Typical cookout fare includes hot dogs, bratwursts, hamburgers and, here is St. Louis, pork steaks. In short, these are all high fat, high saturated fat cuts of meat. You can still enjoy grilled meats by looking for healthier alternatives. Your heart will thank you since foods high in saturated fat are known to increase cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart disease.
Instead of regular pork or beef hot dogs, opt for reduced-fat options or low-fat turkey franks. When I decide to splurge on a hot dog, my long-standing favorite is the Kosher brand Hebrew Nationals’s 97% Fat Free Beef Franks. Many processed meats, like hot dogs, contain nitrates (a precursor to carcinogenic nitrosamines), and these still do. But the reductions in fat and saturated fat still make it a better alternative in my book if you plan to indulge in a dog.
The hamburger is still is a very viable option for your cookout; just select lean ground beef! Look for at least 90% lean beef (90/10) or ground sirloin. If you can, purchase 94 or 96% lean beef for the greatest reduction in calories, fat and saturated fat. Turkey burgers are another good substitute for higher fat beef burgers; just make sure you purchase ground turkey breast. Regular ground turkey isn’t necessarily lower in fat than ground beef. To find the leanest cuts of ground beef, you’ll likely have to buy fresh beef instead of pre-packaged patties. Save yourself some time the day of the event by portioning and patting out your burgers ahead of time. If you’re buying steaks, also be on the lookout for the leanest cuts of beef, such as sirloin, flank steak, filet mignon, top loin, tenderloin or T-bones. Use a marinade to help meats retain moisture and stay tender.
To all my St. Louisan readers—I know pork steaks are a tradition here. But they’re also one of the higher calorie, higher fat cuts of pork! Swap the steaks for center cut pork chops or a tender and delicious pork tenderloin that you can slice and serve to your guests.
Chicken can be a very low-fat, low-saturated fat grilling option too and is perhaps the least expensive lean meat. Select white meat chicken cuts, like chicken breast, and make sure to remove the skin before eating.
Last but not least, consider fish! Fish is a heart-healthy, low fat protein food fresh out of the package. Select any type of fish you like—halibut, tilapia, cod, salmon, scallops or shrimp. They’re all great grilling options. Try marinating in one teaspoon lemon juice per serving with herbs for a flavorful and healthy entrée.
When selecting meats to grill, the first step is to bring home the leanest cut you can. Secondly, make sure to keep an eye on portion size. Most adults require only about six ounces of meat or protein foods per day in order to control calorie and fat intake. Meat, poultry and seafood will not significantly raise blood sugar, but they do affect cardiovascular health. You can have your meat and eat it too…just choose carefully!
Next summer grilling topic: a healthy grilling recipe!
Inspired by Summer Grilling by Lea Ann Holzmeister, RD, LD published in the May/June 2012 Issue of Diabetes Self-Management.
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