Nutrition Articles

Best and Worst Meat Choices

How to Spot the Healthiest Cuts

Poultry: Chicken and Turkey
Chicken and turkey are generally thought of as a healthier alternative to red meat. While poultry can be leaner, certain cuts and cooking methods can make it just as bad for you—if not worse—than red meat. When selecting poultry, consider the following:

Cut: Different cuts of poultry, like beef and pork, have different calories and fat content. Generally, white meat, such as breasts and wings, are lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol while cuts of dark meat cuts (legs and thighs) are higher. Boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breast are the leanest cuts of poultry. Skinless chicken wings are also a good choice, but beware of fried chicken wings, which are often dipped in high calorie sauces.

Color: Light and dark selections of turkey or chicken have their own pros and cons. White meat, or any meat lighter in color, is leaner than darker cuts. However, dark meat contains more B vitamins (such as thiamine) and iron, even though it's higher in fat and calories. Choose leg or thigh pieces every once in a while for a nutritional boost—especially if you prefer eating less iron-rich red meat. When purchasing ground chicken or turkey, look for ground chicken or turkey breast; it will be lighter in color and lighter on the waistline. Ground chicken and ground turkey can include fat and skin in addition to the meat, thus increasing the fat and calorie content.

Skin: On its own, poultry skin isn't necessarily bad for you, but when the meat is cooked, a lot of the fat once inside the bird seeps out and gets trapped in the skin, making it high in fat. Choose skinless whenever possible (or simply remove the skin yourself) and you'll save 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per 3 oz. (cooked) portion.

Sodium: Poultry is generally low in sodium, but when you purchase it marinated, frozen, or canned, it can contain added sodium. Read labels carefully: Look for "low sodium" or "no salt added" varieties of canned or frozen poultry. Some canned chicken items, while convenient, can contain more than 250 mg of sodium per serving. The “low sodium” products usually contain less than a third of the sodium in the original products.

Debunking the Turkey Bacon Myth
Turkey bacon is often recommended over regular (pork) bacon because turkey is generally lower in fat than pork. However, when it comes to bacon from either source, this is not always true. In fact, turkey bacon often contains more sodium than its pork counterpart. Read labels and choose leaner cuts of bacon for the best balance between sodium, fat, and overall calories. For example, three slices of center cut pork bacon contain 70 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, but just two slices of turkey bacon contain just as many calories and significantly more sodium.

See the chart below for a nutritional comparison of various types of poultry. These values are for a single cooked, 3-ounce serving (85 grams), unless otherwise specified.

Poultry Cut Calories Total Fat (g) Sat Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium(mg)
Turkey bacon (1 ounce,
3.5 slices, or 28 grams)
107 7.8 2.3 27 640
Turkey breast, skinless 115 0.6 0.2 71 44
Ground turkey, fat-free 117 2.1 0.6 55 50
Chicken breast, skinless, roasted 140 3.0 0.8 72 63
Chicken drumstick, skinless, roasted 158 8.5 2.3 110 97
Chicken breast with skin, roasted 167 6.6 1.8 71 60
Ground turkey, 85/15% 212 14 3.5 89 69
Chicken drumstick, with skin, batter fried 228 13.3 3.5 73 229
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About The Author

Lauri Watson Lauri Watson
is a Registered Dietitian with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She eats her way through life's tasty treats and documents her culinary journeys at, which provides recipes and ideas for a balanced lifestyle.

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