What is the meat to eat for weight loss?

Quick Summary

When it comes to choosing the best types of meat for weight loss, lean protein sources like chicken breast, turkey, fish, and certain cuts of red meat are top options. Focus on getting plenty of protein while limiting calories and unhealthy fats. Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and cured deli meats.

How Does Meat Affect Weight Loss?

Meat can be an effective part of a weight loss diet when chosen wisely. Meat provides protein, an essential nutrient that helps build muscle, control hunger and increase metabolism. However, meat can also be high in saturated fat and calories, so it’s important to pay attention to serving sizes and choose lean options.

Here are some of the ways meat impacts weight loss:

  • Protein helps you feel full and satisfied after eating, potentially decreasing overall calorie intake.
  • Protein requires more energy for your body to digest than carbs or fat, so it can increase metabolism.
  • Building muscle through protein intake can further boost metabolism since muscle burns more calories than fat.
  • Lean meats like poultry and fish are lower in calories than higher-fat cuts of red meat.
  • Processed meats contain added sugar and preservatives and should be limited on a diet.

Overall, meat can be incorporated into a weight loss plan when you choose cuts that are lower in fat and calories and portion sizes are controlled. Lean poultry, fish, and certain cuts of red meat are great options.

Top 7 Lean Meats for Weight Loss

Here are some of the top lean protein choices to include in a weight loss diet:

1. Skinless Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is one of the most popular go-to lean meats. A 3-ounce serving provides around 28 grams of protein and only 3 grams of fat when the skin is removed.

Choose boneless, skinless chicken breasts and grill, bake or sauté them with heart-healthy spices or marinades. Be careful of any breading or added sauces which can increase the calories.

2. Turkey Breast

Turkey breast is another excellent source of lean protein. A 3-ounce serving of roasted turkey breast has around 25 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat.

Turkey breast can be sliced for sandwiches, diced up in salads or casseroles, or roasted whole for a entrée option. Be sure to remove any skin before cooking.

3. Fish High in Omega-3s

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and support heart health.

A 3-ounce cooked portion of salmon contains about 17 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat. Aim to incorporate fatty fish a couple times a week.

4. Shellfish

Shellfish including shrimp, scallops, lobster and clams are also great choices for weight loss. They are low in calories and fat while being high in protein.

A 3-ounce serving of shrimp has about 17 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat. Enjoy shellfish as an appetizer or entree a few times a week.

5. Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is an exceptionally lean cut of pork. A 3-ounce serving has 24 grams of protein and only 2.5 grams of fat.

Season tenderloin with spices like garlic, pepper and oregano and grill or roast until no longer pink inside. Slice and add to salads, tacos, pasta dishes or enjoy on its own.

6. Sirloin Steak

Sirloin steak is one of the leanest cuts of beef, containing around 25 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat in a 4-ounce serving.

Choose USDA Choice or Select grades of beef and trim off any visible fat before cooking. Sirloin steak can be grilled, broiled or pan-seared for maximum flavor and tenderness.

7. Ground Turkey

Ground turkey breast is a lean substitute for ground beef. Make sure to choose ground turkey breast, which is the lowest in fat and calories.

A 4-ounce serving of ground turkey breast provides around 25 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat. Use it in pasta dishes, chili, taco filling, meatballs and burgers.

Meat Portion Size for Weight Loss

To lose weight while including meat in your diet, pay close attention to portion sizes. The recommended daily intake of protein is around 5-7 ounces depending on your gender, age and activity level.

Here are some general portion size guidelines for meat, fish and poultry:

  • Ground meat, cooked: 2-5 ounces
  • Chicken or turkey breast: 3-6 ounces
  • Fish fillet: 3-6 ounces
  • Steak: 3-8 ounces

Ideally, your protein foods should be about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand per serving. Limiting intake to the recommended portions can help reduce excess calories.

