Nutrition

Healthy Beef Jerky: How to Pick and Your Best Options

Healthy beef jerky is a great addition to a balanced, well-rounded diet. When you’re on the hunt for a metabolism-revving, hunger-squashing, high-protein snack in a portable package, beef jerky is a clear winner.

It’s safe to say that beef jerky has moved past its reputation as a gas station junk food, loaded with sodium nitrites, MSG, and artificial ingredients straight out of a lab. 

Artisan beef jerky makers have pushed the category to bigger and better places. With a focus on simple techniques and high quality ingredients, beef jerky is one of your best options for a natural, high protein snack.

Shop Healthy Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is healthy and has many benefits.

So, you might be wondering...is beef jerky healthy?

Yes, beef jerky is healthy and has many health benefits including weight loss. When consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, beef jerky is an excellent snack food that is low calorie, high in protein, and a good source of vitamins and minerals including zinc, iron, choline, and Vitamin B12.

The secret is in the drying process. The removal of moisture and weight from raw meat supercharges the nutritional composition. The result? A low-fat, high-protein powerhouse ready to keep you fueled during your day.

Not all beef jerky is created equal. Selecting the right jerky is important as some commercial jerky products are highly processed, packed with hidden sugar, and high in sodium and preservatives.

This guide will show you how to find the healthiest beef jerky.

What makes a healthy beef jerky?

Limón con Chile Beef Jerky

A healthy beef jerky must use high quality ingredients, be minimally-processed, feature low sugar and low sodium, have loads of protein with little to no preservatives. 

There are many quality options out there so you don’t need to compromise on any of the following key attributes. 

  • High quality ingredients 
  • Minimally processed
  • Low in sugar and sodium
  • High in protein
  • No preservatives

6 Keys to Choosing a Beef Jerky

1. Choose a Low Sodium Beef Jerky

Target: Keep it Under 500mg per serving

Salt will always be a part of jerky. It’s an essential nutrient and natural preservative. Plus, salt is nature’s seasoning, elevating the inherent meaty flavor of the jerky.

All within reason. An excessively high sodium content is not acceptable and should be avoided. 

If you have a particular sensitivity to sodium, it’s probably best to avoid jerky as a whole. For everyone else, and especially athletes, beef jerky offers lean protein and electrolytes. Just keep it under 500mg per serving.

2. Avoid Sugar in Beef Jerky

Target: Keep it to 3 grams per serving or less

Sugar has been on the hot seat recently and for good reason. Excessive consumption of sugar causes a host of health problems from high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. 

There can be a surprising amount of sugar in beef jerky. Small amounts of sugar bring texture and balanced flavor, but too much sugar can overpower a jerky and turn it into a candy.

There are plenty of sugar free beef jerky options for those looking to cut out all sugar. The best jerky options have 3g per serving or less of sugar.

3. Grab Jerky with High Protein

Target: 10 grams per serving or more

One of the top benefits of beef jerky is the healthy source of protein. But not just any protein, it’s a complete protein, full of amino acids. These aminos acids are the building blocks of muscles and a healthy body.

Look for any beef jerky that has at least 10g of protein per serving. Anything less and you’re being short changed.

4. Jerky Should Be Low Fat

Target: Keep it under 1.5 grams of fat per serving

Beef jerky is generally made with lean cuts of beef, meaning it doesn’t have a lot of fat. 

It’s still important to check the nutrition label to make sure there’s not more than 2 or 3 grams of fat per serving.

5. Find Quality in the Beef Source

Target: High quality beef source from a reputable producer

There are many options out there when looking for a specific type of beef, and most of the beef is made with lean meat. 

The range includes grass fed beef, organic, and hormone-free beef. Everyone has different priorities and health goals and you can easily find an option that fits your diet or lifestyle. 

The key thing to look for is a quality producer that focuses on the health of the animal and producing beef in a sustainable manner.

At People's Choice Beef Jerky, we exclusively partner with suppliers that share our core philosophy: doing the right thing can be beneficial to all and helps customers and communities thrive in a safe, responsible, and sustainable way. 

This includes requiring all beef suppliers to meet the following quality standards: demonstrate a real and accountable commitment to animal care and handling; uphold the highest of food safety standards to deliver a wholesome product, no corners cut; and a commitment to the long-term sustainability of both the food chain and the environment. 

As a multi-generational family business, we understand our place in the larger picture. We want future generations to enjoy their jerky. To do so, we work with its partners to manage resources both for what's needed today and what will be needed for tomorrow.

6. Only Choose Quality Ingredients

Target: Avoid any unnecessary artificial ingredients or preservatives

Many of the unhealthy ingredients in beef jerky just aren’t needed anymore. You should avoid any jerky that has MSG or synthetic or artificial flavors. You don’t need artificial sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup or monosodium glutamate.

A Quick Note on MSG

Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer that is commonly added to food. It is a naturally-occuring compound in many of our favorite foods, such as parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and beef. That delicious umami flavor you’re enjoying? That’s most likely natural MSG. Because MSG naturally occurs in beef, there’s no reason for added MSG in beef jerky.

The flavor in the jerky should come from the natural richness of the high quality meat and natural ingredients such as seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and salt.

When you look at the ingredient list on your beef jerky, there should only be recognizable ingredients. Items you would find in an everyday kitchen.

Things to Avoid

Sometimes it's easier to have a quick, hit list of things to avoid when selecting a beef jerky.

  • Super High Sodium
  • High Sugar
  • Added MSG
  • Low Quality Beef (When possible, opt for organic beef, premium grain-fed beef, or 100% grass-fed beff.)

