The Best Lean Protein Foods (List)

Lean Protein Sources Make Healthy Eating Easier

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Protein is an important part of a healthy diet and can help you to lose weight. But do you know how to choose the best lean protein foods? Smart lean protein sources are high in nutrients but lower in fat and calories. Use this lean protein list when you shop for your weekly groceries. Then fill your breakfast lunch and dinner plate with these foods. You'll benefit from good nutrition and from the feeling of fullness and satisfaction that protein provides.


Healthy Lean Protein Foods

  • Fish  Certain types of fish are great sources of lean protein. Most fish is lower in saturated fat than poultry or beef. Cold water fish, such as salmon, is an excellent choice as it contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, a good fat that can be beneficial to your health. Tuna, mackerel, cod, herring and anchovies are also packed with protein power and nutrition.
  • ​​​Chicken and turkey.  Poultry is a good source of protein, but the calorie count of poultry can vary. So it's important to read nutritional labels and choose leaner cuts of turkey and chicken as often as possible. As a general rule, lighter meat is lower in calories than dark meat. Also, be sure to remove the skin before eating and learn how to grill your chicken or turkey to cut fat and calories. You can also roast poultry or bake it to keep the calorie count low.
  • Lean beef. Watching your fat and your daily calorie intake doesn't mean you have to give up steak. If you choose the right kind of beef, it can be a healthy part of your weight loss program. Choose cuts with the words "round" or "loin" in the name, and those that have less visible marbling. Trim any visible fat before you cook it or ask the butcher to do so before wrapping it up. When choosing ground beef, look for "lean" or "extra lean" on the label.  If you enjoy red meat, but still need to cut back on fat, consider bison as your red meat alternative. It tastes like beef but provides less fat than most typical beef steaks and roasts.
  • Eggs. Eggs can be part of any healthy diet because they are budget-friendly, versatile and easy to prepare. The calories in eggs are low and they provide around five grams of protein per serving. You can use eggs to make a healthy breakfast, or you can make sandwiches or heartier dishes such as a vegetable frittata or vegetarian quiche. If you are concerned about cholesterol, use fewer yolks because the fat and cholesterol is in the yolk. 

You'll notice that protein snack bars and protein powders are not on this list. Why? Because experts generally recommend that you get protein from whole foods rather than processed supplements. Of course, that doesn't mean that powders and bars are bad for you, but you'll enjoy nutritional benefits if you choose whole foods as good lean protein sources more often.

And don't forget that how you prepare lean protein matters most if you are eating to lose weight.

Bake, roast or broil meat and seafood to minimize the amount of oil that you use. Be sure to measure dairy products like cheese or and even yogurt because the calories in those products add up quickly. And try not to add too much oil when you prepare dishes with beans. Traditional recipes can often be prepared with less fat to save calories and still taste great.

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