We’ve all heard that protein is important for a diet plan in order to lose weight. While meat is our main source of protein, the next question seems quite obvious:
What is the best meat to eat for weight loss?
We typically center our meal around this protein source. Making it vital to choose the right meats in order to be successful in the weight loss journey.
But what makes a meat the best meat? Is it the protein? The calories? Fat content or something else?
We’ll go through the 7 best meats to eat for weight loss from the perspective of a Registered Dietitian.
Including why each landed on this list and practical ways to include it in your day to day life.
And just for kicks; a FAQ segment at the bottom of this article of some random but ironically popular inquires that come up when questioning meats and weight loss.
Quick side note: there are many other sources of proteins such as eggs, soy products, nuts/seeds, etc. But this article is specifically for the carnivore.
Why is Eating Meat Necessary?
Whether or not you partake, meat is necessary for a balanced diet mainly due to its complete protein content.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Animal proteins (meat) are considered complete proteins because they contain all nine of the essential amino acids that we need.
Incomplete proteins, typically plant proteins, are missing an amino acid or two, giving them their namesake.
In order to have a healthy balanced diet, one would have to make up for these missing amino acids elsewhere.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’re ways about this for vegetarians or vegans but that talk is for another day.
Protein is crucial in our diet because it is the building blocks of our muscles.
This doesn’t just mean bicep muscles; your heart, digestive system, even your reproductive system are all muscles.
We need adequate protein to maintain all of these vital organs and the best and easiest source of complete proteins is meat.
Not to mention that meats also provide essential nutrients such as; B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
So now that we know why we need meat, there are some options that are actually better than others when the goal is to lose weight.
Best Meat to Eat for Weight Loss
The following are some of the best meats to eat when trying to lose weight.
Each is broken down by their nutrient analysis of calories, protein, and fat content. As well as the best cuts of meat to purchase and how to prepare them.
1 oz: Calories 68 kcal, Protein 8 grams, Fat 4 grams
The most commonly consumed type of poultry – chicken is an excellent and versatile meat that checks all the “healthy” boxes.
It’s in the medium range for calorie content for meat, high in protein relative to volume, and comparatively low in fat as well.
Chicken has a mild, savory taste and easily takes on the flavor of other foods or flavoring agents it’s cooked with.
The majority of the chicken is white meat, having less fat and typically more tender.
The dark meat portions of the chicken are the thighs and drumsticks. Because these parts are higher in fat, you should limit consuming these parts when trying to lose weight.
While the wings are considered white meat, there is very little actual meat on them. It’s more so the skin that is sought after when purchasing chicken wings.
The skin of chicken is high in saturated fat and provides little to no nutrients. Because of this you should always take the skin off your chicken product as well as trim any excess fat.
Luckily, chicken works well with practically any cooking method that exists.
Making it a wonderful option to include in your healthy eating lifestyle with so many ways to prepare it.
Some of the healthier cooking methods (that are going to provide the most innate flavor) are roasting, grilling, and searing.
Keep things moist by cooking with a liquid such as a broth or a drizzle of olive or avocado oil.
You can also help keep the chicken tender by marinating or cooking with acid to help denature the proteins.
Acids could be a squeeze of lemon, vinegar, or my personal favorite is simply marinating chicken in a low-fat vinaigrette.
Chicken is a healthy, all-purpose meat allowing you to incorporate it into your diet several ways without seeming repetitive.
Making it an excellent option of one of the best meats to eat for weight loss.
1 oz: Calories 54 kcal, Protein 8 grams, Fat 2 grams
Another meat in the poultry group, turkey is a superior meat to eat for weight loss.
Turkey is a common “healthy swap” being lower in calories and fat while still maintaining the same protein content as pork or chicken.
Turkey is primarily white meat with a savory, very slight gamey taste. However, due to its native low fat content, it can end up with a relatively dry mouth feel.
To avoid this, turkey is best cooked using moist heat cooking methods, such as; stewing, braising, poaching, boiling, or steaming.
If using dry heat cooking methods (such as searing, roasting, baking, or grilling) just be sure to add in your own healthy fat to help keep things moist, i.e. a drizzle of olive oil.