7 Tips to Make Meat Part of a Weight Loss Diet

Follow these tips to incorporate meat into a healthy, well-balanced weight loss diet:

1. Choose lean cuts

Select lean, low-fat meats like chicken breast, turkey breast, fish and certain cuts of beef like sirloin or tenderloin. Avoid high-fat varieties like ribs, sausage, bacon and hot dogs.

2. Remove skin and trim fat

Cut off any visible fat and remove poultry skin before cooking to reduce calories and fat.

3. Limit processed meats

Avoid processed deli meats, smoked meats and sausages which contain lots of sodium and preservatives.

4. Watch your portions

Stick to a 3-6 ounce cooked serving of meat per meal according to your protein needs. Weigh or measure portions to avoid overeating.

5. Prepare meat in a healthy way

Choose cooking methods like grilling, roasting, baking or broiling. Avoid frying which can add a lot of unnecessary calories and fat.

6. Skip the salt and sugar

Avoid adding high-sodium marinades or sweet BBQ sauce to meats, which can counteract weight loss efforts. Use herbs, spices and natural rubs to add flavor instead.

7. Fill up on veggies

Round out meals by including plenty of low-calorie, high-fiber vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and bell peppers.

Meatless Meals for Weight Loss Variety

While lean meats can certainly be part of a healthy weight loss plan, you don’t need to eat meat at every meal. Limit red meat to a few times per week and mix in meatless meals for variety:

  • Bean burritos loaded with sautéed veggies
  • Vegetable stir fries over brown rice
  • Chickpea curry with sweet potatoes and spinach
  • Portobello mushroom burgers on whole grain buns
  • Zucchini lasagna made with ricotta and tomato sauce
  • Quinoa bowls with roasted veggies and avocado
  • Hummus and veggie whole wheat pita sandwiches

Going meatless once or twice a week can help boost intake of fiber, vitamins and minerals on a weight loss diet.

Worst Meats for Weight Loss

On the flip side, there are certain meats that should be limited or avoided altogether when trying to lose weight due to their high calorie, fat and sodium content:


Just 2 slices of bacon contain around 40 calories and 4 grams of fat. Bacon is also very high in sodium, which can cause water retention. Leave it off sandwiches, burgers and breakfast plates.


Sausage is high in calories, fat and sodium. Just one link of breakfast sausage contains around 13 grams of fat. Substitute turkey sausage or meatless sausage if you still want that sausage flavor.

Beef ribs

A typical 3-bone serving of beef ribs has over 700 calories and 50 grams of fat. Stick to leaner cuts of beef like sirloin or tenderloin.

Hot dogs

Hot dogs are processed meat high in sodium and nitrates. One hot dog has about 300 mg of sodium and 13 grams of fat. Choose uncured turkey or veggie dogs instead.


Just a couple slices of pepperoni contain around 80 calories and 7 grams of fat. Limit this unhealthy processed meat.


Bologna is a fatty processed meat that also contains lots of sodium. Two slices provide about 300 mg sodium and 11 grams fat.

Beef jerky

While jerky may seem like a good low-carb snack, it’s also very high in sodium and calories. Stick to fresh lean meats.

Cured ham/deli meats

Sliced ham, salami and cured sausage contain added salts and preservatives so they should be eaten sparingly when trying to lose weight, if at all.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Meat for Weight Loss

The way you prepare and cook meat can make a big difference in the calories and fat content. Here are some healthy cooking methods to use:


Grilling lean meats like chicken, fish and pork over direct high heat helps let excess fat drip away. Marinate in a low-sodium blend of herbs and spices instead of sugary sauce.


Baking chicken or fish in the oven surrounded by low-calorie roasted veggies is a classic healthy cooking technique. Avoid frying or breading meat before baking.


Broiling utilizes direct overhead heat to cook meat quickly while allowing fat to drip off. Season meat with pepper, garlic powder, paprika and chili powder.


Roasting uses indirect heat to slowly cook meat, keeping it very moist and tender. Turkey and chicken work great roasted whole or in pieces.


