Healing Foods Pyramid™

PyramidLean Meats
Lean Meats
are included in the Healing Foods Pyramid™ as part of a balanced, whole foods, plant-based diet. This Food Pyramid emphasizes foods that nourish the body, sustain energy over time, contain healing qualities and essential nutrients, and support a sustainable environment.

What are the recommended servings per week?

*The Healing Foods Pyramid™ is suitable for vegetarians and vegans in that all of the categories containing animal products are optional for consumption. One of our goals is to shift the typical meat-centered plate to one that is comprised mostly of plant-based foods. Every individual’s needs are unique. While some bodies thrive on a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet, others may not. Animal products provide the richest sources of absorbable vitamin B12, iron, and calcium; therefore individuals choosing not to consume animal products need to ensure adequate intake of these essential nutrients. Consult with a registered dietitian/certified nutritionist or knowledgeable health care provider regarding your individual needs.

Why choose lean meat?

Selected Sources of Lean Meats

Lean Meats

Serving Size


(white meat without skin), chicken, Cornish hen, turkey

~ 2-3 oz cooked

< 3 g per oz

flank steak, sirloin tip, eye of round, top round, tenderloin, top loin, rump roast, extra lean ground beef

center loin, tenderloin, Canadian bacon

chops, leg roast, tenderloin shank

Wild Game:
venison, bison, elk, squab, wild duck (without skin), pheasant, rabbit

Special Considerations

Choosing lean meats

Saturated Fat Content

Use of Hormones and Antibiotics

Most commercial animal products contain residues from drugs, hormones and antibiotics which may increase the risk of some cancers, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and early puberty.

Consider Organic

We recommend organic, free-range, and grass-fed lean meat products because the animals are raised in more natural conditions and may be more nutritious than meat from conventionally raised animals.

Know Your Limits for Fat

Many meat products are high in saturated fat, for this reason, choosing lean meats is important for balanced fat intake.

Ideas for Healthy Lean Meat Consumption


Beef, loin, bottom sirloin butt, tri-tip steak
USDA Agricultural Research Service — Nutrient Data Laboratory
Accessed August 17, 2009

How to Buy Meat
United States Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Service
Accessed August 24, 2009

How to Buy Poultry
United States Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Service
Accessed August 24, 2009

Added Hormones in Meat and Dairy — Do They Affect Health and If So, How?
Barrett, Amanda
Somerset Medical Center — Healthy Living — Food and Nutrition
Accessed August 24, 2009

Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms
United States Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Accessed August 24, 2009

Organic Food Standards and Labels: The Facts
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service
Accessed August 24, 2009

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Accessed August 24, 2009

Poultry, Meat and Seafood: How to’s of High-Protein Foods
Mayo Clinic
Accessed August 24, 2009

A Primer on Fats and Oils
American Dietetic Association
Accessed August 24, 2009

Vitamin E requirements for protection of dairy cows against infections at parturition
Weiss, WP
The Ohio State University — Extension Research
Accessed August 24, 2009

Original Research and Review Articles

Brunner E, et al. Dietary patterns and 15-y risk of major coronary events, diabetes, and mortality. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008; 87:1414-1421.

Hu FB, et al. Prospective study of major dietary patterns and risk of coronary heart disease in men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;72:912-921.

Huxley R, et al. Cholesterol, coronary heart disease and stroke: a review of published evidence from observational studies and randomized trials. Seminars in Vascular Medicine. 2002;2(3):315-323.

McAffee AJ, et al. Red meat consumption: An overview of the risks and benefits. Meat Science. 2010; 84: 1-13.

O’Sullivan A, et al. Grass silage versus maize silage effects on retail packaged beef quality. Journal of Animal Science. 2002;80:1556-1563.

Rennie KL, et al. Nutritional management of rheumatoid arthritis: a review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2003;16:97-109.

Seaman DR. The diet-induced proinflammatory state: a cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases? Journal of Manipulative Physiology. 2002;25:168-179.

Sinha R, et al. Meat and meat-related compounds and risk of prostate cancer in a large prospective cohort study in the United States. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2009; 170:1165-1177.

Sinha R, et al. Meat intake and mortality. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2009; 169:562-571.

Walker P, et al. Public health implication of meat production and consumption. Public Health Nutrition; 8(4):348-356.

Weisburger JH. Eat to live, not live to eat. Nutrition. 2000;16(9):767-773.

Wood JD, et al. Effects of fatty acids on meat quality: a review. Meat Science. 2003;66:21-32.

The Healing Foods Pyramid™ was created by the Nutrition Education Team at the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine in 2005 and updated in 2009.