Ground turkey is an exceptional healthy swap for ground beef, decreasing the overall calories and fat consumed.
Practically no adjustments are needed with recipes for this swap either, just sub out one for the other.
1 oz: Calories 69 kcal, Protein 8 grams, Fat 4 grams
Pork is meat from the pig, but there are definitely some leaner cuts to choose for health and weight loss.
When shopping for pork, look for anything that has the word loin or chop in it.
Examples include; tenderloin, loin roast, sirloin roast, pork chop, bone-in pork chop, butterfly chop, etc.
These cuts of pork meat are particularly low in fat (therefore calories) but high in protein.
Pork belly (aka bacon), ribs, country ribs, and pork butt are some examples of the higher fat-containing cuts of pork that should be limited in daily intake.
Pork has practically the same nutrient analysis as chicken as well as copying the ability to pull flavor well.
Searing, roasting, grilling, or baking are some of the best healthiest cooking methods for it.
Pork is one of the best meats to pair with bold herb earthy flavors, such as thyme or rosemary. These herb combinations help accentuate pork’s natural rich flavor.
Incorporating pork into your weight loss plan can make for an excellent, filling, and flavorful addition to your meals.
1 oz: Calories 29 kcal, Protein 4 grams, Fat 0.2 grams
While fish in general is a great protein for weight loss, we’ll be breaking down the broad category of “fish” into two separate groups of white-fleshed fish and fatty fish.
Both are healthy options, but for different reasons.
So first up is the white-fleshed fish, such as; cod, tilapia, flounder, snapper, sole, catfish, halibut, grouper, and haddock.
All have a very similar nutritional breakdown being low in everything; calories, protein, and extremely low in fat content.
Making white-fleshed fish a good lighter-fair option to switch out as your meat for dinner a few times per week.
Now because of the extremely low fat content, prepare it like turkey – by using a moist heat cooking method or adding in a bit of your own healthy fat.
My personal favorite a good sear in a pan with olive oil and finishing in the oven if needed. Be sure to use a fish spatula when flipping to prevent the fish from falling apart.
1 oz: Calories 59 kcal, Protein 6 grams, Fat 4 grams
Now moving on to fatty fish, while the name may be misleading, fatty fish is an excellent meat to eat for weight loss.
Their high nutritional value and health benefits are a weekly must-have for your dinner plate.
While yes, these fish are in fact “fatty” by having a large amount of oil within their flesh. It’s the type of fat, omega-3 fatty acids to be exact, that’s sought after.
Omega-3 fatty acids is a type of polyunsaturated fat that improves the function of your heart, lungs, brain and circulation.
This is why the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two 3oz servings of fatty fish per week.
Omega-3 fatty acids aren’t the easiest to come by in the typical American diet. Unlike the Mediterranean diet, fish is not the main protein source in the United States.
We typically have to make a conscious decision to have fish throughout the week.
Some common examples of fatty fish are salmon, sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, black cod, bluefin tuna, and striped bass.
Fatty fish are a better “filler” meat compared to white-fleshed fish, as they have more protein and calories.
So you’ll be less likely to walk away from the dinner table hungry.
High, dry heat cooking methods are the best way to cook fatty fish; like grilling, roasting, or baking for example.
Even with their naturally occurring oils acting as a moisture generator, be careful not to overcook fatty fish. You’ll have a tough, rubber duck-like fish on your plate.
1 oz: Calories 71 kcal, Protein 7 grams, Fat 4 grams (at least 85% lean)
The infamous “red meat” that is thought to be one of the least healthiest meat options.
However, just like everything else, moderation is key.
In fact, beef is one of the best sources of vitamin B12. A nutrient only found in animal products.
Beef is also high in zinc, selenium, and niacin. All of which are essential for optimal health and nutrition.
So while beef gets a bad rap sometimes, it truly is a good meat to have sporadically throughout the week.
Similar to pork, the cut of beef you choose will directly correlate to its nutritional value.
