Is Beef Jerky Good for Weight Loss?

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Yes, beef jerky can be good for weight as long as you eat it in moderation. This means eating 1/2 cup of it, so around 45 g of it since it can be high in calories.

Plus you have to make sure that the kind of beef jerky you are having is not loaded with added sugar and sodium. If you do these two things you can have beef jerky in moderation as a snack.

If you’re interested in learning both the good and not-so-good things about eating beef jerky when you’re trying to watch your weight, stay with me. I’ll go over them in detail in this article.

Nutritional Value of Beef Jerky

As per the USDA one cup (90 g) of beef jerky typically contains:

  • Calories: 369

  • Carbohydrates: 10g

  • Protein: 30g

  • Fat: 23g

  • Fiber: 2g

  • Sugars: 8g

  • Sodium: 1870mg

Also read: Are Slim Jims Good for Weight Loss?

Benefits Of Beef Jerky For Weight Loss

There are two benefits of beef jerky for weight loss when used correctly. Here are they:

It’s High in Protein

The most obvious benefit I see with beef jerky is its high protein content. It’s dried meat, after all, so it would be odd if it didn’t have a lot of protein. But why is this good for losing weight?

Here’s the thing: when we’re trying to lose weight, what we really want to lose is fat, not muscle.

Your body weight includes water, bones, muscles, and fat. Out of these, we’re aiming to reduce the fat part while keeping our muscles.

To do this, especially when on a caloric deficit diet to lose weight, you need to make sure you’re getting plenty of protein.

For reference, Dr Gabrielle Lyon who is a a doctor of osteopathic medicine and founder of the Institute for Muscle-Centric Medicine says you should have between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein for every kilogram you weigh.

So, for example, if you’re 70 kg (which is about 154 lbs), you should be eating at least 84 grams of protein every day.

So, by eating beef jerky in a way that’s controlled, you can get that extra protein you need while you’re working on losing weight.

It Can Be Used As a Satiating Snack In Moderation

Another thing about beef jerky is that it can actually help you when you start to feel hungry again a few hours after eating.

Let’s say it’s 3 pm. You last ate around 1 pm, and now, while you’re trying to focus on work, you notice your stomach is starting to grumble. Y

ou’re getting both hungry and a bit annoyed, or “hangry.” At times like these, lots of people might go for quick snacks like chips or a candy bar.

But, having a few pieces of beef jerky could be a better choice. Remember how I said beef jerky has a lot of protein?

Well, protein is really good at making you feel not hungry. Actually, eating foods that have a lot of protein can make your body release certain hormones that help you feel full.

These hormones are called Peptide YY (PYY) and Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), and they work to control your hunger and make you feel satisfied.

Here’s how that happens:

When you eat protein, like in beef jerky, it gets broken down into smaller parts called amino acids.

These amino acids are picked up by enteroendocrine cells in your gut.

Once these cells detect the amino acids, they release PYY and GLP-1 into your blood.

These hormones then travel in your blood to your brain, to a part called the hypothalamus, which is in charge of regulating hunger and fullness.

The hypothalamus reacts to these hormonal signals by increasing the sensation of being full and decreasing the urge to eat.

For example, take Slim Jims. One Slim Jim has 39 calories and gives you 3 grams of protein. If you’re feeling hungry, eating 2 to 3 Slim Jims can give you about 9 to 10 grams of protein and only add about 120 calories to what you eat in a day.

Downsides Of Eating Beef Jerky For Weight Loss

There are some important cons of beef jerky that you need to be aware of:

It’s High in Sodium

Sodium is a mineral that your body needs in small amounts for energy balance but when you consume them in large amounts it is not good for your health, let alone for weight loss.

When you eat a lot of sodium, your body keeps more water to balance the sodium and water levels, leading to water retention and a heavier scale reading.

This situation is made worse because eating salty foods often makes you thirsty, so you might drink more, which can add to the temporary increase in water weight.

Additionally, foods high in sodium can make you feel hungrier, causing you to eat more calories than you need. This makes it tough to stick to a diet that’s meant to lose weight.

On top of that, many foods that have a lot of sodium are also high in calories, especially processed foods. This means you could end up eating more calories without even noticing, making weight loss harder.

Lastly, while it’s a bit off the main point, it’s worth mentioning that too much sodium can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease. This could indirectly affect your weight loss by making it harder to stay active and healthy.

It Has Added Sugar

Many store-bought beef jerky contain added sugar. Companies add sugar to enhance the flavor, combining sweet and salty tastes.

Sugar also acts as a preservative, preventing bacteria growth, and makes the jerky softer and easier to chew.

This all sounds good when we’re talking about the taste. However, it’s not so great for losing weight.

The addition of sugar increases the beef jerky’s calorie count.

Consuming it frequently can lead to spikes in blood sugar. This triggers the release of insulin, which helps transport glucose from the blood to the cells.

As long as insulin is present, the body remains in a state of storing energy rather than burning it.

Eating sugary foods regularly means more insulin is released daily. Over time, this can cause insulin resistance, a condition where the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin.

The body compensates by releasing more insulin, leading to potential weight gain and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

It is Easy To Overeat

Eating too much beef jerky is easy because it’s full of flavors that are both delicious and addictive.

Its blend of sweet, smoky, and savory flavors can be irresistible, making you want more. Plus, its high protein content might make it seem like a healthy snack you don’t need to feel guilty about.

Also, because beef jerky is dehydrated, its taste is more concentrated. This makes it particularly appealing to your taste buds.

Take Jack Link’s Beef Jerky as an example. The front of the package highlights that one serving only has 80 calories and boasts 9g of protein, suggesting it’s a low-calorie choice.

This could lead the average consumer to think, “It’s just 80 calories, so I can eat a lot of it.” However, this is misleading.

If you check the nutrition label on the back, you’ll notice that these 80 calories are for just one serving, and the entire package has 9 servings.

This means if you eat the whole bag, you’re actually consuming 720 calories. Given its small size and tastiness, it’s easy to finish off the entire package without realizing it, especially if you haven’t decided on how much to eat beforehand.

Also read: Best Energy Drink For Weight Loss?

Tips For Eating Beef Jerky on a Weight Loss Diet

Here are some tips to keep in mind while eating beef jerky on a weight-loss diet.

Moderate How Much Beef Jerky You Eat

Beef jerky can have a lot of calories, and that’s why it’s important to be careful about how much you eat.

For example, I would suggest eating only about 3 to 4 Slim Jims or a half cup, which is around 45 grams.

Eating this amount will keep your calorie count between 120 and 170 calories.

This is plenty if you are trying to eat fewer calories overall. The main idea is to choose snacks that are lower in calories.

Opt For Healthier Versions Of Beef Jerky

What do I mean by “healthier versions”? Basically, you should choose a brand that offers beef jerky meeting both these criteria:

  • Less than 500mg of sodium in each serving.

  • No added sugar at all.

If you remember the downsides section, I mentioned these are the two big things to avoid for both losing weight and keeping healthy. Choosing brands that follow these rules helps avoid these problems.

Here are some examples of brands that meet these criteria:

You should also be wary of “teriyaki” or “sweet and spicy” flavors, as these are often higher in sugar and sodium.

Make Your Own Beef Jerky

Making your own beef jerky means you can decide exactly what goes into it, which is great if you’re watching what you eat.

This way, you’re in charge of how much salt, sugar, and any spice you use, so it fits better with eating healthy, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

Making jerky yourself also lets you try mixing different lean meats and tasty marinades.

It’s a fun way to make sure you’re eating enough protein.

Plus, when you make jerky at home, you know it’s not just good to eat but also good for meeting your health and weight loss goals.

Also read: Is Nutella Good for Weight Loss?

Alternatives To Beef Jerky For Weight Loss

Turkey Jerky

Turkey jerky is a leaner alternative to beef jerky, typically lower in calories and fat, making it an excellent choice for weight loss.

Like beef jerky, turkey jerky is made by slicing turkey breast into thin strips, marinating it in a blend of seasonings, and then drying it at a low temperature until it achieves a chewy texture.

Opting for low-sodium and low-sugar marinades can make turkey jerky an even healthier snack option that satisfies cravings without adding excessive calories or hampering your weight loss goals.

Fish Jerky

Fish jerky, particularly made from salmon or tuna, offers a protein-rich snack with the added benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, which beef or turkey jerky lacks.

The process involves slicing the fish into thin strips, marinating, and then drying it at low temperatures, similar to other jerkies.

Choosing fish with lower fat content can help keep the calorie count down, while the high protein content aids in satiety, making it easier to stick to your daily calorie limit for weight loss.

Protein Bars

Another great high-protein snack alternative for beef jerky. You just need to be careful what kind of protein bars you select.

When selecting protein bars look for those with high protein content, zero, and minimal added ingredients to ensure they support your weight loss efforts.

Protein bars can be a convenient on-the-go snack that helps keep you full between meals, reducing the likelihood of overeating.

However, it’s important to read labels carefully, as some manty protein bars can be high in calories and sugar.

Boiled Eggs with Cut Onions and Tomatoes

A boiled egg halve topped with diced tomatoes, onions, and a slice of green chili, sprinkled with black pepper on a white plate with heart patterns.
Image courtesy – Susmita A Mommy Chef

Boiled eggs are an excellent source of protein, and adding diced tomatoes and onions enhances their flavor. This combination became a frequent snack for me after my workouts.

