Sunday, November 15, 2009

Taking the Mystery Out of Buying Meat...

The key foods making up a Paleo Diet include vegetables, fruits, heart healthy fats, and wild game and/or lean meats.  Although wild game and grass-fed animals make the best choices from a health stand point, they are often geographically and/or economically unavailable.  I have had people tell me that they have spent 15+ minutes in the meat section of the grocery unsure of what to buy.  What is "lean" and which types of meats are the best?  Here's a run-down of the smartest choices:

The key words to look for here are 'loin' and 'round'.  Here's a great chart from the Beef Council that lists the 29 leanest cuts of beef.

Here 'loin' is the key word again.  Pork loin, top-loin pork chops, and sirloin chops are the best bets.

It's fairly common knowledge that skinless chicken and turkey breast are the leanest choices.  That being said, the All White Meat Premium Chicken Strips from McDonalds and the Original Recipe Chicken Breast from KFC do not qualify as good choices.  Preparation is key in this catagory!  Breading, deep fat frying, or drowning in sauce = bad idea!!

Eggs have gotten a bad wrap in the media.  They do not have to be avoided and you can eat the yolk too!!  Eggs fortified with Omega-3 Fatty Acids, such as Eggland's Best make the smartest choice, they are a little more expensive though.  If you are on a budget, normal eggs can work.  I am not recommending 6 whole eggs a day, but 1-2 per day is acceptable.

Fish and Seafood
This catagory is wide open, there really isn't a 'bad' choice.  The best options are fatty, wild-caught fish such as salmon and tuna.  Some types of fish may contain high levels of mercury and should be enjoyed less frequently.  The varieties with the highest mercury content are shark, king mackeral, swordfish, and tilefish (golden snapper or golden bass).
Again, preparation is key in this catagory also.  If you are having crab legs or lobster you're doing great...unless you're dipping it in copious amounts of melted butter.  Also, many times fish and seafood are breaded and fried, tasty - yes, a good choice - not so much.  If canned/packaged tuna or salmon are staples in your diet choose the water packed, low-sodium varieties.

Wild Game
If you are lucky enough to have access to it - enjoy it!  Many grocery stores carry buffalo meat and check out local butcher shops for other options.  You never know what you'll find!

Soy Products and Meat Substitutes
This is where GardenBurgers, Boca, Morningstar, Quorn, tofu, tempeh, TVP, etc. fit.  My advice here - avoid all of these and see the catagories listed above for better choices!!

That's the short story on meat selection.  The bottom line is go lean, grass-fed or wild when you can and ENJOY it!


  1. Regarding eggs...3-4 eggs for a 230 lb athletic male be acceptable?

  2. Jon,

    I would say yes 3-4 eggs would be acceptable, unless you are trying to go hardcore Paleo (Cordain recommends no more than 6 per week). I would suggest using the Omega-3 eggs if you can afford them - better nutrition, better taste!

  3. Our Paleo ancestors did not drive to the grocery store to pick up meat. And I am not trying to be flip--this is the main problem I have with the current "Paleo diet". The meat at the grocery store bears little similarity to what our ancestors ate. What of its antibiotic content? Also, if our ancestors were going to eat meat, they first had to RUN IT DOWN, which I think is another important point to consider.

  4. Joe,

    You are correct in that the meat we get at the grocery store is not the same as what our ancestors ate. But I am fairly certain that they weren't eating tofu, refined flour, sugar or dairy... And yes, exercise is VERY important.

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