Should I Eat Less Red Meat for a Healthy Diet?

BBQ steak on a stick with pineapple salsa

Lean beef can be part of a healthy diet

Myth: The new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating less red meat, like beef.

Fact: Actually, the new guidelines reaffirm the role of lean beef in a healthy diet and confirm that Americans are, on average, consuming fresh, lean red meat (which includes lean beef) at levels consistent with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. The new Dietary Guidelines are good news for beef lovers!

It’s also important to keep in mind that the Dietary Guidelines are just that: guidelines. They are not prescriptions. The recommendations for protein vary widely based on age and gender and are for people who get less than 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Your needs may vary significantly from another family member’s. For example:

  • A growing teenage boy who is active in a variety of sports may need more protein for optimal performance and health compared to an older sedentary person.
  • A young, first time mother who is nursing a child or running after a toddler may need more protein to nourish herself compared to a middle-aged adult woman who doesn’t have as many family demands.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that one size does not fit all, so we all need to find ways to meet our protein and nutritional needs while using these recommendations as a baseline.

Just as we are all different, not all meat is the same. The new Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans choose lean proteins. While you may not think of beef as lean, there are now 38 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, including some of America’s favorite cuts like sirloin steak and 95% lean ground beef.

You may have also heard the Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming a plant-based diet. Does that mean we should cut back on meat? Not necessarily. Most Americans do not need to change how much beef they enjoy, but we all should be mindful of balancing our diets. Many of us would benefit from eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with but we can do this by choosing empty calorie foods less often. Even teen boys and adult males, who do tend to eat more total protein, are not approaching the upper end of the acceptable range for protein outlined in the Dietary Guidelines.

Lean beef is a wholesome, nutrient-rich food that helps you get back to the basics of healthy eating. A single 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients in about 150 calories – including nutrients like iron, zinc and B vitamins that are critical for development and optimal health throughout life.

So how much red meat should you consume? This protein calculator estimates your suggested protein intake based on height, weight, age, gender and level of physical activity. Americans with special dietary needs or who are looking for individual advice about how to build a healthy diet with lean beef may want to seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian or their personal physician.


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