Beef for weight loss is an excellent source of protein and iron, both of which are essential for strong muscles. If you want to lose weight and eat healthily, a lean beef diet can help. The key is to choose cuts that are high in protein but low in fat and calories. Skip the round steak for roasts, chuck or flank steak for stew, sirloin, and tenderloin for grilling or stir-frying.
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Trying to Lose Weight? Here Are 5 types of meat to Enjoy and 3 to Avoid
Lean cuts of pork, like the tenderloin, serve up the protein with fewer calories, making them a good choice for weight loss.
When it comes to losing weight, getting a handle on how many calories you’re eating is important, but so is making sure you’re getting an appropriate balance of carbs, fat, and protein.
The latter is one reason why meat can support your weight-loss goals — it’s a stellar source of protein. This macronutrient is important when you’re looking to shed fat because it helps maintain your lean muscle mass, according to a March 2020 study in The Journal of Nutrition. Your muscle tissue is more metabolically active than your fat stores, so maintaining lean muscle mass while losing weight will help keep your resting metabolic rate up (aka help you burn more calories).
Also, compared to the other two macros — fat and carbs — protein is the most satiating, according to an April 2015 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article.
There are different ways to meet your protein needs — you don’t have to rely on meat. Healthy plant-based protein sources include tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, seeds, and even whole grains.
That said, if you’re partial to meat, some options are better for weight loss than others.
If you’re losing weight, you should aim for 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day (keeping in mind that a kilogram equals 2.2 pounds), according to a December 2019 Advances in Nutrition review. For a 200-pound person, that’s about 118 grams.
5 types of meat to Eat When You’re Trying to Lose Weight
Opt for white over dark turkey meat for a better protein bang for your buck.
1. Lean Beef
Red meat contains saturated fat, but there are leaner cuts you can enjoy in moderation, including sirloin steak, tenderloin, and lean ground beef. For example, a 3-ounce cooked portion of 95-percent lean ground beef has 150 calories and 23 grams of protein, per the USDA.
So what does “in moderation” mean? For cancer prevention, The World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting yourself to three portions a week (reminder: one portion is about 3 ounces, cooked). On average, we currently eat just over this at 3.5 ounces per day, according to the American Heart Association.
2. Skinless Chicken
Skinless chicken breast can be one of the leanest sources of protein. The key is choosing white meat (over dark), which you can find in the breast, tenders, and wings.
A 3-ounce serving of cooked chicken breast has 135 calories and 28 grams of protein, per the USDA. It also has ample amounts of phosphorus, selenium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and choline.
Remember, remove the skin before eating and avoid dark meat, which you’ll find in the thigh or drumstick.
Seafood and fish can be nutrient-rich sources of protein but you’ll want to be cautious of healthier options that are low in mercury and are sustainable for our planet.
Clams, mussels, and oysters are excellent choices because they’re typically low in mercury, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. What’s unique about mollusks is that they’re especially good for our waters because they help keep it clean by filtering out heavy metals and other biological matter. When farm-raised on ropes, they don’t require feed and the harvesting process has minimal strain on the environment.
A 3-ounce serving of mussels provides 146 calories and 20 grams of protein, per the USDA.
4. Lean Pork
Like most meats, there are healthier cuts of pork like pork chops, tenderloin and sirloin pork roast and there are those that are much fattier, like bacon and pork belly. For instance, a 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has 122 calories and 22 grams of protein, according to the USDA.
When shopping for leaner cuts, look for “loin” or “chop” in the name.
When cooking pork, cut away any visible fat and always reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees when cooking, per the Food and Drug Administration guidelines.
5. White Turkey Meat
Like chicken, white turkey meat is another source of lean poultry. You’ll find the white meat in the breast and wing, while dark meat is found in the leg.
White meat is lower in calories but when eating a 3-ounce portion, the differences are negligible. The amount of protein and total fat are the differentiating factors.