Lean beef options are: eye of round roast/steak, sirloin tip side steak, top round roast/steak, top sirloin steak, and ground beef labeled at least 85% lean.
While the marbling in the cuts of beef is fat (aka flavor), you do want to limit purchasing beef where you can see a lot of marbling.
Depending on the cut of beef you have will determine the cooking method.
For large roasts you’ll want low moist heat, for a long cook time.
For steaks and ground beef; high dry heat, short cook time is usually the best option as these cuts of meat typically have a bit more fat content than the larger roasts and are more tender.
Don’t forget that while beef does have a slightly higher caloric content than other meats, this doesn’t devalue its nutritional worth.
1 oz: Calories 45 kcal, Protein 9 grams, Fat 0.9 grams
Venison is meat from a deer. While this entrée varies in popularity, there’s no mistaking that it is an excellent, very lean, source of protein.
It’s low in fat, therefore calories, but provides a whooping 9 grams of protein per one ounce serving.
Making venison one of the best meats to eat for weight loss.
However, venison isn’t a typical meat we serve for two main reasons: the availability and taste.
The availability will depend highly on the region in which you live and processing facilities.
The gamey taste is directly related to what the animal eats, as with any other wild game meats. Their diet is not regulated like farm-raised animals.
A few tips for decreasing that gamey, metallically taste; is to trim and marinade.
Trimming off the fat, silver skin, and connective tissue is a good rule of thumb for any meat to improve the nutritional value and mouthfeel.
But in venison in particular, these parts is where that gamey taste is most potent.
Marinades will help tenderize the meat, add flavor, and to add a wee bit of fat to your venison.
The acid component in marinades is what tenderizes the meat by denaturing the proteins.
My personal favorite (and super easy) marinade for venison steaks is simply Italian dressing. It’s the perfect amount of flavor, acid, and fat to make for a mouth-watering dinner in no time.
As far as cooking methods, venison is no different than any other meat.
Low, slow, and moist heat for large cuts such as roasts. And high, fast, and dry heat for smaller cuts such as steaks and chops.
Best Meat to Eat for Weight Loss
When planning for your weight loss journey, try to include these meats as your protein:
- Fatty Fish
- White-Fleshed Fish
- Pork (lean)
- Beef (lean)
Below is a nutrient analysis chart breaking down the calories, protein, and fat of each of these meats.
With this breakdown, you can see that meats only vary slightly in their protein, fat, and caloric content.
However, each meat has unique pros and cons thus instilling the importance of varying the star of your dish everyday.
How Much Meat Should You Eat for Weight Loss?
Alright, so now that we know which meats to eat for weight loss, this prompts the very next question of how much meat should we be eating each day when the goal is weight loss?
The answer is actually highly individualized due to so many variables each person has. Variables such as; weight, age, height, gender, activity level, and past medical history.
However, there are some general guidelines we can follow.
For the average adult it is recommended we consume 5-7 ounce equivalents of protein foods.
The phrase, ounce equivalents, simply means “foods containing about the same amount of grams of protein.”
For example, ¼ cup of beans is the ounce equivalent to 1oz of meat. 1 egg is the ounce equivalent to 1 oz of fish.
Make sense? All of the ounce equivalents in the protein group contain roughly the same amount of protein (typically between 6-8 grams).
If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of all the protein ounce equivalent options, click here.
Now to do some quick math.
If we’re to eat 5-7 oz equivalents and each is about 7g of protein, that would make the recommended protein intake for the average healthy adult about 35-49g of protein per day.
Again, your exact protein intake should be calculated by a Registered Dietitian, but this is a good starting point.
Here’s some tips and tricks to use to figure out how much protein you have in front of you without whipping out the scale or measuring cups.
The once equivalent of beans, peas, lentils and tofu is ¼ cup. If you look at your hand, a cupped palm is equivalent to ¼ cup.
The ounce equivalent of peanut butter is 1 Tbsp, which is about the size of your thumb.
And probably the most helpful tip, is that your open palm is about the size of 3oz of meat. Which is usually about the serving size we typically consume of any meat, poultry, or fish.
