Can Red Meat Actually Make You Gain Weight?

The Truth About Red Meat
Double-Stuffed Steak Quesadilla. Courtesy of

Red meat: to eat or not to eat? Some sources recommend avoiding it because it’s high in fat and calories. But is it always best to choose other foods over beef? Read on to discover the truth about red meat.

Let’s start with a roundup of the claims that link red meat to weight gain.

Red meat — which includes beef, lamb, and any other meat that comes from mammals — tends to be pretty calorie dense. That’s because it’s usually higher in fat than most foods, and fat contains more calories per gram than other nutrients.

Some studies have found an association between red meat consumption and obesity. In one study, researchers found that adults who consumed more meat had significantly higher daily calorie intake and a higher risk for obesity. Another group of researchers had similar results: They found that the more red meat consumed by participants, the more weight they gained. Finally, a Chinese study found that high red meat intake was associated with higher body weight and BMIs.

The truth? There’s nothing in red meat that’ll automatically pack on pounds. The studies that have found a relationship between meat consumption and weight gain also found that people who ate more meat tended to consume more overall daily calories. Consuming excess calories leads to weight gain; simply eating red meat doesn’t.

It is important to be careful with your red meat intake to avoid overdoing it in the calorie department.

Always pay attention to serving sizes, and look for leaner cuts. And pair your meat with light sides, as opposed to the heavy stuff. It’s all about balance!

Top Tips for Meat Eating

  • Choose the right cut. When you’re shopping for a diamond ring, you want to make sure it has a good cut. Same goes for red meat. Look for meats marked as extra-lean (4 percent fat or less) or lean (10 percent fat or less). Extra-lean cuts of steak include round and top sirloin, and lean cuts include tenderloin (filet mignon is considered tenderloin), strip, and T-bone. What not to eat: Ribeye and skirt steak.
  • Pay attention to grade. At the supermarket or butcher shop, beef will be marked with words like prime, choice, and select. Skip past the prime, which tends to have a lot of marbling (fat spread throughout the meat for flavoring). Choice meats have less marbling, and select tends to be the leanest. So, remember this: Select SELECT!
  • When it comes to pork, go for loin roasts and loin chops. Pork may be known as “the other white meat,” but you still need to choose the lean cuts. Pork tenderloin is just as low in fat as skinless chicken breast!
  • If you’re making hamburgers, meatballs, or meatloaf, go for extra-lean ground beef (at least 96 percent fat-free). While extra-lean turkey tends to be a little dry, extra-lean beef is surprisingly juicy. 

Speaking of meatloaf, here's an easy way to make mini meatloaf in a muffin pan!

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