Cook meat in a hot pan with a small amount of oil over high heat until browned and cooked through. Always discard any excess fat leftover.


Steaming fish by wrapping in parchment paper or foil is a fat-free cooking method. Season fish with herbs and citrus slices before steaming.


Cook sliced meat with crisp veggies in a wok or deep skillet over very high heat. Use coconut oil or avocado oil instead of heavy oils for stir-frying.

Healthy Marinades and Rubs for Grilled Meat

Marinating meat before grilling infuses it with lots of flavor. Whip up DIY marinades and dry rubs at home using healthy herbs, spices and ingredients:

Yogurt and lemon marinade:

Mix Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Let chicken or pork marinate 30 mins-1 hour before grilling.

Jerk spice rub:

Blend cayenne pepper, thyme, allspice, garlic powder and brown sugar. Rub on chicken or fish before grilling.

Chimichurri sauce:

Whisk parsley, cilantro, garlic, shallots, olive oil and vinegar for a zesty steak marinade.

Honey mustard marinade:

Combine mustard, honey, garlic and chili powder. Brush on chicken halves while grilling.

Teriyaki marinade:

Mix soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Let salmon or beef soak 30 mins-1 hour before cooking.

Barbecue spice rub:

Make a blend using chili powder, cumin, brown sugar and smoked paprika to rub on pork tenderloin.

Pesto marinade:

Stir up pesto sauce using basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. Smear pesto on chicken breasts before cooking.

Tandoori yogurt marinade:

Combine yogurt, lemon juice, curry powder, cumin and cayenne. Marinate chicken wings or thighs before broiling.

Best Vegetables to Serve with Meat

Fill half your plate with low-calorie vegetables and fruits to help meet your nutrient needs on a weight loss diet:

  • Bell peppers: Red, green, yellow or orange peppers sliced into strips or chunks make a great pairing for fajitas or stir-fries.
  • Broccoli: Fresh broccoli florets add crunch and nutrients. Roast or steam broccoli to serve alongside chicken or fish.
  • Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, arugula, romaine and other salad greens provide an excellent low-carb base for meals.
  • Asparagus: Grilled, roasted or steamed asparagus spears complement poultry, seafood and red meat.
  • Carrots: Slice carrots into sticks for dipping or roasting alongside meat for natural sweetness.
  • Onions: Sautéed onions add flavor to meat dishes. Use red, yellow, white or green varieties.
  • Mushrooms: Meaty portobello caps can even stand in for burgers. Or slice cremini, button or shiitake mushrooms.
  • Zucchini: Shave into spirals or ribbons using a spiralizer. Or chop zucchini to sauté, roast or grill.
  • Tomatoes: Add slices of fresh tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes to plates.
  • Cauliflower: Make cauliflower rice by pulsing florets in a food processor. Or roast cauliflower wedges until caramelized.

Any combination of these healthy veggies will help provide volume and nutrients without excess calories.

Putting it All Together – Sample Weight Loss Menu with Meat

Here is a sample one-day menu incorporating lean proteins and plenty of produce:


  • Vegetable omelet made with 3 egg whites and 1 whole egg
  • Sliced avocado
  • Grapefruit


  • Turkey burger on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, avocado and mustard
  • Roasted broccoli
  • Melon cubes


  • 4 ounces grilled salmon
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup steamed green beans
  • Tossed salad with vinaigrette


  • Greek yogurt with blueberries
  • Hardboiled egg
  • Baby carrots and hummus

With a combination of filling proteins, fiber-rich produce and whole grains, this sample menu provides perfectly portioned, nutritious meals and snacks to support weight loss.


Eating the right types of meat in proper portion sizes can absolutely be part of an effective weight loss diet. Focus on getting enough lean protein while limiting overall calories by filling your plate with vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes. Choose healthier cooking methods and limit processed varieties like bacon and deli meats. With the right balance of nutrients, you can lose weight while still enjoying juicy burgers, tender chicken and succulent fish.

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