These hand measurements and ounce equivalents make it pretty easy to meal plan for weight loss knowing you have met your protein requirements.
For example, a day for me typically looks like; an egg with breakfast, perhaps a Tbsp of peanut butter with some pretzels with my lunch, and 3 oz of chicken with my dinner. And that’s it. I’ve met my protein requirements for the day.
A common question that comes up when trying to keep track of protein intake is, “How much weight does meat lose when cooked?”
Now, if we are choosing lean proteins – the answer is simple, not much.
That’s because the weight lost in cooking meats is from the fat turning from solid to liquid and being drained off.
Lean meats have very little fat, so there should not be much weight lost.
The meat may look like it has shrunk on your plate compared to its uncooked form, but this is simply from the proteins tightening once cooked, pulling the meat closer in on itself.
The main point is the grams of protein in the meat will not change from this loss of fat or shrinkage from cooking.
But speaking of cooking, as mentioned above, there are some cooking methods better than others when it comes to cooking our star of the dish.
Cooking Methods for Meats to Lose Weight
Cooking protein no longer has to be an intimidating feat.
The general guidelines for best cooking methods for meats for weight loss are as follows:
- For large roasts: low moist heat and long cook time
- For lean smaller cuts of meat: high dry heat and short cook time
- For ground meats: medium dry heat and short cook time
Now, remember that if you have a particularly lean cut of meat (such as chicken) you’ll want to add in a tiny bit of healthy fat like olive oil in order to maintain a moist mouthfeel.
For any cut of meat, both large and small, always be sure to trim excess fat and skin to limit any unwanted excess calories.
Of course we want to avoid any high-fat cooking methods like pan-frying or deep frying, as the meat will absorb the extra fat.
From a Registered Dietitian’s perspective (and personal preference), the healthiest cooking method for meat is to marinate and then grill or sear in a pan!
Using this dry, high heat method along with a marinade, not only only develops flavor and tenderness but also helps preserve the most nutrients.
Meats to Avoid for Weight Loss
There are some meats that are best limited when trying to lose weight, such as any highly fatty, processed, or salty meats.
Some examples of these are bacon, sausage, hot dogs, bologna, salami, jerky, ham, kielbasa, or meat sticks.
Besides the low nutrient, high caloric content, the increased sodium levels could cause fluid retention – making that number on your bathroom scale go up.
Now I’m not saying you can’t have these items, because you definitely can (I’m not about to give up my Saturday morning sausage) but the idea is to not have these meats be a main staple in your diet.
Speaking of sausage, find out the best (and most healthiest) way to cook it here!
All in all, when it comes to choosing the best meat for weight loss you want to look for a meat that is high in protein, low in calories, and low in saturated fats.
The healthiest meat to eat for weight loss, per protein to calorie ratio, would be venison.
However, due to its lack of availability on grocery store shelves. The next best (more practical) option would be turkey for best meat to eat for weight loss.
Turkey is low in fat and calories, but an excellent source of protein. It also has a great mild taste that takes on flavor well
It can be prepared numerous ways making it a great option to include in your weight loss plan without getting tired of the “same old thing”.
Also remember that, even the healthiest meats can easily get loaded up with unwanted calories if preparing them incorrectly.
Limit added calories by avoiding cooking methods that use fat to cook such as deep fry, or pan frying.
The phrase “too much of a good thing” holds true for meat intake as well, don’t be caught overdoing it with your protein intake.
A calorie from a protein is still a calorie.
So when you consume more protein than what your body needs, your body will simply do what it does with any other calorie consumed in excess – store it as fat.
The general guidelines for protein intake is 5-7oz equivalents (35-49 grams). To get a more individualized recommendation, be sure to talk with a Registered Dietitian.
Keep in mind that this article is specifically on meats, there’s a whole other world of plant proteins that you should also include in your daily protein intake.
Congratulations, you are now fully equipped to strategically incorporate meats into your weight loss plan!
What meats can I eat to lose belly fat?
Oh the belly fat question. No matter how much we yearn for this to be possible – spot dieting/spot reduction cannot happen.
