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.


4 BOLD Reasons Lean Beef Supports Your New Year’s Resolutions

When planning and implementing your New Year’s Resolutions for this year it’s important to stack the deck in your favor, to increase the likelihood of your success. Many have found great success enjoying beef as a top source of lean protein and essential nutrients. Here are 4 BOLD reasons to include lean beef (and its many benefits) in your diet in 2016 and beyond!

  1. Lean beef satisfies a heart healthy dietLean beef steaks with pineapple glaze

Multiple research papers published from Penn State University Clinical Nutrition Research Center on the BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) study have shown that a heart healthy diet, including lean beef daily, leads to simultaneous reductions in a variety of risk factors for heart disease including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (often called ‘bad cholesterol’), and blood pressure.

  1. Today’s beef is a satisfying lean protein choice to support your weight loss goals

Protein plays an extremely important role in weight loss, and lean beef is equipped to provide you all the research-proven benefits. Research shows that protein rich food like lean beef may help increase feelings of fullness and control cravings, while also packing the ideal levels of a key compound called leucine, which helps your body build calorie burning muscle.

  1. Lean beef is packed with nutrients you need, not excessive calories that you don’t

Calorie for calorie, it is hard to beat all the nutrients you get from a single serving of lean beef. When you are watching and reducing your calorie intake to aid in your weight loss efforts, it can be hard to get all the nutrients that your body needs to stay nourished and energized. Just a 3oz serving of lean beef contains 10% or more of your daily needs of all these essential nutrients – protein (48%), zinc (36%), vitamin B12 (44%), selenium (40%), phosphorus (19%), niacin (26%), Vitamin B6 (22%), iron (12%), riboflavin (10%) and choline (16%).¹

  1. With so many flavorful ways to prepare lean beef, you can keep your diet exciting and fresh

A major downfall of “healthy diets” is the doom and gloom associated with their bland menus. Lean beef brings the variety and flavors that you love with the health punch your body needs. Don’t relinquish your taste buds to bland proteins and steamed vegetables when you can enjoy dishes like beef chili, fajitas, and sweet potato hash.

¹ USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

America’s Beef Supply Has Evolved

The internet is flooded with trendy diets, weight-loss programs and conflicting advice on what a healthy lifestyle is – often leaving individuals confused about what is “good” and “bad” to eat. A healthy diet is important to achieve and maintain for optimal health; everyone has different dietary and nutritional needs, so no single diet is one size fits all. Fortunately, ongoing research provides Americans with new information about nutritious, lean food options that support a healthy diet – no matter how they choose to eat.

The food supply is dynamic
Dietary habits vary across the United States, but for many Americans there are a number of food choices available. Not every individual has the same dietary preferences and nutritional needs. In order to ensure accurate, and up-to-date nutritional data is available, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) exists. The SR serves as the foundation for food and nutrition research, policy and practice; tasked with keeping data current and correct.  This information can be valuable to individuals who maintain or want to adopt a nutritious, healthy diet.

Sirloin steak in 1960 vs 2013

The sirloin steak has evolved over the past several decades

Consumers demand lean beef

Nutritious foods are high in demand. Americans consume 1.7 ounces of beef daily, on average, so today’s leaner beef offers consumers the flavor they crave and the nutrition they need all in one delicious package. Supplying consumers with leaner beef that simultaneously delivers on nutrition, flavor, safety and convenience is the result of a successful collaboration spanning at least four decades.

This effort involves the entire beef supply chain, starting with America’s cattle farmers and ranchers who raise leaner animals, packers and processors who closely trim beef cuts and finally supermarkets and restaurants, offering a growing number of lean beef cuts to consumers. Changes in cattle breeding and management coupled with extensive trimming of visible fat from retail cuts have resulted in the wide-spread availability of lean beef to U.S. consumers. All of these efforts originated with consumers’ demand for leaner beef and offer evidence that America’s beef community is committed to accommodating consumers’ health needs and responding to public health guidance.

Chart depicting the increase in lean cuts of beef

The number of cuts that meet USDA guidelines for lean has increased over the past several years

A healthy diet with lean beef

Today, 65% of the beef cuts sold in U.S. meatcases is lean and there are 38 cuts of lean beef for consumers to enjoy. These cuts offer consumers more beef options suited to their needs for nutrition, flavor and cooking methods of choice and convenience. Whether you prefer an easy steak wrap on the go, or beef stir-fry with the family, there are plenty of lean beef options to fit into your personal diet. Americans are able to enjoy a variety of lean beef and other health food options, thanks to farmers, ranchers, packers, processors, researchers, nutrition professionals and even consumers who have worked together to help shape the evolution of today’s lean beef.

Be Nice To Your Waistline By Keeping Lean Beef On Your Holiday Menu

Mary_Lee_ChinMary Lee Chin, MS, RD, Food and Nutrition Consultant in Denver, Colo.

