Beef: The Basics

As you’re following the South Beach Diet, you may notice that including lean protein in your diet is an important part of the plan — and there’s a good reason why: Lean protein curbs hunger and also 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, 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 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 (or fat within the lean).

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 100% USDA organic beef or grass-fed beef, which are not only lean but have higher amounts of good omega-3 fats than grain-fed livestock. You can be sure that organic beef is antibiotic- and hormone-free, but check labels carefully or call the producer about grass-fed, which may contain antibiotics if not marked otherwise.

Below are the cuts of beef you can enjoy on each Phase:

Phase 1 Cuts of Beef

  • Bottom round
  • Eye of round
  • Flank steak
  • Ground beef (extra lean and lean sirloin)
  • London broil
  • Pastrami, lean
  • Sirloin steak
  • T-bone
  • Tenderloin (filet mignon)
  • Top loin
  • Top round

Phase 2 Cuts of Beef

All cuts of beef on Phase 1, as well as...

Hot dogs: All hot dogs made with beef (or pork, poultry, or soy) can be enjoyed occasionally, as long as they are at least 97% fat-free (3 to 6 g fat per serving) and uncured (free of synthetic nitrites and nitrates). Serve them with 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain buns topped with sauerkraut or mustard, if you like. Avoid sugary condiments. If you enjoy ketchup, choose a sugar-free brand.

Phase 3 Cuts of Beef

All cuts of beef on Phase 1 and Phase 2, as well as…

Brisket, prime rib, rib steak, skirt steak, and other fatty cuts of beef. Enjoy sparingly and occasionally.

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