Ground Turkey vs. Ground Beef – Which is Better?

by Nikky Manausa on February 6, 2014

It’s called a MEATball for a reason!  IMG_6798

Last night I made Hearty Meatball Soup with Spinach. This is a nutritious recipe from Publix Apron Meals (formally known as Publix Simple Meals). I love when I take the kids to Publix and there is someone making one of their delicious simple meals. The kids get to sample the meal and let me know if the recipe is a winner. If they like it, Publix stocks all the ingredients right by the cooking table so I can quickly grab and go. Well, the kids loved this meatball soup, so I added it to our dinner menu for the week (see my previous post here on why it’s important to meal plan).

I almost always modify a recipe to either suit our taste buds and/or make it healthier (usually both!). This recipe was no exception. Instead of canola oil, I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I also upped the meat to 2 pounds, added a little extra bread crumbs, and an extra egg so that I would have left over meatballs for another night. Two meals done in one night = one happy lady! I baked my meatballs at 350 for about 20 minutes instead of frying them, and I used only one can of cannelloni beans. What I did like about this recipe is that it called for unsalted chicken stock. I did not have to substitute for that one. Thanks Publix for looking out for our blood pressure!

I’ve Got Beef with Ground Turkey

A couple of years ago I posted one of my favorite baked meatball recipes and someone inquired about using ground turkey instead of ground beef. I have to admit, I’ve got beef with ground turkey. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE turkey. In fact, Boar’s Head’s reduced sodium turkey breast deli meat is one of my favorite snacks, and I will definitely go back for thirds fourths on Thanksgiving for fried turkey (I live in the South, and it’s Thanksgiving, cut me some slack!). No doubt, I am the queen of substituting healthier foods for higher fat foods, but ground turkey is NOT ground beef! It’s also often loaded with additional fat, and if it is indeed a lighter ground turkey, then it gets this really awkward mushy texture. Yuck!

Let’s Get the Facts Straight

Take a look at the nutrition label for 93% lean ground turkey and 93% lean ground beef (this happens to be the facts for Publix ground beef). These nutrition facts are provided by Calorie Count.

Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 9.48.33 PM   Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 9.46.56 PM

 The good news is that ground turkey is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than ground beef. But look at the iron! Four palatable ounces of ground beef provides us with 83% of our daily iron needs. Ground turkey, you’re at the back of the pack!

Iron for Runners

If you do a quick google search on “runners and iron” you will find numerous articles written on runners having an increased need for iron. I like the article from Runners Connect that discusses iron deficiency in runners. Having inadequate levels of iron in your blood has a direct impact on your performance. If you are trying to get faster, this is a problem! I take a daily iron supplement for this reason.

What’s the Verdict

Your personal preference and dietary needs should determine whether you decide to use ground turkey instead of ground beef. I actually used 1 pound ground turkey and 1 pound ground beef in my meatballs tonight. I ended up with a delicious iron-packed meatball that had half the saturated fat. That’s something my family can live with!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Deena Lilley February 6, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Gonna try this one on next week’s menu! ;-) Can you give suggestions on your favorite quick breakfast meals and maybe tell me your favorite cereal for the kids e.g. less sugar and ones that kids actually like? This is a struggle I have in buying cereal for those days my kids just want a bowl of cereal. They want the ones with all the sugar and hate the ones that seem to have less.

Love the format. The bullets and titled paragraphs make it easy to read for those of us with kids who want you EXACTLY when you sit down at the computer.

Nikky Manausa February 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Deena, I’ll definitely write a few blogs on kid-friendly (& quick) breakfast options. That’s my favorite meal of the day!

I have a few thoughts about cereal:

#1 Even the worst of the worst cereals are better than donuts, PopTarts, cinnamon rolls, etc… Most cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals that other breakfast options may not provide. It’s a convenient and fairly inexpensive breakfast for families on the go and on a budget.
#2 Instead of judging a cereal by its sugar content, look at the overall nutritious value of the cereal. Take a look at the ingredients. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, do you really want your kids eating it? Be sure to check for fiber and protein. These items will help keep your kids (and you) full for longer.

Finally, change is always difficult, but gradual change is easier to adapt to. Consider mixing their sugary cereals with non-surgary options. Another option is to add just a little honey and bananas, blueberries, or strawberries on top of plain Cheerios.

With that said, I have to agree with CNN on this one, try and avoid these: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-ranks-10-worst-kids-cereals-for-sugar/2/

Thank you for your feedback!

Mom February 6, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Weight watchers allows you to have ground beef and recommends the higher % of lean. Me? I like ground chicken and Nikky you actually introduced me to it.di a compare on that. I recently made chili with ground chicken. It was yummy good! Whether I use ground chicken or turkey, I add beef bullion cubes…they are low in fat, calories etc.a little high in salt, but then I just cut back on other salt. Ground chicken is cheaper than turkey!
As far as weight watchers goes, I don’t know about bread crumbs yet. We’re on simple start, next week we switch to points.

Nikky Manausa February 6, 2014 at 10:15 pm

I do love ground chicken, especially Italian chicken sausage. The texture is definitely better. I am proud of you for making healthier choices!

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