When you’re on a diet, you may be wondering how much meat you can eat. The answer depends on a few factors, including the type of diet you’re following and your personal preferences. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow to help you make the best choices for your diet and your intake of various types of meat.
Aside from being a regular dinner staple, meat is an excellent source of protein and nutrients such as iron, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fats, and zinc. Having meat in your diet can improve muscle maintenance, bone strength, brain function, heart health, blood sugar control, and weight management. On the other hand, meat also contains high levels of saturated fat, which may increase the amount of blood cholesterol in your body if you eat meat in excess.
As such, you need to be aware of how much meat to include in your meals, especially if you abide by a specific diet. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you incorporate meat into your diet plan and make the most of its health benefits.
Eating meat has its benefits, but it also has its risks when consumed in excess. Image source: Pexels
Know the Different Dietary Guidelines
Generally, meat is safe to include in meals on a regular basis. Still, some organizations have established guidelines for the amount of meat that is safe to eat—guidelines that also depend on the type of meat you are eating. For instance, if you eat over 90 grams of processed or red meat per day, the National Health Service (NHS) recommends limiting your intake to 70g. For red meat, the Cancer Council suggests a maximum of 700g (raw weight) per week. In addition, the Heart Foundation suggests no more than 350g per week of unprocessed lamb, beef, veal, and pork.
According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 1-3 servings of poultry, lean meat, fish, tofu, eggs, seeds, nuts, and beans or legumes per day should serve as a healthy balance. For pregnant women, intake should be around 3-4 servings and focus more on lean red meat. This is because red meat is rich in iron and can help combat iron deficiency anemia—a condition more common in women because of the blood loss experienced during menstruation and pregnancy. With this, having red meat twice a week may be a healthy option for women of reproductive age.
Portion Your Meats
Portioning your meats properly is a great way to ensure that your daily meat consumption remains at a healthy level. As a general rule, a well-balanced dish should have half a plate of veggies, a quarter of protein (chicken, lean meat, tofu, fish), and another quarter of carbs (rice, pasta, potato). If you need to add raw meats to the mix, the maximum portion should be as large and as thick as your palm.
A well-balanced meal includes a healthy dose of meat. Image source: Pexels
Pay Attention to Your Type of Diet
The kind of diet that you’re practicing can also dictate the limits of your meat intake. For more ideas on how to incorporate meat into different diets, you can read more by clicking on this link. That said, here are some examples:
The Ketogenic Diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that is said to improve health and promote weight loss. Generally, this diet limits carbs to 50g per day and is heavier on fats (fish, meat, nuts, healthy oils, and eggs). Because the Keto Diet is only 20 percent (one-fifth) protein, a safe bet for meat consumption would be 3-4 ounces of lean beef or pork.
The Paleolithic Diet is exactly that: the kind of diet that early humans used to have. Like the Keto Diet, this diet has also been linked to weight loss and health improvements. The Paleo Diet consists of meat, vegetables, eggs, fish, healthy oils and fats, fruits, spices, herbs, nuts, and seeds. Eating meat once a day is fine, but it’s best to limit your intake of saturated fats. Nutrition experts suggest limiting red meat to 2-3 dishes per week, preferably in lean cuts.
The Atkins Diet encourages weight loss by regulating insulin levels and limiting carb consumption. This diet consists of four phases and recommends less than 20g of carbs per day as well as lots of protein and healthy fats. You can eat foods rich in fat and protein (dairy, meat, fatty fish), low-carb veggies (leafy greens), fruits, and nuts under the Atkins Diet. In terms of portioning, you can have 4-6 ounces (2-3 servings) of meat and other protein sources per day for a balanced diet. Tall men, however, can boost their intake and have up to 8 ounces of meat, according to nutritionists.
The Flexitarian Diet balances vegetarian meals with a healthy dose of meat. For this diet, you must load up on fruits, veggies, plant proteins, whole grains, eggs, dairy, nuts, oils, herbs, and spices. You can consume up to 28 ounces of meat per week if you’re still starting out, but you may need to lower it to 9 ounces once you get used to the diet.
Your diet may also inform your decisions around meat consumption. Image source: Unsplash
Diversify Your Meats
Some of us prefer certain types of meat over others, but the healthier option would be to include different types of meats in your meal plan. Some studies suggest that excessive intake of red meat and processed meat can be harmful to your body, potentially leading to serious conditions such as bowel cancer. So if you’re a big fan of steak and bacon, you may need to share the spotlight with other options such as poultry or fish throughout the week.
Lean meats are a popular choice for health buffs because of the low levels of saturated fat. Common types of lean meats include chicken, turkey, and lamb.
The Bottom Line: Everything in Moderation
All in all, it’s perfectly fine for you to include meat in your diet. However, you should understand that consuming meat is best done in moderation and in line with current nutrition standards. If you have specific medical conditions that require changes in meat intake, make sure to consult your doctor first before starting a new diet plan.
Meat provides your body with the nutrients that keep you going every day. Still, you can strategize your meat intake in a way that helps you maximize its benefits—and savor the flavors along the way.