Top 5 Healthiest Beef Jerky Options

The following five healthy beef jerky flavors are made without any added sugar. They are also gluten free and do not contain any added flavorings such as worcestershire sauce or soy sauce.

When incorporated into a healthy, well-balanced diet, they are great snack options to help with weight loss.

1. Old Fashioned Original

Old Fashioned Original Beef Jerky

An old family recipe, dating back to the 1920s, has been updated with all natural ingredients to create a traditional jerky packed with protein.

If you’re looking for an original flavor, something really simple, this is the jerky for you. This is authentic jerky, handcrafted in an old time style. This is not a moist jerky, each thick piece has a chewy steak-like texture.

This is a top selling healthy beef jerky. It’s a great option for those looking for sugar-free, low carb, keto-friendly, and high protein.

Per 1 Ounce Serving

  • Calories: 90
  • Total Fat: 2.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 490mg
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 16g

Shop: Old Fashioned Original Beef Jerky - $6 - $25

2. Carne Seca Hatch Green Chile

Carne Seca Hatch Green Chile Beef Jerky

Whole cuts of 100% American beef are cut into thick strips, marinated with distilled white vinegar and an all-natural spice blend featuring ground Hatch green chiles, then slow-cooked for a minimum of 5 hours to craft the best beef jerky.

The Hatch green chile offers the full range of complex flavors associated with chiles — rich, earthy, spicy, and floral — without forcing you to endure insane heat levels.

This beef jerky contains no nitrites, MSG, preservatives, artificial ingredients, soy, wheat or gluten!

Per 1 Ounce Serving

  • Calories: 80
  • Total Fat: 2g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 410mg
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 13g

Might be addicted...

I love the flavor journey the Hatch Green Chile takes me on. It's super smooth, and the spice level was just enough that it brings a depth of flavor. Rating out of 10? I'd give it a 15.

Justin F.

Shop: Carne Seca Hatch Green Chile: $6 - $25

3. Old Fashioned Hot & Spicy

Old Fashioned Hot & Spicy Beef Jerky

This artisanal beef jerky hasn’t changed much since the 1920s. 

We took a family recipe and updated it with premium ingredients. Handcrafted with a focus on quality, this is a dry jerky that is healthy because it’s so simple. 

Similar to the Old Fashioned Original, but with some added spice. Great for those looking for a healthy jerky with a little heat.

Per 1 Ounce Serving

  • Calories: 90
  • Total Fat: 2.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 490mg
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 15g

Shop: Old Fashioned Hot & Spicy - $6 - $25

4. Carne Seca Limón con Chile

Carne Seca Limón con Chile

The Carne Seca line is inspired by the diverse culinary tradition of our hometown neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles. 

Focused on bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and simple techniques, this line features all natural ingredients and a simplified process to showcase the deliciousness of traditional Carne Seca.

This is a great jerky option for those looking for sugar-free, carb-free, keto-friendly, and high protein jerky.

A family favorite

The beef is not too dry, so it retains an excellent beefy flavor. It has a nice chew consistency while still being tender. The heat is perfect: It is present but doesn't overwhelm the flavor. The seasoning is perfectly balanced, with just the right amount of great chili taste, with a bright limon accent.

Kathleen D

Per 1 Ounce Serving

  • Calories: 100
  • Total Fat: 2.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 500mg
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 16g

Shop: Carne Seca Limón con Chile - $6 - $25

5. Sea Salt & Pepper Beef Sticks

Sea Salt & Pepper Mini Sticks

This is a great option for those looking for a slightly different option than beef jerky. Beef sticks are tasty and healthy. The Sea Salt & Pepper Beef Sticks are sugar-free, carb-free, keto-friendly, and high protein.

Lean cuts of 100% American Beef are chopped and mixed with a rich medley of natural spices (no sugar added), stuffed into natural casings and then slow cooked for a minimum of six hours. 

No MSG or nitrates, no fillers, no binders, and no added preservatives. Because we use celery powder, no need to worry about fake preservatives.

Per 1 Ounce Serving

  • Calories: 90
  • Total Fat: 7g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.5g
  • Sodium: 420mg
  • Carbohydrate: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 6g

Very tasty, not artificial or spicy

These sea salt and pepper ones taste like they're made with natural ingredients. Also, I appreciate the spice level. These had a good balance of spice and flavor. Very tasty! Not too artificial or spicy, good overall. Would order again.

Lauren Y.

Shop: Mini Sticks Sea Salt & Pepper Beef Sticks - $6

Bonus Item: Sugar Free Jerky Box

The Sugar Free Jerky Box is a great sampler.

Looking for the best healthy beef jerky sampler?

The Health Nut Box is the perfect way to sample a range of healthy beef jerky products. You’ll be guaranteed to find your new favorite flavor. Each meat treat in the box is Keto-Friendly, Gluten-Free, Low to Zero Sugar, Low to Zero Carb, LCHP, LCHF. 

Plus, it’s also a great gift idea for those living a healthy lifestyle. 

Shop: Keto Jerky Box - $36

Bottom Line

When consumed as part of a balanced diet, beef jerky is a great snack.

Beef jerky is a healthy snack that can fit a range of diets and lifestyles. The key is to select a healthy jerky. It's perfect for on-the-go snacking, office snacks, and even for your next road trip.

If you follow the five keys to choosing a healthy beef jerky — low sodium, low sugar, low fat, high protein from a high quality beef source and made with simple ingredients — you’ll be on your way to enjoying a great meat snack.

Shop Healthy Beef Jerky from People’s Choice Beef Jerky