For instance, roasted turkey breast has 125 calories, 2 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, and 25 grams of protein, while dark roasted turkey meat provides 130 calories, 9 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 13 grams of protein, per the USDA.
Healthy Tips for Eating Meat
- Like all things, everything is in moderation — keep portions in check. The American Heart Association recommends limiting meat intake (ideally non-fried fish, shellfish, poultry without skin, and trimmed lean meats) to** **5.5 ounces, cooked, per day.
- Enjoy red meat but limit your quantity. One portion is 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards.
- When choosing red meat, choose leaner types and trim any excess fat.
- When it comes to fish, eat up to 8 ounces per week, especially oily fish like salmon and herring.
- Use better-for-you cooking methods like baking, roasting, broiling, stewing, boiling, or roasting rather than frying or grilling.
My carnivore diet: what I learned from eating only beef, salt, and water
Jordan Peterson insists his fad diet helps you lose weight and feel better. I tried it for a week, and let me tell you: it was truly, punishingly awful
When I started my carnivore diet, I had no idea what it would involve. I thought it could be fun. I wasn’t to know I’d started on a journey that would involve rapid weight loss, complete exhaustion, and a professor of nutrition telling me I was at risk of scurvy.
It had started innocently.
Jordan Peterson, the disaffected male’s favored academic and bestselling author, had appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the irreverent, current affairs-ish show on which Elon Musk recently smoked weed. The pair discussed Peterson’s self-help book, 12 Rules for Life, which created a stir when it was released in January. Rogan, a comedian and gym enthusiast who resembles a slab of corned beef, told Peterson how slim he looked.
Well, Peterson said.
It was because of his new diet.
“I eat beef and salt and water. That’s it, and I never cheat. Ever. Not even a little bit,” Peterson said. He’d been put on to the diet by his daughter, Mikhaila, and lost 60lb. What’s more, his anxiety and depression had lifted.
Weight loss? Improved mood? No side-effects? It sounded too good to be true.
Day one: bring on the beef
“I had digestive problems,” says Mikhaila Peterson. “Diarrhea lasted six weeks.”
I called her up, on the morning of my first beef day, to get some tips for my new diet. Mikhaila is a 26-year-old who suffered badly from arthritis as a youngster. She’s not a medical professional, but she tried self-healing by adjusting her diet. She began by cutting out gluten, then going on an “elimination diet”, which removes foods people are commonly allergic to before adding them back in. A period of self-experimentation followed before Mikhaila settled on a zero-carb diet – just greens and meat. She took out the greens. Then all the meat; except beef.
Mikhaila put her father on the same diet in April. When she had started on the only-beef regimen, her arthritic pain had gone within two weeks, she said. So did unrelated pain in her wrist, big toe, and knees.
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After a month and a half,
she said, she started to notice her anxiety had lifted, and she saw improvements in short-term memory.
“If someone told me a phone number, say seven digits, I couldn’t repeat it back to them,” Mikhaila told me.
“I can do that now. I can remember a whole bunch.”
After Mikhaila and I chat, I kick things off with a trip to the supermarket. When I thought of an all-beef diet, a steady stream of steak had come to mind. But Mikhaila says she kept costs down by buying beef ribs and plenty of ground beef. She cooks the ribs, keeps the fat, then uses that fat to cook the ground beef. “Otherwise I don’t get enough fat in the ground beef,” she said.
I buy some beef ribs, some steak, and some ground beef. I go looking for beef jerky, but the store doesn’t have it. It does, however, have “beef sticks”. I examine the beef sticks. They seem to be dried-out hot dogs, grass-fed, vacuum-sealed and marketed at kombucha drinkers. I buy 12.
At home, I load the beef into the fridge. It looks like the fridge of a man with a grudge against cattle.
I try one of the beef sticks. It tastes like an extremely dry sausage. It’s not very filling. I eat three more.
There’s no time to cook anymore, however, because I have to meet my friend Nina. She and I meet in a bar. I have sparkling water, and she has a beer while I explain the diet. She doesn’t think it sounds very healthy. She asks if there are any side effects. I tell her it’s common to get the shits for the first six weeks.
