Healthy Beef Jerky: 10 Best Beef Sticks Brands & Healthier Alternatives

We love healthy beef jerky. Here you’ll find our 10 best beef stick brands for sodium and general nutrition, plus 10 healthier alternatives to beef jerky.
In this article

Why People Crave Beef Jerky

Beef jerky’s allure lies in its complex interplay of taste, texture, and nutritional content. The savory taste, known as umami, is particularly satisfying due to the presence of amino acids and high levels of protein which signal satiety to the brain. Fats in jerky contribute a mouthfeel that enhances flavor and promotes a feeling of fullness.

Sugar, often added for taste, stimulates the brain’s reward system by releasing dopamine, reinforcing the desire for more. The act of chewing jerky also plays a role, as it can be stress-relieving and thus psychologically rewarding. The dehydration process concentrates flavors and adds a pleasing chewiness that releases volatile compounds, stimulating nasal smell receptors and enhancing the sensory experience.

Finding healthy alternatives to beef jerky, such as a beef jerky substitute that mimics these sensory experiences without the unhealthy additives, can be challenging. The quest for a beef jerky replacement that satisfies these cravings without compromising health is ongoing, highlighting the need for options that cater to the body’s natural desire for savory, protein-rich snacks. It’s a difficult habit to break, and empathy is warranted for those trying to switch to healthier snacking options.

10 Best Healthy Beef Jerky Brands

  1. Paleovalley 100% Grass Fed Beef Sticks
    Paleovalley offers 100% grass-fed and finished beef sticks that stand out for their natural fermentation process, which not only extends shelf life but also introduces gut-friendly probiotics.

    These beef sticks are free from GMOs, gluten, grains, corn, soy, dairy, and artificial nitrates or nitrites. They emphasize the use of organic spices and avoid harmful additives, making them a wholesome choice for a nutritious snack.

    The brand’s commitment to using high-quality, grass-fed beef results in a product rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients, aligning with the principles of a health-conscious diet.

    Use this link to try a sample pack for just $4.99 (80% off).
  2. Chomps Original Beef Jerky Sticks
    Chomps offers grass-fed, non-GMO beef sticks with no added sugars, nitrates, or preservatives, making them a top choice for healthy beef sticks. Their high protein content and use of healthy fats align with nutritional needs.
  3. The New Primal Grass-Fed Beef Jerky
    This brand is known for its commitment to grass-fed beef and minimal processing, offering a high protein beef jerky with no added sugars or artificial ingredients, fitting for a healthy diet.
  4. Epic 100% Grass-Fed Beef Bars
    Epic bars are not only high in protein but also low in sugar, making them an excellent choice for those looking for healthier beef jerky. Their commitment to natural ingredients and sustainable sourcing adds to their appeal.
  5. Nick’s Sticks Grass-Fed Beef Snack Sticks
    With no antibiotics or hormones, these beef sticks are a healthy option. They are low in sodium and free from nitrates and fillers, making them a top choice for health-conscious consumers.
  6. Country Archer Original Beef Jerky
    Offering grass-fed beef without preservatives or artificial ingredients, Country Archer’s jerky is high in protein and low in calories, making it a nutritious snack option.
  7. Think Jerky Sweet Chipotle Grass-Fed Beef Jerky
    This brand provides a healthier beef jerky with its grass-fed beef and lower sugar content. The chipotle flavor adds a savory taste without compromising on health.
  8. Krave Gourmet Beef Jerky
    Krave’s jerky is notable for its lean cuts of meat and lower sodium levels. Their gourmet flavors provide a healthy and delicious snacking option.
  9. Field Trip All Natural Beef Jerky
    Known for its all-natural ingredients and lack of preservatives, Field Trip’s jerky is a great low sodium beef jerky option that doesn’t compromise on flavor.
  10. Brooklyn Biltong
    This brand offers a unique take on traditional South African biltong, a form of dried, cured meat. Their products are high in protein and made without sugar or preservatives, ideal for a healthy snack.
It’s amazing to see more and more healthy beef stick brands and beef jerky options available these days. There’s one more slightly off-beat product that we wanted to include – for the many people following a paleo diet or autoimmune protocol diet who are looking for a healthy beef and veggie combo:

Wild Zora Meat and Veggie Bars
While not traditional beef jerky, these bars offer a unique blend of meat and organic vegetables, providing a balanced snack with high protein and essential nutrients.

Is Beef Jerky Unhealthy?

The health implications of consuming beef jerky are often misunderstood. Many people associate beef jerky with a high-protein, low-carb snack, overlooking the potential for high sodium and preservative content. The dehydration process can also lead to a concentration of these additives, raising concerns about cardiovascular health.

