Healthy Debate: White Meat vs. Dark Meat

As the holidays approach, visions of turkeys dance in our heads. One of the most frequently asked questions during holiday dinners (right after red or white) is, “white or dark meat?” Most of us have a preference, based on taste or health benefits, but before you make your decision, take a look at our comparison chart and learn about the good, the bad and the ugly of both kinds of meat. You might be surprised.



White Meat vs. Dark Meat


  White Dark
Fat Lower Higher
  This category has no clear winner. White meat’s lower fat content means it may dry out faster than dark meat. The higher fat content in wings, legs and thighs of dark meat helps keep it moist, which can enhance the flavor. Keep in mind: you can reduce dark meat’s saturated fat content by removing the skin. Typically, a 3-ounce serving of dark meat has 2 additional grams of fat (and 20 extra calories) than white meat.
Protein Higher Lower
  White meat has slightly more protein than dark meat.
Vitamins & Minerals Rich in niacin, vitamin B6, iron, zinc, and selenium Contains more zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 & B12, amino acids, and iron. Consider this: dark meat contains about 11 times more zinc than tuna and about three times more iron than raw spinach.
  Dark meat wins this category.


In the past, you may have shied away from dark meat, but given the information above, it’s clear that dark meat deserves a second look. While it’s true that dark meat is slightly higher in fat and contains more calories, it certainly packs a powerful vitamin and mineral punch.

When making your decision this holiday season, remember: it’s usually not the meat that gets us in trouble at the dinner table. More often, it’s what we choose to pile on top and beside the turkey that gets us in trouble. With the rich, juicy flavor of dark meat, you might find yourself using less gravy, which could save additional calories. Bottom line, the choice is yours … you really can’t go wrong with either this year.

What is your choice: white or dark meat?

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the VP of Fitness Programming for the FIT4MOM® franchise. For more than two decades, she has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, Silver Sneakers, and BOSU® as a fitness business and programming consultant. An experienced educator, freelance writer, and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the founder and co-owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool.