Although the chicken breast is the gold standard of healthy grilling that can aid weight loss—low fat, high protein—the key to any successful eating plan is variety, and research indicates that you now have options. While you still want to steer away from traditional supermarket ground chuck, there are ways to enjoy a beef burger knowing you’re doing right by your waistline. And you can open up your grill to more creative choices, too—all packed with nutrients and protein that’ll keep your fitness goals on track without sacrificing flavor.
Grass- Fed Beef
When it comes to steak or burgers, go grass-fed. It may ding your wallet, but it’ll dent your abs. Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner and has fewer calories than conventional meat: A lean seven-ounce conventional strip steak has 386 calories and 16 grams of fat. But a seven-ounce grass-fed strip steak has only 234 calories and five grams of fat. Grass-fed meat contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
While grass-fed beef is an excellent choice, bison’s profile has been rising in recent years, and for good reason: It has half the fat of and fewer calories than red meat. According to the USDA, while a 90%-lean hamburger may average 10 grams of fat, a comparatively sized buffalo burger rings in at two grams of fat with 24 grams of protein, making it one of the leanest meats around. But wait, taking a chance on this unexpected meat will earn you two healthy bonuses: In just one serving you’ll get a full day’s allowance of vitamin B-12, which has been shown to boost energy and help shut down the genes responsible for insulin resistance and the formation of fat cells; additionally, since bison are naturally grass-fed, you can confidently down your burger knowing it’s free of the hormones and pollutants than can manifest themselves in your belly fat.
Lean and protein-rich, turkey is no longer an automatic substitute for red meat–this bird deserves props on its own. A quarter-pound turkey burger patty contains 140 calories, 16 grams of protein and eight grams of fat. Additionally, turkey is rich in DHA omega-3 acids—18 mg per serving, the highest on this list—which has been shown to boost brain function, improve your mood and turn off fat genes, preventing fat cells from growing in size. Just make sure you buy white meat only; dark contains too much fat. And know that you’re doing your health a double solid by grilling at home: Restaurant versions can be packed with fatty add-ins to increase flavor. Not your problem, since it’s going straight from the grill to your plate (ideally with the best spices to burn fat and peppers mixed in).
Lower that eyebrow you’re raising. Ostrich meat is the rising star of the grill. While it’s technically red and has the rich taste of beef, it has less fat than turkey or chicken. A three-ounce patty contains 146 calories, 22 grams of protein and six grams of fat. Plus, one serving has 200% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin B-12. This exotic meat can also help whittle your middle: Ostrich contains 55 mg of choline, a nutrient that aids fat loss. And it’s not as hard to find as it sounds—ostrich is increasingly available in supermarkets around the country.
A longtime enemy of doctors and dieters, pork has been coming around as a healthier alternative of late–as long as you choose the right cut. Your best bet is pork tenderloin: A University of Wisconsin Study found that a three-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has slightly less fat than a skinless chicken breast. It has 24 grams of protein per serving and 83 mg of choline (in the latter case, about the same as a medium egg). In a study published in the journal Nutrients, scientists asked 144 overweight people to eat a diet rich in fresh lean pork. After three months, the group saw a significant reduction in waist size, BMI and belly fat, with no reduction in muscle mass! They speculate that the amino acid profile of pork protein may contribute to greater fat burning.