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As a registered dietitian, I understand it can be difficult to be health and weight conscious during this hectic time when we juggle travel, party planning and gift buying along with our regular schedules. On top of that, we hear a lot of myths about how to be healthy, such as don’t eat this or that. My best advice to help avoid holiday weight gain is to be nice instead of naughty and build your meals on a foundation of healthful foods. A way to lighten holiday fare is to focus on serving nutrient-rich choices from these important food groups: lean meats, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Lean beef, with its high concentration of essential amino acids delivers high quality protein content, and easily fits into your healthier holiday meal planning and entertaining.

Research continues to illustrate the critical role high-quality protein plays in optimal health: maintaining muscle, fueling activity, and managing weight. Animal sources such as lean meat, fish, eggs and dairy tend to have a higher percentage of essential amino acids than plant sources and are more well correlated to inducing fat loss. Protein-rich lean beef can help in preserving lean muscle mass which contributes to the burning of fat. Coupled with exercise, lean beef can help you build muscle strength while you work to lose or maintain weight this holiday season.

Holiday celebrations can too often mean fat and sugar loaded treats that are too high in calories and too low in nutrient content. Including lean beef can help balance the nutrition scales. Beef is a natural source of 10 essential nutrients, such as a readily available and easily absorbed source of iron and zinc. Iron is a part of all cells and many enzymes. It carries oxygen from lungs throughout the body and helps muscles store and use oxygen. Zinc is vital for many biological functions, especially effecting our all-important immune system and physical and mental development. Beef also is an excellent source of B vitamins which help convert foods into energy to fuel your activity during these busy days. And its content of Vitamin B12 specifically promotes growth and helps maintain brain function.

Several studies show that protein generally increases satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat and may aid a reduction in overall calorie consumption.  Translate that into action by eating half of a lean roast beef sandwich on whole grain bread before you go out to the holiday buffet party. Blunting your appetite can help prevent your head first dive into the rich dips, creamy desserts and holiday cakes and cookies.

The American Psychological Association reports that half of women experience heightened stress during the holidays due to extra time spent on parties, cooking and shopping. Add in health and weight considerations and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s no wonder we are seeking healthier, and simpler, alternatives.

With beef, you have so many choices to lighten up your menu during the holidays, and simplify your cooking as well. Today there are 29 cuts of beef which meet government guidelines for leanness which includes many popular cuts. One tip: when shopping, make sure to look for lean sources of meat with the word “loin” in the name, such as sirloin or tenderloin. Loin cuts provide lean menu options for both everyday eating and holiday entertaining.

Before you face a busy day of mall shopping, place a bottom round roast with seasoning, winter root vegetables and red wine in a slow cooker. You’ll come home to an impossibly tender roast, and savory vegetables. Add some whole wheat rolls and you have a nutrient-rich, tasty—and easy meal after a tiring day.

Need appealing appetizers? Thinly slice sirloin and skewer with red and green peppers for color and crunch. Glaze with barbeque sauce, broil quickly and watch them disappear. Or make your mother’s famous meatball recipe with 95% lean ground beef. You’ll have great taste and the nutrition benefits of high quality beef.

Holiday happenings are special…and the food should be too. Whether you’re throwing a big bash or hosting an intimate evening, holiday entertaining for friends and family can present a challenge for serving spectacular, yet easy to prepare and healthier food and refreshment. Our family tradition is to carve a whole beef tenderloin for our holiday meal. It’s served with a sauce made from horseradish and low-fat yogurt, and rounded out with salad, roasted vegetables and whole grain rolls. It’s a spectacular entrée; indulgent, elegant and yet still very nutritious and low in calories. Since beef tenderloin is easy to prepare and cooks so quickly I spend more time with friends and family in the living room than isolated in the kitchen.

So is there room for dessert? Of course, satiated by good food, and good company, we always have a bit of room for the traditional family apple pie and chocolate cake. You should absolutely savor holiday treats; just keep portions within reason and treat them as,  well “treats,” not the focus of eating.

Include lean beef in your holidays and you’ll receive the benefits good taste, ease of preparation and nutritious eating, without sacrificing your waistline.

When grilling beef at home, is it safe to say that beef is done when it’s brown all the way through or feels warm to the touch? Color and touch are not accurate ways to determine the doneness of a steak, roast or hamburger.

Myth: My hamburger or steak is done when it’s brown in the middle or warm to the touch.

The Facts: Internal temperature is the only way to tell when your hamburger, steak or other beef products are properly cooked.

Color and juices are not an accurate way to determine the doneness of beef. Color can change for a variety of reasons including oxygen exposure, preparation method or added seasonings.

Similarly, feeling how warm your steak is on the outside or by cutting into the inside to look at the juices is not an accurate way to determine doneness. Utilizing an instant read meat thermometer is the only way to know that the beef you’re preparing has reached the safe internal temperature.

What are proper internal temperatures for cuts of beef?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends grilling beef to the following temperatures to ensure a safe and enjoyable beef eating experience:

Ground beef/hamburger –160°F

Steaks – 145°F (medium rare)

Roasts – 145°F (medium rare)

Degree of Doneness

For more tips on how to cook to specific degree of doneness, check out Confident Cooking with Beef.

