Cuts of beef: A guide to the leanest selections
Find out which cuts of beef are lowest in fat and cholesterol.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
The tastiest cuts of beef are often the ones with more fat. But when you're concerned about your health or you're trying to watch your weight, you want the leanest cuts of beef.
You don't necessarily have to sacrifice flavor by choosing lean cuts of beef, though. Use this guide on cuts of beef to make smart choices.
Nutrition labels for cuts of beef
Wondering which cuts of beef are the leanest? Check the label. The labels on cuts of beef are considered nutrition claims, so they're subject to government regulations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates whether cuts of beef can be labeled as "lean" or "extra lean" based on their fat and cholesterol content.
Lean cuts of beef
The USDA defines a lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains less than:
- 10 grams total fat
- 4.5 grams saturated fat
- 95 milligrams cholesterol
Extra-lean cuts of beef
The USDA defines an extra-lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains less than:
- 5 grams total fat
- 2 grams saturated fat
- 95 milligrams cholesterol
Note that you might see grades of beef (Prime, Choice and Select) on meat packages. Beef grading is a voluntary program that manufacturers can use to judge the perceived quality of their products. Beef grades are not the same as the "lean" and "extra-lean" labels.
Selecting cuts of beef
Many cuts of beef now meet the USDA's regulations to qualify as lean or extra lean. Of these, the following are considered extra lean:
- Eye of round roast and steak
- Sirloin tip side steak
- Top round roast and steak
- Bottom round roast and steak
- Top sirloin steak
If you still have questions about which cuts of beef are lean or extra lean, ask your butcher or grocer. If you're dining out, ask the restaurant server or chef for recommendations for lower fat options.
Keep in mind that the same cuts of beef can have different names. For example, a boneless top loin steak may also be called a strip steak, club sirloin steak or N.Y. strip steak.
Other tips when choosing cuts of beef:
Aug. 13, 2016
- Choose cuts that are graded "Choice" or "Select" instead of "Prime," which usually has more fat.
- Choose cuts with the least amount of visible fat (marbling).
- When selecting ground beef, opt for the lowest percentage of fat.
- Limit consumption of organs, such as liver, to about 3 ounces (85 grams) a month.
See more In-depth
- Food labeling. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. http://www.gpoaccess.gov/ecfr/... Accessed June 30, 2016.
- Meat, poultry and fish. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Meat-Poultry-and-Fish_UCM_306002_Article.jsp#.V3UtrdjbJYU. Accessed June 30, 2016.
- Duyff RL. Kitchen nutrition: Cooking matters. In: American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons; 2012.
- The Encyclopedia of Foods: A Guide to Healthy Nutrition. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press; 2002.
- Beef: From farm to table. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/c33b69fe-7041-4f50-9dd0-d098f11d1f13/Beef_from_Farm_to_Table.pdf?MOD=AJPERES. Accessed June 30, 2016.
- McNeill SH, et al. The evolution of lean beef: Identifying lean beef in today's U.S. marketplace. Meat Science. 2012;90:1.
- All about the protein food group. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods#. Accessed June 30, 2016.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 30, 2016.
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Accessed June 30, 2016.