Beef is an excellent source of protein and, depending on the cut, can be lean and quite economical.
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A three-ounce serving of cooked beef provides around 24 grams of protein along with ample amounts (more than 10 percent of the Daily Value) of nine important vitamins and minerals including iron, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B12, selenium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and choline.
But eating red meat doesn't have to mean sticking to ground beef or the occasional steak on the grill. We've pulled together a wide range of recipes from pho to salad pizza to kebabs. And the best part is, every recipe comes in under 500 calories per serving.
We want to keep in mind that while beef is nutrient-dense, that doesn't give us carte blanche to eat as much as we like. The American Institute of Cancer Research recommends that if you currently eat red meat, to limit your intake to no more than three portions per week, or about 12 to 18 ounces — and to try to avoid processed meat like bacon and sausage.
With that in mind, the best part about these healthy beef recipes is that they provide the perfect portions of meat to help keep your overall intake in check.
Are You Getting Enough Protein?
1. Gremolata Beef Roast
- Calories: 272
- Protein: 22 grams
Many roasts boast lots of marbling or visible fat on the meat but this Gremolata Beef Roast is made with a rump roast, also known as a bottom round roast, which is a lean cut of meat.
A cut is considered “lean” when it contains less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per three ounces.
This recipe features beef and potatoes — but it's missing one thing. Here's a hint: There's only one gram of fiber in this recipe. The answer: vegetables!
Adding a side or two of vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower or whatever is in season or whatever you have on hand would pair nicely with this recipe and help balance out the meal.
Get the Gremolata Beef Roast recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Beef Pho
- Calories: 165
- Protein: 27 grams
Adding beef to a broth might not be your first thought but making a warm bowl of pho will not disappoint. The best thing about this dish (aside from the warmth, comfort and flavor) is that it calls for just six ingredients. It's so simple.
Instead of regular beef broth, we recommend using a low-sodium version to cut down on the overall sodium.
Each serving currently provides about 1,500 milligrams. The recommended daily intake is no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium for the entire day but we actually take in way more than that, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (Women get about 3,000 milligrams and men, more than 4,200 milligrams of sodium per day.)
Get the Beef Pho recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Veggie-Packed Meatloaf
- Calories: 227
- Protein: 23 grams
This recipe is a healthier version of meatloaf because it uses lean ground beef and then goes above and beyond to include red bell pepper, a medium red onion, one zucchini and a cup of spinach.
This is a great way to sneak in vegetables for picky eaters or to just bump up your vegetable intake for the day. What we love most about this recipe is that it packs in a variety of colors from the red pepper, onions, spinach and zucchini.
Vegetables get their color from different phytonutrients. For instance, the green in spinach comes from an antioxidant called lutein, which supports eye health, as outlined in a June 2015 review article published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology.
Get the Veggie-Packed Meatloaf recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Pan-Charred Steakhouse Salad Pizza
- Calories: 477
- Protein: 27 grams
Salad pizza... Yes, you read that right. Life's about balance and this recipe is the epitome of that in more ways than one. First, you're eating salad and a pizza in one. Lean beef is paired with whole-wheat pizza dough and then topped with a salad of mesclun greens.
Then there's the macronutrient balance of this dish. Each serving provides 477 calories — 45 percent coming from carbohydrates, 32 percent from fat and 23 percent from protein. It also has 17 grams of satiating fiber for more staying power.
Get the Pan-Charred Steakhouse Salad Pizza recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Slow Cooker Osso Bucco
- Calories: 462
- Protein: 56 grams
Here's another easy recipe requiring just five ingredients (plus salt and pepper). It's made even easier by throwing it into a slow cooker, and the prep time for this is just 15 minutes. To make this a balanced meal, add a serving or two of vegetables.
We currently eat about five servings of red meat (including processed meat) per week, so there's room to cut back, according to Harvard Health Publishing. And while we do that, there's an opportunity to fill that space in our diet with more vegetables — something we're lacking, terribly. Currently, only nine percent of Americans eat enough vegetables on a daily basis, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Get the Slow Cooker Osso Bucco recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Mushroom and Bell Pepper Beef Kebabs
- Calories: 203
- Protein: 26 grams
We love this recipe because it incorporates lean beef with vegetables, all on a stick. It's also high in protein, providing 26 grams per serving. Protein is the most satiating nutrient and helps preserve lean muscle, deeming it crucial for weight loss, according to a paper published in June 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
What would give this recipe even more staying power is pairing it with a complex carbohydrate like a whole grain (think: brown rice or quinoa) to up the fiber content.
Get the Mushroom and Bell Pepper Beef Kebabs recipe and nutrition info here.
- American Institute of Cancer Research: "Limit Red and Processed Meat"
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: "Shifts Needed To Align With Healthy Eating Patterns"
- Critical Reviews in Biotechnology: "Lutein and Cataract: From Bench to Bedside"
- Harvard Health: "An Omnivore’s Dilemma: How Much Red Meat Is Too Much?"
- Centers for Disease Control: "Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption — United States, 2015"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance"
- USDA: "Skirt Steak"