However, not all jerky is created equal, and there are healthier versions available. The key is to look for a beef jerky alternative with minimal processing, low sodium, and no added sugars. It’s important to read labels carefully and consider portion sizes when including beef jerky in a balanced diet.

Jerky’s Misleading Health Halo

Beef jerky often sports a “health halo,” perceived as a wholesome, natural snack. This misconception arises from the snack’s rugged, outdoor-associated image and its genuine protein content. However, the presence of preservatives like sodium nitrate and high sodium levels can tarnish this halo.

For those in pursuit of a beef jerky replacement that maintains the health benefits without the downsides, it’s vital to look beyond the marketing and examine the nutritional substance. Educating oneself on the ingredients and making informed choices can help maintain the balance between enjoying jerky and keeping health in check.

Can Beef Jerky Be a Diet Food?

The role of beef jerky in weight management is a topic ripe with confusion. Some dieters praise jerky for its protein content, which can aid in muscle repair and satiety between meals. However, the calorie density of beef jerky is often underestimated, and it can contribute to caloric excess if not moderated.

A healthy alternative to beef jerky might be sought by those looking to reduce their calorie intake while still enjoying a savory snack. It’s crucial to understand that while jerky can be part of a diet plan, it should be balanced with other nutrient-rich foods to support overall health.

10 Healthy Alternatives to Beef Jerky

Turkey jerky
This leaner alternative provides a similar chewy texture and savory flavor but with less saturated fat and calories, making it a heart-healthier choice that still satisfies the craving for a meaty snack.

Baked chickpeas
Seasoned and roasted until crispy, they offer a savory taste with a satisfying crunch. High in protein and fiber, they’re a nutritious option that helps with feeling full longer.

Lightly salted or seasoned, these young soybeans are naturally savory and provide a substantial bite. They’re rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, without the added sugars or preservatives found in jerky.

Greek yogurt with savory mix-ins
Mixing in herbs or chopped vegetables can transform plain Greek yogurt into a savory, creamy snack that’s high in protein and beneficial probiotics.

Nuts and seeds
Almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds can be lightly salted or spiced to enhance their natural savory flavor. They offer healthy fats, protein, and fiber, contributing to satiety and heart health.

Tofu jerky
Marinated and baked tofu can mimic the texture and savory taste of beef jerky while being lower in calories and fat. It’s a plant-based protein source that’s also cholesterol-free.

Smoked salmon
Offering a savory, smoky flavor, it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein. It’s a healthier option due to its beneficial fats and absence of added sugars.

Cottage cheese with herbs
A savory version of cottage cheese can be achieved by adding fresh herbs or spices. It’s high in protein and can be chosen in low-fat varieties to reduce calorie intake.

Air-popped popcorn with nutritional yeast
This combination provides a savory, cheesy flavor without the high fat content. It’s a whole grain that’s low in calories and can be a satisfying, voluminous snack.

Marinated and baked tempeh offers a meaty texture with a savory umami flavor. It’s a fermented food, which is beneficial for gut health, and it’s high in protein and fiber.

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The Truth About Jerky’s Protein Content

Protein is a buzzword often associated with beef jerky, but there’s a cloud of misinformation surrounding the quality and quantity of protein it provides. While beef jerky is indeed a source of protein, not all jerky products offer the same benefits. Some may have their protein content overshadowed by additives and fillers.

For those seeking a beef jerky substitute that’s high in protein without the drawbacks, options like turkey jerky or plant-based jerky can be considered. It’s essential to dissect the nutrition facts to ensure that the protein you’re getting from jerky aligns with your dietary needs.

The Savory Seduction of Beef Jerky

The savory aspect of beef jerky is irresistible to many, yet the reasons behind this craving are often misunderstood. The umami flavor in jerky comes from naturally occurring amino acids and added seasonings, which can trigger pleasure centers in the brain. This savory sensation is sometimes mistaken for an indication of nutritional value, but the truth is more complex.

While savory snacks like jerky can be part of a healthy diet, it’s important to seek a healthy alternative for beef jerky that doesn’t rely heavily on sodium and artificial flavorings to achieve its taste.

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Homemade Healthy Beef Jerky Recipe


This healthy recipe for beef jerky is a high-protein, low-sugar snack that’s packed with flavor. Using lean beef and natural seasonings, this homemade jerky is a savory treat that’s both nutritious and satisfying.

