The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Lean on Beef

Lean on Beef

Dietitian Dialogues

April 30, 2014

Meghan Windham, MPH, RD, LD

Most expect to make choices when going to the grocery store as to what brand, how much and what size; however, so long are the days when making a simple choice between a roast that weighs five pounds versus six pounds. Customers are confused on a daily basis with products labeled natural, organic, grass-fed and grain-finished; it’s no wonder shoppers throw their hands up in disarray. The meat case is just one example, yet it is important to get the facts in making a sound decision. 

Beef is great lean protein source filled with nutrients many American’s are lacking, including zinc, iron and B vitamins. A 3 ounce serving of lean beef has about 150 calories on average and is a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients like zinc, iron and B vitamins (USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23, 2010). Let’s take a look at a few differences to help eliminate some confusion while making choices in the supermarket. 

All beef is grass-fed and most spend the majority of their lives eating grass on a pasture. Beef is a powerhouse of protein, a source of 10 essential nutrients, and most beef does not contain any additives and is minimally processed. 

Grain-finished beef…

Grass-finished beef…

Naturally raised beef…

Certified organic beef…

Now that you have the facts, whatever choice of beef you decide to make be sure you select one that is firm to the touch and has a bright cherry-red color. All lean cuts of beef have less than 10 grams of fat and 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat per 3 ½ oz cooked serving. Some cuts are even as lean as a 3 oz skinless chicken thigh. Lean cuts include strip steak, T-bone and tenderloin steak. 

Recipe: Pesto Steak and Arugula Pizza


1 beef Top Sirloin steak boneless, cut 1 inch think (1 pound)
2 T basil pesto
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 whole grain or whole wheat pizza dough (1 pound)
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup yellow and/or red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
½ cup reduced fat shredded Italian blend cheese
1 cup arugula
1/8 to ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (optional) 


  1. Combine pesto and lemon juice in small bowl. Evenly brush beef steak with 1 tablespoon pesto mixture. 
  2. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 11 to 15 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 13 to 16 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F. Spray 10 x 15-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Place dough on baking sheet and pat dough to edges of baking sheet. Spread dough with remaining 3 tablespoons pesto mixture. Top with tomatoes and cheese. Bake in 425°F oven, 15 to 18 minutes or until crust is golden brown. 
  4. Carve steak into slices; season with salt, if desired. Top pizza evenly with arugula and steak slices; sprinkle with red pepper, as desired.

Nutrition information per serving: 482 calories; 14 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 2 g monounsaturated fat); 80 mg cholesterol; 573 mg sodium; 49 g carbohydrate; 8.8 g fiber; 39 g protein; 10.6 mg niacin; 0.6 mg vitamin B6; 1.5 mcg vitamin B12; 4.9 mg iron; 30.5 mcg selenium; 5.0 mg zinc; 102.6 mg choline.

This recipe is an excellent source of fiber, protein, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, selenium and zinc; and a good source of choline.

References: Texas Beef Council (