January is just about over, and for anyone who is still on track of their health goals, you’ve probably quickly figured out diet plays an important role.
This month (or veganuary) is also a time people give up meat, but experts say when cooked in certain ways, meat can be a nutritious part of a meal.
“It comes down to portions,” says Anar Allidina, a registered dietitian based in Richmond Hill, Ont. “It’s recommended to have no more than 18 ounces of red meat per week. This is a generous amount given that a serving should be around four ounces — the size of a small iPhone.
She adds the cut of meat is also important. “The leaner cuts tend to be fillets, or a cut that has ‘loin’ or ’round’ in the name.”
And to further maximize antioxidants and cut calories even further, opt for grass-fed meat and poultry.
“When having red meat, think of it as an ingredient in your meal and make sure it isn’t the star. Round the meal with vegetables, make a stew or a stir-fry.”
Red meat debate
Allidina says in general, red meats (beef, pork and lamb) have more cholesterol and saturated fat than chicken and even fish.
“Cholesterol and saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and contribute to heart disease,” she continues.
And although previous studies have shown over-consuming red meat isn’t healthy in the long run, Popular Science reports, humans have been consuming this type of meat for centuries.
“Despite all the hype surrounding red meat, it really isn’t so bad for you,” Allidina continues. “More research is showing that processed foods and the sugars in our diet contribute to inflammation which can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease … the blame shouldn’t be on red meat alone.”
A healthy diet, she adds, can absolutely include moderate amounts of red meat. “It is a protein powerhouse plus it contains vitamin B and zinc, and it has twice as much iron as chicken.”
Carolyn Berry, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Vancouver, says to choose cooking techniques that don’t add extra fat and calories.
Grilling, roasting, baking, broiling, steaming, press cooking and slow cooking are some of the healthiest ways to cook meat. And yes, you should avoid deep-frying it.
“Avoid marinades and sauces that are high in sugar and sodium,” she adds. She even recommends this healthy marinate recipe from My Recipes for Argentinean Pork.
Allidina adds you should also avoid processed deli meats like hot dogs, salami, bacon, loaded with sodium and nitrates which are added to preserve the meat.
“It’s fine to have on occasion but if you’re having deli meat several times a week, you should cut back to no more than two servings a week.”
Berry also recommends trimming any visible fat before cooking and letting hidden fat drain away from the meat.
“Place roasts and similar cuts on a rack in your cooking pan, so that the fat can drip away as the meat cooks. Discard the fat.”