Prep Time

30 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes


  • Oven
  • Baking sheet
  • Wire rack
  • Sharp knife
  • Mixing bowl


  • 1 lb lean beef (like flank steak or eye round)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika


  1. Freeze the beef for about an hour to make it easier to slice.
  2. Preheat your oven to 175°F (80°C) and place a wire rack on a baking sheet.
  3. Slice the partially frozen beef into thin strips, cutting against the grain for a more tender jerky.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, honey, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and smoked paprika.
  5. Add the beef strips to the marinade, ensuring each piece is well coated. Let it marinate for at least 20 minutes, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator for more flavor.
  6. Arrange the marinated beef strips on the wire rack, leaving space between each piece.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for about 4 hours, or until the jerky is dry and firm yet still chewy. Check the jerky periodically to prevent over-drying.
  8. Allow the jerky to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy this healthy, homemade snack as a protein-rich alternative to store-bought jerky.

Is homemade beef jerky healthy?

Homemade beef jerky can be a healthier option compared to many store-bought varieties, primarily because it allows for complete control over the ingredients used. By making beef jerky at home, one can opt for lean cuts of meat, significantly reducing the fat content, and aligning with the idea of healthy meats.

The key to making healthy beef jerky lies in the choice of marinades and seasonings. Homemade recipes can avoid the high sugar and harmful preservatives often found in commercial beef jerky. Using natural spices and herbs, and reducing the use of sugar and salt, can turn homemade beef jerky into a healthier snack option.

Moreover, homemade beef jerky can be made with reduced sodium compared to many commercial brands. This aspect makes it a fitting choice for those seeking low sodium beef jerky. The ability to adjust the recipe to personal health needs and preferences sets homemade beef jerky apart as a potentially healthier alternative to its store-bought counterparts.

Check out these 2 videos that walk you through how to make beef jerky at home:

Is Jack Link’s beef jerky healthy?

Jack Link’s beef jerky, a popular brand in the snack market, really isn’t that healthy. Its main redeeming quality is that it is a high-protein snack, which aligns well with those seeking to increase their protein intake. A single serving typically contains around 10 grams of protein, contributing to muscle repair and growth.

When evaluating Jack Link’s beef jerky against criteria for healthy beef jerky, it’s essential to consider its sugar and sodium content. Many of their products contain added sugars, and the sodium levels can be quite high. For instance, a single serving might contain over 500 mg of sodium, which is a significant portion of the recommended daily intake.

For those looking for healthier beef jerky, it might be beneficial to explore low sodium beef jerky options or beef jerky alternatives that are lower in sugar and preservatives.

Interestingly, its brand has chosen to develop a series of advertisements that are centered around violence, which speaks very clearly to the market it’s targeting:

Are Slim Jims bad for you?

Slim Jims, a popular brand of meat snack sticks, often raise concerns regarding their nutritional content. They are typically high in sodium and preservatives, which can be a red flag for those aiming for a healthy diet. For instance, a single Slim Jim stick contains a significant amount of sodium, which exceeds the recommended limits when consumed in large quantities.

In addition, Slim Jims contain additives like sodium nitrite, which are used for preservation but have been linked to potential health risks when consumed regularly. These factors place Slim Jims in the category of highly processed foods, which are generally not recommended for a health-conscious diet.

Can you eat beef jerky while pregnant?

Eating beef jerky during pregnancy is a topic that requires careful consideration. The primary concern with consuming beef jerky while pregnant lies in the risk of bacterial contamination, such as Listeria, which can be harmful to both the mother and the developing fetus. Listeria infection can lead to serious complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm labor.

To mitigate this risk, pregnant women are often advised to avoid eating beef jerky unless it is thoroughly cooked or reheated to a steaming hot temperature. This cooking process helps to eliminate any potential bacteria present in the jerky.

For those who are looking for a safer alternative, choosing healthy beef jerky brands that adhere to strict safety standards and processing methods can be a better option. These brands often take extra precautions to ensure their products are safe for all consumers, including pregnant women. Additionally, consulting with a healthcare provider before including beef jerky in a pregnancy diet is always recommended for personalized advice and safety.

Is beef jerky healthy for weight loss?

Beef jerky can be a suitable snack for weight loss due to its high protein content. High protein beef jerky provides a feeling of fullness, which can reduce overall calorie intake by curbing hunger pangs. This aspect makes it a practical choice for those looking to manage their weight.

However, not all beef jerky is created equal in terms of health benefits. To align with weight loss goals, choosing healthier beef jerky options with lower sugar and sodium content is essential. Some beef jerky brands, including healthier beef jerky varieties, focus on minimal added sugars and lower sodium levels, making them a better choice for weight management.

For those who are cautious about their dietary intake, beef jerky alternatives or low sodium beef jerky can be beneficial. These alternatives often provide the same high protein benefit with reduced risk of excessive sodium and sugar intake, which are factors to consider when trying to lose weight.

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