What’s Lean Mean?


By: Nikki Nies

 I’ve always been the type to not only ask the “what” questions, but the “why” and the “how.”  Sometimes, those extra questions aren’t necessary, but it’s just in my nature.  Nutrition information is no different.  Whenever some talk about consuming adequate sources of protein, the words lean and meats are thrown around.

Of course, while grocery shopping, lean meats will be labeled “lean.”  However, I wanted to know from a numerical standpoint what makes a meat lean and why it’s approved in the health field.  For some, this question may seem like a minute detail, but I want to know the ins and outs of all things food and nutrition and this research has provided me a better grasp on meat.

In layman’s terms:

  • Lean: Each 3 1/2 ounces of the product must contain less than 10 grams of total fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
  • Extra lean: Contains less than 5 grams of total fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

Once the meat’s picked out, one should aim for servings between 2.5-5 oz.

Leaner Cuts of Beef Leaner Cuts of Pork Leaner Cuts of Lamb Leaner Poultry
Arm roasts Bone in rib chop Arm Chicken
Bottom round steaks Bone-in sirloin roast Leg of lamb Skinless breast meat
Chuck shoulder roasts Boneless top loin chop Loin Lean or extra lean ground chicken
Eye of round Boneless top loin roast Shank half of leg lamb Turkey
Leg cuts Center loin 90% lean ground lamb Skinless breast meat
Round tip Ham Skinless white meat
Tenderloin steak Pork tenderloin Lean or extra lean ground turkey
Top loin 90% lean ground pork
Top round steaks
Top sirloin
90% lean ground beef

Benefits of consuming lean meats:

  • Builds muscle
  • Improves one’s immune system
  • Fights obesity 
  • Contains omega 6 fatty acids
  • Great source of iron, zinc, protein, phosphorus, vitamin B6 and B12, potassium


Let’s put it into perspective:

  • In relation to MyPlate–it’s recommended one’s plate be 1/4 protein (i.e.  1 chicken breast, 1 cup of lasagna will count as meat and starch, 3-4 oz. of pork loin fits)
  • In relation to Glycemic Index–meats aren’t considered in GI since they don’t increase blood glucose levels.
  • For carb counters–All the plant-based protein foods and any breaded meats contain carbohydrate.  There’s approximately 15 g of carbohydrate in ½ cup beans.  There’s  between 5-15 grams in soy based products (i.e. veggie burgers and “chicken” nuggets)

Opting for leaner cuts of meats is one change that you can make today and you probably won’t even notice! In fact, if you do notice, you’ll notice that it’s easier to eat due to less fat! If you’ve recently switched your family over to leaner cuts of meat, how has the switch mean? Can you tell a difference?  Honestly?!?

Photo Credit: Granger Cattle Co. 

Sources: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/meat-and-plant-based-protein.html






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