STOP GUESSING WHETHER THAT PIECE OF PROTEIN ON YOUR PLATE IS LEAN. LEARN ACTIONABLE STRATEGIES TO HELP YOU CONFIDENTLY NAVIGATE THE GROCERY STORE, RESTAURANT, OR SOCIAL OCCASION TO ENSURE YOU’RE CHOOSING LEAN PROTEIN THAT WILL WORK FOR YOU RATHER THAN AGAINST YOU.

Think about it– as you move from fish – zero legs – to two-legged poultry and four-legged beef (or pork), the amount of fat per source tends to increase. Although there’s an exception to every rule – and we’ll talk about the most common exceptions – this guideline holds true in the majority of cases. That’s why I recommend the phrase serve as your North star to guide you to lean protein options whether you’re shopping at the grocery store, dining out, or navigating a dinner party.

In this article, we’ll discuss what makes a protein “lean” and then dive into specific examples of lean proteins from all of our favorite animals – no matter how many legs!

DEFINING A “LEAN” PROTEIN

A “lean” protein is one that provides two grams (or less) of fat per one-ounce serving. And if we assume – for simplicity – that one ounce of protein (scale weight) provides six grams of protein, then we can simplify further and aim for a 3:1 ratio of grams of protein to grams of fat.

PROTEIN (SCALE WEIGHT,

OUNCES)

PROTEIN (NUTRITION CONTENT,

GRAMS)

MAXIMUM FAT CONTENT

(GRAMS)

1

6

2

2

12

4

3

18

6

4

24

8

5

30

10

6

36

12

7

42

14

8

48

16

In most cases, one to two grams of fat is listed for each ounce of animal protein because there’s inevitably going to be a trace gram here or there leftover from the butchering process. However, as you keep reading, you’ll be able to confidently identify those that are lean compared to those that are fatty.

FISH AND SEAFOOD

Both fish and seafood are an excellent source of lean protein. Yes, I’m including seafood here, despite the many legs some cephalopods have – more on those in a minute. Most species of fish provide nothing but protein. Well, they provide excellent taste, too, but not much else besides a potential trace gram of

carbohydrate.

Your “white” fish typically fit this description:

  • Tilapia
  • Cod
  • Mackerel
  • Halibut
  • Mullet
  • Sol

Although some fish do contain fat, such as salmon, sardines, and herring, these sources are rich in omega- 3 fatty acids, the type that has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve recovery, and enhance cognitive function. Yes, those fats.

Seafood also earns the characteristic of “very-lean” as it pertains to protein. Examples of lean seafood options include:

  • Crab
  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Scallops
  • Oysters
  • Lobster
  • octopus

Yes, even the eight-legged, rule-breaking octopus is a lean source of protein. Of course, not when it’s served fried with a side of tartar and bread!

POULTRY

As the number of legs increases on our protein source, the amount of fat typically does, too. There are two types of meat found in poultry: white and dark meat. White mean is the leaner cut, found in the breast of the bird, whereas dark meat is the fattier cut, found in the wings in thighs. This applies to chicken, turkey, and duck. To cut down on total fat, saturated fat, and extra calories, stick with chicken breast and make sure you leave the skin of the bird on your plate – the skin is rich in not so good for you fats.

BEEF AND PORK

These four-legged animals provide significantly more cuts of protein that are higher in fat compared to fish, seafood, and poultry. If you’re not mindful of your cut of beef or pork, you may end up with a few extra hundred calories. And if you’re dieting, well, there goes your daily deficit.

Although beef and pork tend to contain more fat than fish, seafood, or poultry, that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. In fact, you’d be foolish to because each is a great source of protein, and beef is also a great source of iron and zinc, whereas pork is an excellent source of vitamin B1, which plays an integral

role in converting the carbohydrates you eat into useable energy.

To further guide you in your quest to choose a lean cut of beef or pork, look for the word “-loin” when reading the name of the cut of meat. This is your low-fat buzz word. For instance, steak sirloin and pork tenderloin are both very-lean cuts of meat.

Other low-fat options include:

  • Filet mignon
  • Flank steak
  • Top and bottom round
  • Canadian bacon
  • Ham

You can also identify a lean cut of beef before you purchase it by looking at the amount of marbling, or white spots, on the raw cut of meat. The more marbling, the fattier the cut.

PLANT-BASED PROTEINS

Most plant-based protein sources are lean as well. This includes quinoa, most soy products, seitan, beans, lentils, and legumes. However, it’s important to note that tofu may be low-fat or high-fat, depending on the brand and preparation method. Be sure to double check the nutrition information before purchasing.

Want to learn more about how much protein you need to eat for muscle growth AND fat-loss (they’re different amounts, by the way), as well as the optimal distribution of your protein intake throughout the day to maximize both? Make sure you sign-up for my online video course, “Everything You Need To Know About Protein” (for optimal health, physique, and performance) “HERE!”