Keeping Trim By Trimming the Fat Off Your Meat

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - 4:25pm

By Megan Porter, RD/LD

You can help trim your waist and get better blood sugar and blood cholesterol results by trimming the size and the fat off your meat.

Limit Saturated Fats and Cholesterol

The four major kinds of fats in the foods we eat are saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fatty acids. Both saturated fats and trans fats raise blood cholesterol, as may dietary cholesterol, which is found in foods from animal origin. Having a high level of cholesterol in your blood becomes a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack, and/or stroke.

Saturated fat has also been linked to increasing your insulin resistance, meaning your body is not using insulin like it should, resulting in higher blood sugar values. One way to decrease your insulin resistance and total blood cholesterol level is by limiting foods high in saturated fat and/or cholesterol, such as fatty meats.

Eating Less and Lean

The American Diabetes Association recommends that you should aim for no more than 7% of your calories from saturated fat. For a person consuming 1800 calories per day this would mean 14 grams of saturated fat per day. It is also recommended that you restrict your intake of dietary cholesterol to no more than 200mg/day.

While counting your daily allowance of saturated fat and cholesterol, remember that meat is not your only source of these fats. You find saturated fat and cholesterol in such foods as eggs, cheese, yogurt, as well as meats.

Shop Lean

Your first defense to keeping within your target levels for saturated fat and cholesterol is while shopping for meat and other products. I encourage you to choose cuts of meat that are lower in fat (i.e., round, sirloin, chuck, loin or tenderloin, and loin chop). Purchase the "choice" grade of meat which is usually lower in fat than "select" and skip "prime," which is usually highest in fat. Add lean choices of poultry to your basket. It is a lower-fat selection than red meats, thus making them lower in calories as well—especially if you leave the skin on your plate and choose the white meat over the dark. Additionally, when selecting ground meats, choose lean or extra lean (no more than 10% fat) to save on fat and calories. Use these meats for no more than two-to-three meals per week.

Don’t Forget the Fish and Legumes

Next, head over to the fish aisle and select any non-fried fish or shellfish (limit shrimp which is high in cholesterol) for at least two meals per week. These are naturally low in saturated fats and have high amounts of the healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats that can aid in raising the “healthy” HDL cholesterol levels in your blood. Fish has also been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease.

Then for the remaining two meals, choose legumes such as black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, etc. for a meatless meal that is absent of cholesterol (because legumes are not of animal origin) and which have a trace amount of saturated fat.

Look It Over, Then Trim

When preparing your meat prior to cooking, always trim away any visible fat before cooking. Prepare your meats by baking, broiling, roasting, microwaving or stir-frying. Do not fry your meat because frying adds unnecessary additional fat. When cooking the “choice” grade of meats, or leaner cuts of meats, you may need to use a cooking method that either retains the moisture or adds in moisture such as roasting or using a slow cooker.

One Serving Is Equal to a Deck of Cards

When serving yourself meat, remember that by keeping your meat and your portion size trim, you’ll keep trim yourself. Choosing meat in small amounts can be part of a healthy diabetes meal plan. A serving size is 4 ounces of raw meat, or 2 to 3 ounces of cooked meat, which is about the size of a deck of cards or a woman's palm. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6oz of cooked lean meat per day.

Before eating, look on your plate. The portion of your meat, fish, or shellfish should cover no more than a quarter of your 9-inch plate.

Watch Your Intake: Decrease Your Risk

Eating meat is not going to directly raise your blood sugar levels, but it may be a culprit of high intakes of saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories; therefore, it can indirectly increase your blood sugar levels and your risk for heart disease. So watch your intake, and decrease your risk for heart disease.

Source: By The American Diabetes Association (ADA) “2006 medical nutrition therapy guidelines for diabetes prevention”, Diabetes Care 29:S4-S42, 2006.