Choosing Low Fat Meats
Consumers are urged daily to limit the amount of red meats in their diets. Beef, pork, and lamb are often thought to be higher in fat and cholesterol than their counterparts, fish and poultry. But most of us have a hankering for red meat in our diets at one time or another.
There have been some improvements in the fat content of red meats over the years. Statistics released by the USDA Human Nutrition Information Services show that the meat you purchase today has on the average 31% less total fat, 29% less saturated fat, 14% less calories and 10% less cholesterol, after trimming and cooking than its 1983 official data.
Much of this has to do with the grain given to animals today and breeding. Red meats are also an excellent source of heme-iron, the iron which is most easily utilized in the body and plays a role in carrying oxygen in the blood. Other key nutrients include Zinc, for forming enzymes in the body and for healing, and the B Vitamins, for promoting healthy skin and nerves, using energy, and aiding in digestion. With careful selection and preparation, red meats can be worked into the diet.
- Purchase lean cuts of meat, preferably choice or select grades. Watch for a limited amount of marbling, which is a term for the small flecks of fat that are interspersed with the lean muscle. The leanest cuts of meat come from the parts of the animal that get the most exercise-for instance the shank, round, chuck and the flank. Another method of identifying lean meats is if it contains the word “loin” or “round” in the name. For example tenderloin, sirloin, and the eye of round are all lean. For pork and lamb, the rule of thumb is loin/leg. Cuts containing the word “loin” or “leg” are lean.
- Lean beef, pork, and lamb can be roasted, broiled, grilled, or stir-fried by adding little or no fat. Cook it after it has been well trimmed. Meat will re-absorb the fat if it is not trimmed well. Lean meats can also be marinated in acidic liquids like tomato juice, pineapple juice, wine, or vinegar. This helps to break down some of the tough connective tissue.
- Limit daily total protein intake to 6 to 7 ounces per day. Cooked portion sizes can be estimated by using the palm of your hand or the size of a deck of cards as a reference for a 3 ounce serving.