Nina suggests we go for something to eat. She takes us to an oyster bar, which seems inconsiderate, but they do steak tartare. I have beef tartare, plain. She orders oysters and clams and has two glasses of wine. Her meal looks delicious and incredible. Mine does not.
Day two: struggling bowels
It takes 24 hours for Mikhaila’s warning to come to pass. There is only one cubicle in the bathroom at work. Luckily it’s free. Unluckily for an innocent man who uses the facilities shortly after I’ve finished, there is no window in the cubicle.
I return to my desk and tell a colleague what has happened. She doesn’t want to know. Just stop the diet, she says. But what if the early explorers had simply stopped, I ask her. She calls me an idiot.
My struggling bowels aren’t the only side effect. This morning I am extremely tired. I’m wallowing at my desk, struggling to concentrate. Even more than usual. I’m also very hungry. I didn’t have time to cook any beef this morning, so I had three beef sticks instead.
At 11.30 am I head out for lunch. A new bar has just opened around the corner from work. It’s not a very nice bar, but they do steak.
The steak normally comes with a peppercorn sauce, according to the menu, along with “stuffed potato, bacon, broccoli, and diamond cheddar”. I want only the steak, so I ask for a discount. The woman at the bar gives me $3 off.
I cook my biggest steak, filling the kitchen with smoke. Then I lie down and feel my heart beating quickly in my chest
Some years ago the UK government warned people – based on evidence from the independent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition – not to eat more than 500g (about a pound) of red meat a week, to limit the risk of bowel cancer. So I don’t normally eat a lot of red meat. During my foray into the world of beef, salt and water, I never heard a rebuttal to the science, although one carnivore-focused Facebook group I joined – there are many – talked about “brainwashing forced upon us [at] on all levels by doctors, dietitians, governments, schools, media, corporations and religious and spiritual organizations… and vegans … that keep people from their true potential of health and happiness”.
An hour after eating, fatigue washes back over me. I go for a sit-down on a couch in the office and immediately fall asleep. For an hour. When I get back to my desk I discover that my boss saw me and taken a photo.
I’ve never actually cooked a steak, but happily, a friend offers to come and cook for me. My apartment isn’t very well ventilated and we manage to set the fire alarm off. I go to bed.
Day three: I lose some flab – but I’m tired
I wake up early. My skin is greasy – even greasier than normal – and my hair, clothes, and kitchen smell of meat. This is my life now.
I open a window. It doesn’t do anything.
I’m still feeling drained, and I can’t face going out to buy more beef. I text my neighbor, Cindy, to ask if she has any beef in her apartment. She says she’s in Las Vegas, then sends me a stream of worried texts asking if there’s a smell of beef coming from her apartment. I tell her no: I’m simply on an all-beef diet. She says there’s some beef in her freezer if I want it. I leave it be and eat more beef sticks.
Weight Loss seems
Weight loss seems to be one thing people frequently tout about the diet. Mikhaila Peterson told me she lost 10lb in two weeks when she started only eating beef.
I’ve only been on the diet for three days, but I feel less flabby around the middle. Whether that’s the beef, the fact I’m not eating very much, or my mind playing tricks, I’m not sure.
I didn’t particularly want to lose weight on some sort of crash-beef diet, but one thing that intrigued me was the notion that an all-beef diet could cure joint pain. I broke my left collarbone a couple of years ago and dislocated the other one in May. Accident-prone me seems to spend quite a lot of time in pain.
But if anything, my shoulders have got worse. Maybe I’ve just been sleeping in an uncomfortable position, but I’m having to take ibuprofen.
I’m also exhausted. Still. This is more than just being tired. I walk up one flight of stairs to my apartment and am out of breath at the top. My legs are aching. Mikhaila told me that hunger feels different on the beef-only diet.
“When I used to get hungry, I would feel famished and needed to eat,” she’d said. “Now hunger is: I slow down cognitively, and I’m like: ‘Oh, OK, I need something to eat.’”
