The Red Meat Cheat Sheet

Your guide to the smartest cuts for weight loss.
Published August 29, 2019

Sometimes, a big salad and yet another breast of chicken just won't cut it. Sometimes, you need meat. Red meat. A filet mignon or a juicy burger; a New York strip or a London broil. These tips will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about beef — and then some.


Start with portion size 

You want a 3-ounce serving of red meat, about the size of a deck of cards. Yes, that's way smaller than the 12- and 16-ounce slabs the local steakhouse serves.


See the fat, lose the fat

If you can't trim away the excess fat with your knife, it's the wrong cut for you. That means choosing top sirloin steak over ribeye, or any meat that's described as "marbled" (which is a euphemism for, "the fat's mixed inside the meat"). For example, 3 ounces of filet mignon has 7 PointsPlus® values but if you can cut away a lot of visible fat, that drops to 4 PointsPlus values.


The de-greasing of America

Beef is about 20 percent leaner than it was in the early 1990s, according to the National Cattlemen's Association.


How lean is "lean?"

Beef can only legally be called "lean" if it has less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving.


Kinder cuts

There are more than two dozen kinds of beef that qualify as lean or extra lean according to labeling definitions by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Lean cuts to look for at the market or a restaurant are listed at the top of the page. All are 3-ounce servings.


Glazed and confused

Tell the waiter you want your steak without butter glazing. Line chefs pour butter on it right before serving to give it that glistening look of still-sizzling meat.


Supporting roles

Ordering side dishes in restaurants are dicey because most restaurants saute their vegetables in oil or butter. To save PointsPlus values, your best bets are a large baked potato without butter for 5 PointsPlus values and steamed vegetables with a PointsPlus value of 0.


What’s in those delicious 3 ounces of lean beef, on average?


51% of your daily value of protein* 
Important for building muscles, organs and bones

38% of your daily value of zinc*
Helps maintain your immune system and heal wounds

7% of your daily value of Vitamin B12*
Produces red blood cells and helps maintain your nervous system

14% of your daily value of iron*
Especially important for red blood cell production and carrying oxygen to blood cells and tissues, such as your muscles

* Based on a 2,000 calorie diet.


You Got Game?


Aside from the novelty of throwing a nice moose steak on the barbie, game meats — both wild and farm-raised — are generally lower in fat than traditional beef. Based on 3 oz. servings, just the meat (not the bread or fixings). 

Bison (Buffalo)    5 PointsPlus values
Venison Steak     3 PointsPlus values
Elk Tenderloin     3 PointsPlus values

About the Writer

Jeffery Lindenmuth is a fine dining writer and lecturer, who has written for Esquire, Wine & Spirits, Men’s Health and Cooking Light