of meat to eat much easier.

Meat 101

hot grilled smokey sausages kabanos. perfect background. fastfood, grillbarNicholas Mihal/Shutterstock

Hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken fingers are some all-American meat products—but they’re not your best choices when it comes to meat. But you don’t have to cut out all meat to be healthy, according to Kris Sollid, RD, Senior Director, Nutrition Communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation. That protein meat provides is useful: “Meat can be part of a healthy diet just as a healthy diet can be meatless,” he says. “Whether you choose to eat meat or not is up to you.” It’s a key source of vitamins and minerals like B12 and iron. Malina Linkas Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommends balance when it comes to mat servings—most Americans eat more than they need. Malkani suggests filling a quarter of your plate with meat and the rest with cooked vegetables, whole grains, and other plant-based foods for a balanced meal.

Best overall: Lean cuts of meat

raw meat assortment - beef, lamb, chicken on a wooden boardDream79/Shutterstock

The overwhelming consensus from dietitians is to look for lean cuts of meat. Opt for servings that deliver less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5g or less of saturated fat, and less than 95mg of cholesterol per 100g, which is about 3.5 ounces, Sollid says. Malkani, also the creator of the Wholitarian ™Lifestyle, recommends trimming away any excess fat or skin as well as grilling, boiling, or roasting the meat to reduce the saturated fat content, too. Here are 7 things that happen when you don’t eat enough protein.

Best: Skinless, light turkey meat

Chicken fillet. meat factory of chicken products. Butcher work.Salov Evgeniy/Shutterstock

Turkey is one of the leaner proteins that’s also a great source of vitamin B6 and niacin, according to Sollid. These nutrients help support heart health, digestion, energy, brain function, and other bodily processes, reports Everyday Health and Healthline. While not as lean as other parts, turkey drumsticks and thighs are a good source of iron, too, Sollid says. Iron is key for metabolism and heart health and not getting enough in your diet could possibly lead to anemia. Here are 20 secrets your butcher won’t tell you about the best meats you can add to your plate.

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