Lean Cuisine: The Best Meat Cuts for the Grill

by in Healthy Tips, May 18, 2009

Grilled Chicken
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” — they 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.

Cost Controls
Not sure what cuts are in your price range? Fresh direct, an online food delivery service, has a great chart that gives ballpark figures on your favorite beef, lamb and pork cuts.

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Comments (4)

  1. GlobalFit says:

    At my home, we love to grill veggies! Sometimes we marinate them and skewer them (cherry tomatoes, peppers, onion wedges, mushrooms, and squash are good). But some veggies, like portabellas or baby eggplants, are delicious brushed with just a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with pepper.

    We even make fruit kabobs for dessert! Grilled pineapple is a favorite.

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  4. tootsie says:

    Having researched the meat industry, healthy eating and specifically beef for awhile after a serious illness, I can tell that it does not matter on the cut of beef if we are eating grain-fed, commercial beef. Grain-fed beef – regardless of cut is loaded with antibiotics and growth hormones. In addition, being grain-fed the animal is unhealthy and sick. Ever since, I changed my eating habit to eating healthy, grass-fed beef I feel better. I purchase my beef from Waymae.com and sometime local farmers. We should be sharing with others about grass-fed beef, eating healthy to achieve a fuller life. Based on personal experience, I know that grass-fed beef is much better for me. I feel healthier eating it. I think this is more recipe oriented, but I think the type of beef is the key and not necessarily the cut.

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