As you’re following the South Beach Diet, you may notice that including lean protein in your diet is a core part of the plan — and there’s a good reason why: Lean protein curbs hunger and allows you to maintain muscle mass while losing weight, which keeps your metabolism running at its peak. Lean beef is not only a good source of protein but also contributes iron and vitamin B12. Lean cuts of beef — those containing less saturated fat, such as sirloin and tenderloin — are recommended on all Phases of the South Beach Diet. Fattier cuts, like brisket and prime rib, should be avoided until Phase 3 and even then should be eaten sparingly.
Making the Grade
To choose the leanest beef, you should consider both its grade and cut. The grade is a voluntary US Department of Agriculture evaluation that's based on the amount of fat marbling (in other words, how much fat is contained in the muscle of the meat). "Prime" is the highest grade, meaning the beef is fattier and more marbled than in other grades; "Select" grade is the leanest beef; and "Choice" beef is in between. Your best bet is to choose Select grades of beef. You can also use your eyes to gauge what’s leanest, avoiding those with lots of white marbling.
A Cut Above
When buying beef you also need to factor in the cut, which refers to the part of the cow the meat comes from. There are approximately 300 types of retail cuts of beef. The cuts from more active parts of the cow tend to be more muscular and have less fat, while cuts of meat from more sedentary parts are more tender and fatty.
The best beef choices for the South Beach Diet come from the round, loin, and flank cuts of beef. You want to go for lean meat that has 10 g or less of total fat and 4.5 g or less of saturated fat per 100 g portion. You may also want to look for grass-fed beef, which is not only lean but has higher amounts of good omega-3 fats than grain-fed livestock. It’s also antibiotic and hormone free.
Below are the cuts of beef you can enjoy on each Phase:
Phase 1 Cuts of
- Bottom round
- Eye of round
- Top round
- Top loin
- Sirloin steak
- Flank steak
- London broil
- Ground beef (extra lean and lean sirloin)
- Pastrami, lean