I cook my biggest steak on the grill pan, filling the kitchen with smoke. Then I lie down and feel my heart beating quickly in my chest. I fall into an uneasy sleep, and my day ends at 8 pm.
Day four: side effects and bovine dreams
I had a dream last night that I was a cow.
This morning I am asked to go to Vermont to interview a woman running for governor. “But I’ve got all this beef in my fridge!” I tell my boss. He asks what that’s got to do with anything. He hasn’t been told about my experiment.
I shove some beef sticks in a bag and get a cab to the airport. I fall asleep on the way, and when I wake up, I feel very sad. Nothing has happened to make me feel sad. But I’m exhausted, and I’m feeling sorry for myself.
At the airport, there’s been some trouble with the airline’s computer system. I can’t check in for my flight, or wait in line for a long time to speak to someone.
I feel like my world has caved in. I’m filled with woe and anxiety. I’ve let down the woman I was supposed to interview. My boss is going to be upset. What if I get fired? Why is there so much evil in the world?
My boss does not fire me. I get to put on a flight the next day.
I look at a website called Meat Health, which is devoted to carnivorous eating.
“Nearly always, when you start a carnivore diet, you will experience adverse symptoms and side effects,” Meat Health says. “It’s what I affectionately call the ‘trough of despair or the ‘trough’ for short.”
Meat Health says eating more meat and drinking more water will help to climb out of the trough.
I shuffle to the fridge and retrieve another steak. I cook it and eat it, joylessly
I shuffle to the fridge and retrieve another steak. I cook it and eat it, joylessly. Then I drink a lot of water. It’s 3 pm and I feel ready for sleep. I take a three-hour nap. When I wake the fog of depression has become more of a mist. A friend has promised to take me out for a steak tonight. It’s the last thing I want, but I get on my bike and ride the two miles to the restaurant.
We order a 40oz porterhouse steak to share. With nothing else. I have some water with it. This is the first time I’ve also noticed my craving for salt. I sprinkle it generously on every mouthful of steak. I go home and fall asleep immediately.
I still don’t see how this is sustainable if you want to hold down a job or a social life. Even if you eventually get used to it – which is meant to take a month – by that time you’d probably be unemployed.
Day five: sleep … and more sleep
It takes two for my Vermont trip. I woke up at 6 am because I had planned to cook and eat a steak first. It doesn’t happen.
Lunch is at a restaurant in Burlington. I have a steak, with nothing.
I interview the candidate for governor, then take a 45-minute sleep in my car. She and I have agreed to go for dinner tonight. The others order sandwiches and mac and cheese. The restaurant doesn’t do steak, so I ask for two hamburgers, with no bun, no salad, no sauce, and no sides.
I have to explain the diet. “So how are your movements?” someone asks. I haven’t thought about that for a few days. I’ve been too busy sleeping and smelling my clothes to find ones that don’t smell the grease. I think back. There have been no movements since day two.
We go to see a talk together. Then I go back to the hotel where I’m supposed to be writing the article. I fall asleep instead.
Day six: the nutritionist goes to war
I phone a nutritionist. Lisa Sasson, a clinical professor in nutrition at New York University, had read about the diet already, and before I can ask her if it was a good idea, she launches into a scathing review.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous,” Sasson says. “The claims that are made are preposterous. Atkins was bad – this is 50 times worse. This is probably the worst diet I’ve ever heard and I’ve heard such bad ones.”
Sasson continues: “To me, it’s amazing anyone would think there’s any merit to something like this. We all know that fruits and vegetables are important. That’s where you get so many of your nutrients: plant-based foods. There’s absolutely nothing here.”
Sasson says the claims from people who say it has stopped pain or eased anxiety are because of the placebo effect.
“You could go on this diet and think, oh, that lump I had does seem smaller. The placebo is very powerful,” Sasson says.
There are so many other ways to feel good. Go out and have a beer and enjoy your life
I ask about the amazing claims of weight loss.
