How to Eat #3: Meat Eaters are People Too
For many of us, eating meat provides a physical satisfaction that no other food can provide. This is not a sin. As humans, and, historically, omnivores, we have little choice. Meat, as well as poultry and seafood, have been some of the most readily available and filling food sources for centuries. But, shifts in the social perspective have changed popular attitudes about meat eating. Red meat especially has gotten a bum rap. Questions of ethics, nutrition, sustainability, and sanitation have encouraged the popularity of vegetarian, vegan, or white meat diets.
To eat meat or not eat meat is a personal choice. More important is that your chosen diet be well rounded and nutritious, and suit your conscience. Generally, a moderate intake of fish and white meat chicken is healthier than nightly 12 ounce steaks. But, for the folks that have no intention of giving up any meat products, the following information might lead to healthier meat purchase and consumption choices.
First of all, if you can, opt for grass-fed animal products rather than grain-fed animal products. Grass is the natural and best diet for cows, sheep, and other animals, and keeps them in better overall health, which means healthier meat. Also, the living restrictions often imposed on grain-fed animals on big farms can expose them to stress and pollution.
Next, meat eaters should think about the preparation and placement of meat within a meal. WebMD offers a four part meat consumption guide, which focuses on moderation, variety, and balance.
1. Varying Your Meat - Red meat is fine in moderation, but certainly not every night. Rotate between beef, chicken, fish, and other quality meats throughout the week.
2. Selecting Your Cut - Go to a butcher you trust to give you what you ask for, including trimming the fat. Look for lean meats without a lot of marbling (flecks of fat inside the cut). Choose choice cuts rather than prime.
3. Cooking Your Dinner - Roasting, baking, and boiling are preferable to frying and charring. Frying means a lot of fat and charring can form carcinogens, which can be cancer causing.
4. Eating Your Fill - Instead of having a large piece of meat as the main course, serve three ounce portions (the recommended healthy amount) with large helpings of vegetables. Three ounces is about the size of a deck of cards.
When choosing your meat and poultry, keep the nutrition values in mind. Sometimes, the facts can be surprising. For example, three ounces of dark meat chicken with the skin has more than three times the fat of three ounces of beef eye of round. Here are a few quick tips about the nutrition and fat content of popular meat products:
- Pork steaks and chops are middle of the road when it comes fat and calorie content.
- Bacon is one of the fattiest meat products out there.
- Ham is usually very high in salt, diminishing its relatively low fat content.
- Sausage often contains a lot of preservatives, which have been linked to higher occurrences of colorectal cancer.
- White meat chicken without the skin is full of good nutrition.
- The drawback is that many chickens are so intensely farmed that they contain chemicals and hormones.
Duck and Lamb
- These are delicacies, and not generally intensely farmed.
- Both are quite high in fat, and should be an occasional treat.
- Venison is low in fat, and is almost always free-range.
- This is a great alternative to beef.
- Turkey is even lower in fat than chicken.
- Sometimes turkeys are intensely farmed.
Beef is in a class of its own, being at once very popular and very much in question. While it is true that too much beef is unhealthy, and many beef products are very high in fat, WebMD's guidelines can go a long way toward helping you improve your beef intake. According to the Cattlemen's Beef Board and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, "there are 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean. Each one contains less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5 oz. serving." The essential nutrition found in beef includes protein, iron, zinc, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin B. Again, this does not mean beef everyday; these elements are in certain fish and poultry as well.
If you plan to keep eating meat, by all means, do so! But please remember that balance, variation, and moderation (especially with red meat) are musts. If you're getting plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, there's no reason not to enjoy a partially carnivorous diet.