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Lean Cooking Tips
Lean Cooking Tips

The keys to a healthy diet are variety, balance and moderation. Choosing a variety of foods from among the food groups, as well as from within each group, makes meals and snacks interesting and helps provide all the nutrients you need.

The Food Guide Pyramid recommends consuming two to three servings of foods from the meat group each day. This group includes lean meat, skinless poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts. Many people think they must restrict their intake of all meats to lower their fat intake. It's easy to lower your fat intake by choosing lean cuts of beef or other meat, trimming it before cooking and using low-fat cooking methods. Here are a few tips:

  • Select leaner cuts of beef. Look for those with loin or round in the name, such as sirloin and top round.
  • For other cooking methods, cook beef first, then trim external or internal separable fat before eating.
  • Use low-fat cooking methods: broiling, roasting on a rack, pan-broiling, grilling, braising or stewing/simmering.
  • Use vegetable cooking spray in place of oil for browning meat.
  • Cook meats in a nonstick skillet.
  • Reduce oil in marinades to no more than 1 teaspoon per 1/2 cup of marinade, or eliminate oil altogether.
  • Substitute low-fat, low-calorie versions of ingredients. For example, substitute nonfat plain yogurt for sour cream.
  • Cook with fresh ingredients that do not contribute extra fat, such as lemon juice, hot and sweet peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and ginger.
  • To make sauces and gravies lower in calories, reduce the amount of flour or cornstarch used for thickening. Or eliminate the thickening agent altogether. Skim fat from the pan juices, and then cook over medium-high heat to thicken as desired.
  • Chill soups and stews after cooking in order to remove fat from the surface after it solidifies.
  • Stir-fry vegetables in water or broth instead of oil. It not only eliminates a source of fat, but the vegetables retain their color better, and they're fresher tasting.
Choose Lean Cuts of Meat
When choosing meat, select lean cuts, and make sure serving sizes are appropriate. One serving of meat is 3 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards. The amount of calories, cholesterol and fat varies greatly among different cuts of meat and poultry. Any cut of meat can be part of a healthy eating plan. Remember, the goal is to balance high-fat food choices with low-fat food choices over a period of time.

How Does Beef Compare to Other Meats?
A 3-ounce skinless chicken breast, the leanest part of the chicken, contains about 3 grams of fat, and the skinless chicken thigh contains about 9 grams of fat. Did you know there are eight cuts of beef that fall between the skinless chicken breast and skinless chicken thigh in terms of fat and calorie content? The “skinny” cuts of beef are flank steak, top round, eye round, round tip, top sirloin, bottom round, top loin and tenderloin.

Trim the Fat from Meat
Decreasing the fat content of meat and poultry is easy because you can see the external fat. Trimming visible fat from a sirloin steak lowers the total fat per serving by 50 percent. Remember to remove the skin from poultry before eating.

Prepare Lean Meat Dishes
Several cooking methods can lower the fat content of meats while retaining the flavor and nutrients. Round cuts cook well when they're braised or stewed. Try these quick methods of cooking loin cuts:

  • Roasting
  • Broiling
  • Grilling
  • Pan-broiling
  • Stir-frying