Ground Turkey vs. Ground Beef: Healthiest Meat

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It’s no secret that eating meat helps add much-needed protein to your diet. If you like red meat though, its bad reputation might have you considering swapping to a leaner option. Dietitian Allison Hueschen, UnityPoint Health, gives you the ground turkey vs. ground beef breakdown and shares the healthiest options for meat.

Ground Turkey vs. Ground Beef

Surprisingly, Hueschen says there aren’t major nutritional differences between ground turkey and beef.

“The nutrition panel (calories, sodium, cholesterol, etc.) for ground turkey and ground beef is very comparable, as long as you select the same ratio of lean to fat,” Hueschen says.

This ratio is the percentage of lean meat vs. the percentage of fat. For example, “93/7” means 93 percent lean meat and 7 percent fat. The lower the fat content, the less saturated fat you’ll consume.

To help reduce consuming extra fat from both ground turkey and ground beef, Hueschen recommends these options:

  • Drain grease from the pan
  • Rinse meat with hot water once done cooking
  • Blot meat with a paper towel to absorb remaining grease

As far as a difference in taste, Hueschen says it’s only slight, and depending on how you use it, you might not even notice – meaning it’s possible to make ground turkey taste like beef.

“You’re more likely to notice the different taste between ground turkey and ground beef if the meat is the primary feature, such as a burger patty, versus in a casserole. Most people can’t tell the difference in mixed dishes,” Hueschen says.

Price-wise, ground turkey and ground beef can vary widely by store, brand and the product itself. She encourages comparing prices and selecting the best option for you and your family.

What is the Healthiest Meat?

Hueschen recommends choosing lean cuts of meat and poultry to help reduce saturated fat in your diet. This can also help you reduce calories to lose weight

“To choose lean cuts of meat, look for the words ‘loin’ or ‘round.’ These tend to signify leaner cuts. Also, choose cuts with the least amount of marbling, and trim fat before cooking. If you’re having poultry, like chicken, remove the skin,” Hueschen says.

It's common to think red meat is bad for you, but Hueschen says it does contains a variety of nutrients, including protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc, which are all good. Along the same lines, meat replacements, such as mushrooms and tofu, have high protein content and can provide a good source of protein.

“Meat replacements can certainly be an option and incorporated into an overall balanced diet. Read and compare labels to help make the best choice for you,” Hueschen says.

Overall, the daily recommended protein varies depending on a person’s age, gender, activity level, medical conditions and other factors. Recommended daily protein intakes based on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for adults are: 

  • Women ages 19-51+ = 46 gm/day
  • Men ages 19-51+ = 56 gm/day

*For reference, one egg contains 6 grams of protein, whereas one cup of chicken breast has 43 grams.

To make sure you’re getting a good source of protein, Hueschen says, “Nutrients provided by various types of protein foods differ, so I encourage people to get their protein from a variety of sources. This can include seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds and soy products.”

For more information on what types of foods are right for your health, talk to your doctor.