Spot reduction is the attempt to use diet and/or exercise to remove fat from a particular part or region of the body.
This simply, is not how the body operates. Our bodies are equipped to pull fat where it deems necessary. This typically does not align with our desires.
So to answer the question of, “What meats can I eat to lose belly fat?” Look no farther than this article.
You’ll want to choose a meat that is high in protein while low in fat and calories, such as; venison, turkey, or chicken.
In order to lose the belly fat, you’ll have to implement lifestyle changes to improve your overall health and nutrition.
What is the healthiest meat to eat?
Per a Registered Dietitian’s standard of comparing grams of protein to calories ratio; venison would be the healthiest meat to eat. However, there are more practical options as well.
Turkey or chicken are more likely to be at your local grocery store, both of which have excellent nutrient analysis scores.
However, it’s vital that we incorporate variety into our protein intake to ensure we are not deficient in any micronutrients (vitamins/minerals).
What meat should I avoid to lose weight?
Meats that should be avoided to lose weight are ones that have a high fat content compared to their protein content.
These would be meats like kielbasa, bacon, or chicken wings.
These meats provide us little to no nutrients, mostly just unwanted excess calories from fat.
Can you lose weight while eating meat?
Yes! You can absolutely lose weight while eating meat. In fact, it’s recommended.
The best most, most sustainable, way to lose weight is through overall optimal health. A key component of this is adequate nutrition.
Animal protein is the only source of the necessary nutrient vitamin B12. Any other food that “contains” B12 that’s not derived from an animal, has been fortified with the vitamin.
Meats are also complete proteins meaning they contain all 9 of the essential amino acids.
Majority of plant proteins are missing one or more of these essential amino acids and the absence would have to made up elsewhere in the diet.
So if your goal is to have optimal health for weight loss, eating meat while losing weight is actually recommended!
Best meat for weight loss and muscle gain?
The best meat for weight loss and muscle gain would be any meat that is high is protein while low in calories (aka fat).
Per this article and Registered Dietitian’s recommendation; venison, turkey, or chicken are some of the best meat options for weight loss and muscle gain.
All have a high protein content while staying relatively low in the calorie arena.
Is pork good for weight loss?
Depending on the cut, pork can be and excellent option for weight loss.
Any pork product with the name of loin or chop in it, will serve you well. These cuts are low in fat but high in protein.
Things like pork butt or pork belly (the delicious stuff we know as bacon) are much higher in grams of fat per serving and should be limited in any weight loss plan.
Is chicken or steak better for weight loss?
Registered Dietitians’ don’t like ultimatums. We don’t believe there’s any “bad foods” out there. It all comes down to moderation.
Both chicken and steak have their benefits. However, if looking at the goal of weight loss in particular, it would be better to incorporate chicken more often into your diet than steak.
Don’t forget about the steak! Just less often is all. Red meat is an excellent source of iron that is hard to find elsewhere.
Best breakfast meats for weight loss?
This is probably my favorite question. Best breakfast meat for weight loss would be turkey bacon.
Did you know that traditional bacon actually counts as a fat and not a protein? That’s because the fat to meat ratio is so high.
On the contrary, turkey bacon has much more protein than fat and actually can count as your serving of protein at breakfast.
My cooking technique for the best, most crispy turkey bacon is to cook it twice!
I’ll make a large batch of turkey bacon at the beginning of the week. Whether in a pan or in the oven, but I will cook it until it is done.
On the mornings I’m actually preparing it – I’ll cook it again. Just a quick spray of a non-stick oil in pan will help heat and toast the turkey bacon so that it gets that nice crunch just like pork bacon.
However, if turkey bacon isn’t your thing, anything breakfast meat that is low in fat but high in protein will do. Check out this article on the healthiest way to cook sausages if that’s more to your liking.
Be mindful of how much ham you fry up at dawn however. The high sodium content in ham could cause you to retain more water. Making you, technically, weigh more.
How many calories are in ground pork?
If your ground pork is at least 96% lean, there are about 157 calories in one 3oz serving of ground pork. Making it an excellent meat option for breakfast to help with weight loss.