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Ground Turkey vs Ground Beef? Things You MUST Know

Ground turkey vs ground beef – is one healthier than the other? When you compare ground turkey to ground beef, it is a matter of personal preference and reading the labels. Read on to learn more and don’t give up on that ground beef just yet!

Cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato - graphic for Pinterest.

I can still remember standing in the meat department looking at the reportedly healthier ground turkey. I had been buying ground beef for years and loved everything about red meat. But, I wanted to consider my heart health and fat intake.

I wanted to be a better mom by feeding my kids healthy food, but the ground turkey didn’t look appealing nor did it sound tasty. A ground turkey burger? The old-fashioned ground beef burger cooked medium well over a charcoal grill is what I grew up on!

It isn’t always easy to put the ground turkey in my grocery cart and I wondered, do I have to?

Is Ground Turkey Healthier than Ground Beef?

The USDA reports four ounces of ground turkey has 170 calories and 9 grams of fat. 

Butterball ground turkey has 230 calories and 17 grams of fat, which is 65% of its calories from fat!

Four ounces of ground beef that is 80/20 (80% lean / 20% fat) has 284 calories with 22 grams of fat. But four ounces of ground beef at 90/10 is 200 calories with 11 grams of fat.

Surprised? I sure was.

So this is the deal… you have to read the labels. Not all ground turkey or ground beef is created equally.

Ground Beef vs Ground Turkey Calories

Let’s compare 93/7 lean ground turkey vs lean ground beef.

  • Ground beef calories: 162 for a 3 oz serving
  • Ground turkey calories: 176 calories for a 3 oz serving

Wait, what? Lean ground beef actually has less calories than lean ground turkey!

  • Ground beef fat and protein: 7.5g fat / 22g protein
  • Ground turkey fat and protein: 9.7g fat / 22g protein

Beef wins again. Though the lean ground beef does contain more saturated fat (3.1g vs 2.5g in the turkey). Again, it’s important to read labels and eat for your goals. If heart health is a concern, you may want to choose ground turkey more often for its lower saturated fat content. 

Nutrition chart comparing ground beef vs ground turkey.

Ground Turkey vs Ground Beef: It’s Your Choice!

As you can see, ground beef is not as evil as it is often portrayed. Ground beef can have a place in your diet, and you can also use ground turkey when it works for you.

The American Heart Association prefers lean beef and we should avoid types of ground meat with higher fat content. As long as you choose the leanest ground beef, and have it sparingly, there is no need for guilt! 

So when you are trying to decide turkey burger vs beef burger, choose the one that will make you happy and satiated, as long as you know it’s lean meat and you’re not eating it every day.

Imagine my joy when I found out I did not have to give up on the summer taste of a perfectly grilled ground beef cheeseburger!

Does Ground Turkey Taste Like Ground Beef?

I will often substitute ground turkey for ground beef in a recipe. For picky kids who think they don’t like ground turkey, there are a lot of recipes where you can substitute ground turkey and they won’t even realize it. 

Foods with a lot of seasoning make it easy to disguise ground turkey for ground beef. Try it in foods like meatballs, spaghetti sauce, stuffed peppers, tacos, and one of my favorite recipes, Seasoned Turkey Burgers (recipe below).

There are recipes when ground beef tastes much better than the turkey would, such as homemade Sloppy Joes and chili. 

Can you cook ground turkey and ground beef together? Yes you can! For those who are a little more taste conscious, cooking a half and half mixture might help the picky eater in your life enjoy the recipe.

We usually only eat ground beef on occasion – maybe once a month. Moderation is the key. Eating ground beef every meal or every day isn’t a good choice.

Is Ground Turkey Considered Red or White Meat?

It depends on the product. That’s where you have to be really careful in choosing the ground turkey. For the most lean ground turkey, it should be all white meat or the leanest dark meat.

You are probably thinking what I thought… ohhh yeah, of course, there is dark meat and fat, even on turkey. We can’t assume the ground turkey is from the leanest part of the turkey.

Package of ground turkey.

Whole Foods grinds their own turkey for great quality of 85 calories, less than 1 gram of fat by using white lean meat and/or lean dark meat.

Another option to consider is grinding your own turkey breasts in a food processor. It only takes a couple of pulses and – viola! – lean ground turkey. You should add about a tablespoon of olive oil per pound or it will be very dry once cooked. By adding the olive oil, you will only be adding 4 grams of fat per serving.

My Favorite Seasoned Turkey Burgers

Ground turkey burger on a roll with cheese, lettuce and tomato.
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder (can adjust for preference)
  • 2 Tbsp dried chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp ground cumin

Mix all together and cook until done. Top with favorite condiments.

This is my favorite recipe for ground turkey burgers or ground beef. Such a quick and easy recipe with so much flavor! It is great with or without a bun!

So which is the victor? Ground turkey or ground beef? Both have a place at your table when appropriate!

The best option, unless your choice is for health reasons, may depend on the recipe you are cooking. Sometimes the leaner turkey has a bland flavor and can make a huge difference in the outcome.

The bottom line is the nutritional value of ground beef versus ground turkey is not all that different when tracking macros.

Check out these additional Fit Found Me recipes using lean ground beef or lean ground turkey:

Turkey burger with cheese, lettuce and tomato.
Do you know which you should be using? What is healthier, ground beef or ground turkey? You might be surprised by what I found out when I looked into it.  via @fitfoundme

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Kate from OneBagger

Thursday 8th of June 2017

Considering the ingredients you need to add to ground Turkey in order for it to taste good seems to pack on a lot more calories. ex: eggs, bread, oil, etc. I also noticed the amount of cholesterol in ground turkey. People keep raving about it being such a better substitute... maybe in it's native form, but it's so bland it's like drinking black coffee until we add in all the cream & sugar. What are your thoughts?

Stephanie Miller

Thursday 26th of July 2018

Kate,

I think it depends on the ingredients added to the ground turkey. I do agree it takes more seasoning for ground turkey, but chosen wisely, it won't add fat or empty, unnecessary calories. Have you tried the recipe above for turkey burgers? Even my picky teenagers like those. :)

Melissa bridges

Tuesday 16th of May 2017

My husband completely doesn't like the turkey, I always say it's so much better for us and the granddaughter. Now looks like he's right. I'm from west Texas we love our red meats, but I once in while enjoyed the turkey too. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.

Stephanie Miller

Thursday 26th of July 2018

Melissa,

Yes! It's great to know we have more freedom and flexibility than once thought. :)

Karen

Friday 8th of April 2016

I have low iron. My doctor tells me to eat red meat. Imagine that. I am a happy girl,.

Stephanie Miller

Friday 8th of April 2016

Karen, I too, love red meat occasionally! Good lean red meat is a great part of nutrition! My body will definitely let me know when I'm in need of a juicy steak!

Stephanie :)

Dia

Thursday 17th of September 2015

Wow! Thank you for sharing. These facts are things I never would of guessed! I will be looking more closely at the labels from now on

Stephanie Miller

Wednesday 23rd of September 2015

Dia, So glad this was helpful for you!

Deanna

Thursday 17th of September 2015

We used to eat ground turkey but I agree in moderation red meat is actually a better choice. Great read!

Stephanie Miller

Wednesday 23rd of September 2015

Yes, surprising, huh?!! Now we can enjoy our occasional red meat guilt free!

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