“Anyone would lose weight. You lose weight on chemotherapy. Weight loss shouldn’t be a criterion.”
After such a strong rebuke I feel embarrassed to tell Sasson that I’ve been on this diet. I tell her anyway.
“It’s truly lacking critical nutrients, which could have devastating effects,” Sasson says.
“You should know, you sound like you’re English. Look at scurvy. How was scurvy discovered? When people went on those ships and they didn’t have fresh fruits and vegetables, that’s when we knew it was related to vitamin C, which you’re not getting in that diet.”
Sasson says I shouldn’t stay on the diet.
“I’m telling you now there are so many other ways to feel good,” she says.
“Go out and have a beer and enjoy your life.”
Best Cuts of Beef for Weight Loss
Stick to these leaner, healthier cuts of steak and watch those pounds melt away.
If you’re not an accomplished home cook or don’t know a Porterhouse from a strip steak, high-quality, lean, affordable protein can seem about as easy to find as a good man (and we all know that’s notoriously difficult).
Losing weight often feels like an uphill battle, but sticking to your weight loss goals doesn’t have to mean giving up every food you once loved. You can still have your red meat (and eat it, too!), as long as you’re smart about it. When eaten in moderation, red meat can be a part of a healthy diet designed to burn unwanted fat and fuel you throughout the day—just stick to the leaner, healthier cuts listed below and watch those pounds melt away.
1. Sirloin Tip Side Steak
We’ve written about this great cut before, but in case you missed our post on what to eat for flat abs, you should know that steak can be a part of a balanced diet!
If you’re looking to lose weight, choosing a leaner cut like sirloin tip side steak can help—it has significantly less fat and saturated fat than some other popular steak cuts, like rib eye, but still packs plenty of protein to keep you full and satisfied. It’s even been shown that lean meat like this steak can have a thermogenic effect, meaning some of the calories in that lean meat are burnt off while your body digests.
2. Top Round Steak
Another lean steak cut, the top round is a great option when you’re craving red meat but still want to make a smart, healthful choice. It’s lean (only about 3 grams of fat per 3-ounce cooked serving, according to the USDA), but still flavorful—and, even better, it tends to be tenderer than some other lean cuts of beef, so you don’t need to marinate it or do a lot of prep work before cooking.
And lean beef in particular, like top-round steak, not only helps you keep your fat intake in check, but also helps lower blood pressure when consumed regularly, according to a recent study conducted by a team at Penn State University. A food that can aid weight loss and help keep hypertension under control? Yes, we’ll take some of that, please.
3. Eye of Round Steak
Another steak cut that contains less fat and saturated fat than more popular picks. Cut back on those processed, refined carbs and incorporate the less fatty meats here into your regular diet, and you just may see the results you’ve been waiting for. Eye of round, though, can be a little tougher than the two options above, so marinate it for optimal flavor.
If you’re going to go this route, choose oils with good-for-you fats, like olive oil, and something less caloric to complement it, like lemon juice or vinegar, that will boost the overall flavor of the meat and help tenderize it. Choose vinegar, and you’ll get additional help slimming down: Consuming food containing the mouth-puckering ingredient lowered body weight, body fat, and triglycerides in obese subjects, a 2009 study found.
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4. Bottom Round Steak
Much like the steaks listed above, a 3-ounce portion of the bottom round is lean (a cooked portion contains about 8 grams of fat, according to the USDA). It can also be a little on the tougher side since it comes from the posterior part of the cow (a part of the animal that gets a much better workout than, say, its stomach, where flank steak comes from). Marinate and prepare it as you would an eye of round for the best flavor and tenderness.
5. Filet Mignon
Board-certified nutritionist and food coach Dana James, MS, CDN, CNS, BANT, AADP, suggests going for a pricier cut of meat if that’s an affordable option for you. “Fillet mignon is the leanest choice, but also the most expensive.” So, this may not be an everyday option, but as a special-occasion meal, it’s a great way to indulge without expanding your waist.