Always use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature – meat thermometers can be purchased at all grocery stores. Be sure to clean and sanitize your meat thermometer between uses.

Are there any other safe food preparation tips I should follow?

Preparing beef for cooking is just as important as cooking and grilling it. When preparing your meal, be sure to use different cutting boards and knives for meat and produce and wash them with hot soapy water between uses. An easy way to remember food safety guidelines is to Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill. This process ensures a safe eating experience for you and your family. After your meal is over, refrigerate leftovers in order to enjoy safe beef for lunch the next day!

Is meat consumption out of control, and is it making us unhealthy?

Myth: Meat consumption is too high, and this overconsumption is leading to increased health problems.

There seems to be a lot of talk about how much meat Americans are eating and suggestions that this leads to health issues. You may wonder if we have too much meat on our plates or if a vegetarian diet is the healthier way to go?

The Facts: Contrary to popular belief, protein consumption has remained consistent over the past 40 years. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report says it all: the daily caloric contribution of flour and cereal products increased by 193 calories per person from 1970 to 2008, compared to only a 19-calorie increase per person from meat, eggs and nuts during the same period. The average American consumes about 5.1 oz of protein foods each day (i.e. from meat, poultry, egg, fish/seafood, nuts and seeds and soy products) and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends an average of 5.5 oz of protein foods daily.

Furthermore, research suggests many Americans could actually benefit from including high-quality protein, such as lean beef, to their diet because of its positive role in weight management, healthy aging and disease prevention.  A nutritionist and health writer for provides a brief overview of the benefits of lean beef consumption in this article.

Read on for the truth about beef consumption, and how consumption of lean meat, including beef, can positively impact Americans’ diets.

Beef Consumption Patterns

  • Beef Consumption and Healthy Eating: Americans are eating beef in a variety of nutritious eating patterns that can meet health outcomes and goals
    • On average, Americans consume 5.1 oz of protein foods each day (i.e., from meat, poultry, egg, fish/seafood, nuts, seeds and soy products). The Dietary Guidelines recommend at least 5.5 oz of protein foods daily. Therefore, Americans are consuming protein foods within the Dietary Guidelines recommendations.
    • According to NHANES data, Americans consume 1.7 oz of beef daily, on average.
  • Saturated fat and cholesterol: Reports indicate that the proportion of total and saturated fat from meat, poultry and fish has slowly declined, according to this report from the USDA.
    • Beef consumption contributes less than 10% of total fat and saturated fat in the American diet, according to NHANES data.
    • You might be surprised to hear that pizza and grain-based desserts contribute more saturated fat to Americans’ diets than beef.
    • About half the fatty acids found in beef are monounsaturated fatty acids, the same heart-healthy kind found in olive oil.
    • Beef consumption contributes less cholesterol to Americans’ diets (11%) compared to chicken (12%) and eggs (25%), according to the Dietary Guidelines.

Beef Consumption and a Healthy Diet

  • Lean Beef's Competitive Advantage_FINAL ARMS 110415-03Lean beef consumption and heart health: Heart health is top of mind for Americans and recent research shows that including lean beef, even daily as part of a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle, improved cholesterol levels.
    • The BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) study demonstrated that when including lean beef to the most recommended heart-healthy diet, it reduced levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol by 10% from baseline when included as part of a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle containing less than 7% of calories from saturated fat. This is just as effective as the DASH diet, which US News & World Report has recognized as “Best Overall Diet” and “Best Diet for Healthy Eating” and is a gold-standard for heart-healthy eating.
    • Good quality evidence from numerous randomized controlled trials consistently demonstrates that consuming 4-5.5 ounces of lean beef daily, as part of a healthful dietary pattern, supports good health.
  • Powerful nutrients: A substantial body of evidence shows lean beef consumption contributes protein, iron and B-vitamins, which can help keep you full and maintain a healthy weight, build muscles and fuel a healthy and active lifestyle.
    • A 3-oz serving of lean beef provides about half (48%) of the Daily Value for protein, according to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory, 2015.
    • For more reasons why eating beef can help fuel an active lifestyle by helping conserve energy and build muscles, read this post.
  • Many of America’s favorite cuts of meat are lean. Lean beef cuts all have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 3 ½-oz cooked serving.
    • Today, 66 percent of beef cuts sold at retail are lean (when cooked and trimmed).
    • Thanks to increased trimming practices, the external fat in retail cuts has decreased by 80 percent in the past 20 years.
      • For example, Sirloin Steak contains 34 percent less fat now than it contained in the 1960s
    • Learn more about lean cuts, including many favorites such as Flank Steak, Strip steak and Sirloin Steak.
This images shows the number of beef cuts that meet the USDA guidelines for lean

The beef community has increased the number of lean beef cuts available to consumers over the past several years, which can be part of a healthy dietary pattern.




%d bloggers like this: