How to Include Red Meat in a Healthy Diet

Red meat is a delicious source of vitamins like iron, zinc, and B vitamins. It also has higher fat content than white meat like chicken and may increase your risk of bowel or stomach cancer.[1] You may wonder how you can include red meat in a diet that is healthy and well-balanced. Start by choosing healthier cuts of red meat and by preparing red meat in healthy ways. You can also limit how much red meat you eat as part of your diet so you can still enjoy red meat, in moderation, as part of a healthy eating plan.


EditSelecting Healthier Cuts of Red Meat

  1. Choose leaner cuts of red meat. Start by going for leaner cuts of red meat to cut down on the fat content. Buy lean cuts of beef like the round, chuck, sirloin, or loin. Opt for lean cuts of pork like tenderloin or loin chop. Get leaner cuts of lamb that come from the leg, arm, and loin. When you shop for red meat at the grocery store or your local butcher shop, select cuts that have minimal visible fat.[2]
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    • Chat up the butcher and ask them to recommend leaner cuts of red meat. For example, you may ask them, “Do you have a leaner cut of pork?” or “What do you recommend for leaner cuts of beef?”
  2. Go for “select” or “choice” grades of beef. “Select” or “choice” grades of beef contain less marbling than “prime” grades of meat. They will have less visible fat and are a leaner cut of meat. “Choice” grades of beef are considered higher quality than “select” grades of beef. Both grades will have a lower fat content than “prime” grades and are a good option for roasting, braising, or sauteing.[3]
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    • You should also look for the leaner option when buying ground beef. Make sure the label says “lean” or “extra lean.” This means the fat content is lower than normal ground beef.
  3. Look for grass-fed meats. Meat that has been grass-fed will contain no hormones or additives and have less overall fat. They also usually contain less saturated fat, which can be an issue if you have heart problems or other health problems. Look for grass-fed red meat at your local grocery store or butcher.[4]
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    • If you have a good local butcher, talk to them about getting grass-fed meat. Often, shopping local at a butcher’s shop will give you access to grass-fed meat and higher quality red meat.
  4. Avoid processed red meat. Processed red meat products like packaged sausage, salami, cold cuts, and hot dogs are high in sodium, calories, and saturated fats. They often contain additives and dyes that are unhealthy. Avoid eating processed red meat as part of your diet.[5]
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    • If you do eat processed meat, always read the ingredients list on the label to check for items like sodium, saturated fat, and additives. Go for the low-sodium and saturated fat option, if possible.
    • Instead of buying processed meat, go for lean cuts of meat that you cook yourself.
    • Avoid deli meats such as ham and turkey slices. Instead, make a sandwich from canned tuna or salmon.[6]

EditPreparing Red Meat in a Healthy Way

  1. Remove the fat from red meat before cooking it. To keep the fat content down on cuts of red meat, remove any fat on the meat before cooking it. Use a sharp knife to trim away any fat on the outside of the meat or between the layers of meat. Do this right before you cook the meat.[7]
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    • If you do not like doing this yourself, you can get the butcher to do it for you. Ask the butcher to remove the visible fat on the meat before wrapping it up for you.
  2. Bake or broil red meat. Prepare the meat in healthy ways so you are eating less carcinogens and still getting the vitamins and minerals in the meat. Baking the red meat in the oven or as part of a stew is a healthier option than pan-frying the meat. Broiling or braising the meat in the oven will be less high-heat intensive, meaning there will be a lower fat content in the final dish.[8]
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  3. Roast or stir fry meat. Roasting meat, rather than grilling it, will infuse it with flavor without subjecting it to high heat. Grilling meat can also produce carcinogens. Avoid grilling red meat or shorten the grill time by marinating the meat beforehand or roasting it partially before grilling it.[9]
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    • You can also stir fry red meat like beef or pork to cut down on the cook time. Make a beef stir fry with vegetables at home for a healthy meat option.
    • Be careful with marinades if you are on a low-sodium diet. Marinades are often high in sodium.
  4. Cook red meat in vegetable oils. Whenever you are cooking red meat, make sure you use vegetable oils like olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, and avocado oil. These oils are vegetable based and are a healthier option than butter or other animal fats. Drizzle olive oil over red meat before roasting or braising it in the oven. Use canola oil or peanut oil to stir fry the meat in a wok or a pan.[10]
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    • Make sure you keep your kitchen stocked with these vegetable oils so they are easy to access while you are cooking meat.
    • If you do pan-fry your meat, try using olive oil or canola oil for a healthier option.

EditLimiting Your Portions of Red Meat in Your Meals

  1. Limit yourself to 18 oz a week. You should not eat more than 18 ounces of red meat each week. This means you can eat three ounces each day for six days out of the week or six ounces each day for three days out of the week.[11]
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    • These amounts are considered a healthy portion of red meat for the average person. If you have any health conditions or issues, your portions may be lower based on your doctor’s recommendations.
  2. Build meals around vegetables instead of red meat. Rather than view red meat as the star of your meals, make vegetables the star instead. Build your meals around vegetables and whole grains. Then, add a small amount of red meat as a garnish or a condiment. This way, you still get the flavor of meat in your meals without eating a lot of red meat.[12]
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    • For example, you may prepare a salad with a garnish of cooked beef or pork. Or you may make a stir fry made with vegetables and serve it over brown rice, with sliced red meat as a garnish.
  3. Include other protein sources in your meals. To control your servings of red meat, try including other protein sources like beans, tofu, chicken, and fish in your meals. Cut the amount of red meat required for a recipe in half and substitute beans or tofu instead. Add fish, turkey, and chicken to your diet so you still get protein in your meals.[13]
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    • For example, you may prepare a beef stew by putting in half the amount of beef called for and substitute the other half with pinto or black beans. Or you may prepare a curry with half tofu and half beef so you still get some red meat in the dish.
  4. Have more vegetarian meals in your diet. Try to include more vegetarian dishes in your meals at home. Make one night “meatless” and serve meatless meals on that night for dinner, once a week. Or try to have two or three vegetarian meals at home as part of your diet. Add vegetarian side dishes to your meals or make a vegetarian dish the main focus of a meal, with red meat served on the side.[14]
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    • There are many vegetarian and vegan meals you can prepare at home using simple recipes. Look online for recipe ideas and buy vegetarian or vegan cookbooks to get ideas.
    • There is a movement for “Meatless Mondays.” Online groups and websites can help you find recipes and support for going meatless on Monday.
  5. Choose the lean meat option when you eat out. When eating out, try to opt for lean red meats as part of a healthy diet. Look for cuts of red meat on the menu that are leaner, such as the round or the sirloin cut of beef. Go for a smaller portion of red meat in your meals out so you still get some meat but other healthy ingredients as well, such as a salad with meat as a garnish.
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    • You may also try going to vegetarian or vegan restaurants more often, especially if you tend to eat a lot of red meat at home. Having professionally prepared vegetarian meals can expose you to new dishes and new ways of eating vegetable based protein in a healthy way.

EditSources and Citations

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