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A nutritional comparison of ground turkey and ground beef

Image of a pan with ground meat and a spatula on burlap fabric

Which is healthier, ground turkey or ground beef? Most people will tell you ground turkey, and they’re not wrong per say. But is it really that much healthier?

First, when comparing one meat to the other, you must level the playing field and compare the two using the same number of ounces and the same ratio of lean-to-fat. This lean-to-fat ratio is the percentage of lean meat versus the percentage of fat. For instance, 93/7 means 93 percent of the meat is lean, while 7 percent is fat. When comparing USDA’s data on a 4-ounce serving of 93/7 ground beef to 4 ounces of 93/7 ground turkey, the nutrition panel is surprisingly similar. Ground beef has 172 calories, 7.9 grams fat and 3.3 grams saturated fat versus ground turkey, which has 170 calories, 9.4 grams fat and 2.5 grams saturated fat. Ground beef has 2.4 grams more protein and has slightly less cholesterol and more iron and zinc than ground turkey.

All in all, whether buying ground beef or ground turkey, the important thing is to buy at least 93/7 lean-to-fat ratio. Lowering saturated fat is the goal, as eating too much saturated fat can raise LDL cholesterol, increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Ground turkey does have less saturated fat, but only by 0.8 grams, and if you’re adding egg, salt or cheese for flavor and moisture, it’s not making it any heart healthier.

Thai Basil Stir-fry

2 Tablespoons lime juice

1 Tablespoon fish sauce

1 Tablespoon sriracha sauce

1 Tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1 Tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 large red or orange bell pepper, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey

½ cup chopped fresh basil

In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, fish sauce, sriracha, soy sauce and honey and set aside. In a large skillet, heat sesame and vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add onion and bell pepper slices; cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, stirring for about 45 seconds. Remove veggies to a bowl. Add ground turkey to skillet and heat, breaking it apart as it cooks, until turkey cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165F. Add the vegetables, basil and sauce to the turkey, cooking 2-3 minutes. Serve warm.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 150 calories, 8 grams fat, 450 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 17 grams protein


Source: USDA Food Data Central

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.