In my area, it’s commonly available as street food, so I often enjoyed it for a post-exercise protein boost.

Since plain-boiled eggs can get a bit boring, the addition of onions and tomatoes made the dish much more enjoyable.

I recommend giving it a try. Simply prepare the eggs in advance, and when you’re ready, chop some onions and tomatoes and add some black pepper for added flavor.

And just like that, you’ve got a delicious snack that’s perfect for those moments when you’re feeling hungry between meals.

Greek Yogurt

Not a meat variety but still an excellent alternative to beef jerky for weight loss because it’s high in protein, which can increase satiety and help reduce overall calorie intake by keeping you feeling full longer.

Additionally, Greek yogurt typically has fewer calories than beef jerky when comparing portion sizes with similar protein content.

You can also choose plain, non-fat, or low-fat Greek yogurt which minimizes calorie consumption without compromising on protein or nutrient content, making it an excellent snack for weight loss.

Also Read: Is Oikos Triple Zero Good For Weight Loss?

Weight Loss Friendly Homemade Beef Jerky Recipe

I can tell you for sure that the best beef jerky is the one made at home. The reason is that you will be in charge of the ingredients, meaning they won’t be processed like the ones you buy at a grocery store.

if you want to make beef jerky at home here’s a simple recipe to get you started:


  • 1.5 pounds lean beef (Top round, flank steak, or sirloin tip are great choices. The leaner, the better for weight loss.)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (Opt for a low-sodium version to keep salt content in check.)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (Helps tenderize the meat and adds flavor without extra calories.)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper (Adjust according to taste preference.)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (Adds a smoky flavor without the need for a smoker.)
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (If you like a bit of heat.)
  • Sweetener (optional): A teaspoon of honey or maple syrup can be added for a hint of sweetness without overdoing the sugar. For a sugar-free option, consider a sweetener like stevia, but use sparingly as these can be much sweeter than sugar.


  1. Start by trimming as much fat as possible from the beef. Fat can cause the jerky to spoil faster.
  2. Partially freeze the beef for about 1-2 hours to make it easier to slice thinly.
  3. Slice the beef into thin strips, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. For easier chewing, slice against the grain.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and optional red pepper flakes and sweetener. Mix well.
  5. Place the beef strips in the marinade, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight for more flavor.
  6. Remove the beef from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. This helps speed up the drying process.
  7. Preheat your oven to the lowest setting, usually between 175°F (80°C) to 200°F (93°C). Place the beef strips on a wire rack over a baking sheet to catch any drips.
  8. Bake for 3-4 hours, or until the jerky is dry yet pliable. An alternative method is to use a dehydrator set to 165°F (74°C) for about 4-6 hours.
  9. Let the jerky cool completely before storing it in an airtight container. Homemade jerky can be kept for 1-2 weeks at room temperature, several weeks in the refrigerator, or several months if frozen.

Also read: Are Pork Chops Good for Weight Loss?

Final Thoughts

So, is beef jerky good for weight loss? The answer is yes, as long as you choose the right kind of jerky and consume it in moderation.

If you want to incorporate beef jerky while losing weight, opt for homemade beef jerky, or be sure to choose low-sodium options that are made from lean cuts of meat and free from added sugars and artificial preservatives.

As with any food, portion control is also key. Enjoy beef jerky as a healthy snack option, but don’t go on a beef jerky diet.

Also read: Are Tamales Good for Weight Loss?


Below we answer some more questions on beef jerky and weight loss

Can I eat beef jerky while trying to lose weight?

Yes, you can eat beef jerky while you’re trying to lose weight. Because it’s high in protein, which helps keep you full, and low in fat and carbs. Just watch out for the sodium and sugar content, and don’t go overboard with portion sizes.

Is it OK to eat beef jerky every day?

Yes, you can eat beef jerky every day, as long as you’re keeping an eye on the sodium and sugar content. It’s always a good idea to mix up your snacks and include a variety of healthy options, so feel free to enjoy beef jerky alongside other nutritious choices like fruits, veggies, and nuts.

Is beef jerky healthier than chips?

Yes, beef jerky is a healthier option compared to chips. It’s packed with protein and has fewer carbs and fats than most chips.

How much beef jerky can you eat a day?

You can safely eat around 1 ounce of beef jerky a day. Keep in mind that moderation is key, and it’s best to balance beef jerky with other healthy snacks throughout the day.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links at no extra cost to you. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Rahul is a professional nutritionist certified by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and a personal trainer certified through the American Council of Exercise (ACE). He has a special interest in the science of nutrition and how it can impact the body.

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