Top 5 Lean Proteins (That Aren’t Chicken Breast)

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If you are tired of chicken breasts, we’ve got some very good news for you: there are lots of other healthy protein options. There are a lot of misconceptions about which meats and cheeses are healthy to eat. Keep in mind while reading these recommendations that fat is not the enemy. However, when high fat meats are consumed in excess, you are exposing yourself to not only excess calories, but excess saturated fat. Saturated fat is almost exclusively found in animal products and can be harmful for your heart health, so your intake of it is something to keep your eye on. Therefore, I promote lean meats for these purposes, not for the purpose of promoting a “low-fat” eating mentality as fat definitely has its place in everyone’s diet. Remember, meat will always be seven grams of protein per ounce. By choosing a lean meat, you can maximize the amount of protein you are getting for your calories. Here are my top five meat choices that go beyond the chicken breast: 

1.) Pork: I bet you’re surprise to see this as the first on the list, but I seriously love pork. Not only is it delicious but, contrary to popular belief, can be exceptionally good for you. For example, I bet you didn’t know that pork tenderloin is even leaner than chicken breast! In addition, pork loin and pork chops are actually quite lean, just remember to grill or broil your lean cuts of pork rather than fry. Pork tenderloins are delicious treated with a spice rub and grilled or broiled—no need for fatty sauces. Finally, pulled pork, when made from a lean cut, is a seriously delicious break from chicken breast for your meal prep. Something like pulled pork is so versatile that you can enjoy it all week long without getting bored.

2.) Ground beef: Ground beef can be fatty—but it doesn’t have to be, if you take control of what beef is ground. Sirloin steaks are a lean meat, with three to four percent fat. Grind them and they make great hamburgers. I go to the butcher and ask for a pound of sirloin and I have them grind it for me. Now I have a very high-quality meat that is low in fat and has no surprises. I use it in bolognese sauce for pasta, meatloaf, meatballs, lasagna, burgers—any delicious beef recipe. Therefore, there is no need to cut out beef completely, as long as the beef is lean. Look for ground beef labeled as being 90/10 or less. This means that only 10% of the meat by weight is fat and 90% is protein.

3.) Fish: I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t some fishes like salmon super oily? While this is true, it’s also true that seafood delivers a LOT more protein per ounce for the fat it contains. Additionally, the fat that is found in fishes like salmon are rich in omega-3s, an essential fat that the body can’t make on its own. Four to six ounces of salmon a couple of times a week will give you enough omega-3s will protect your cells from damage and keep your heart healthy.

4.) Chicken sausages: Love your sausage with breakfast, but watching your saturated fat intake? Well, there’s always chicken sausages. Regular sausages can be seriously high in saturated fat and other compounds that just aren’t good for your body. However, chicken sausages are a much leaner option and you can use them as an enhancing flavor for pasta sauces, scramble bits of them in your eggs or even heat one up with some mustard on the side for a satisfying, protein-packed snack. Simple, but satisfying!

5.) Dairy: It may come as a surprise, but I love cheese!  When people come to my office and I say you can have cheese, they are always astonished. However, you have to go out and find good cheeses. Light options of cheeses are one of those rare alternatives to the real thing that usually don’t have anything extra added to give more calories, but you can barely taste the difference. Also, don’t forget about Greek yogurt and cottage cheese! Any of these are great protein choices with a ton of culinary possibilities. 

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