April 24, 2009

Now that Atkins-style high-protein diets have lost their luster, many women are confused about how much, if any, red meat they should eat. Chances are you know at least one person who has given up beef because she's worried about her cholesterol level, and maybe you have another friend who says eating beef isn't eco-friendly. But you like beef and wish there were a way to have it without feeling as though you're hurting your body and the planet. Relax! Beef is a highly nutritious food-rich in zinc, iron, selenium, B vitamins, and protein-and several studies have shown that in moderate portions (3 to 4 ounces), it won't raise cholesterol. To have your burger or steak with a clear conscience, follow my tips.

  • Choose lean cuts The fat and calorie content of beef varies depending on the grade and the cut. Select or Choice beef will be leaner than Prime. And top sirloin, eye of round, and bottom round cuts have less than 3 grams of saturated fat and fewer than 190 calories in 3 ounces.

  • Marinate it first Fat gives beef flavor and texture, so lean cuts need a little help to make them tasty and tender. An acid-based blend-containing wine, tomatoes, or vinegar-will do the trick.

  • Think like a flexitarian You don't need to eat beef every day, and when you do have it, don't make it the centerpiece of your meal. Beef-orany other meat-should make up just a quarter of your plate; fill the rest with vegetables and whole grains. A beef stir-fry is a delicious, quick option; find my recipe here.

  • Order wisely at the steak house A 10-ounce prime rib (a typical restaurant serving) can have 1,000 calories and 37 grams of saturated fat-andthat's before you add the baked potato and creamed spinach! Choose a lean cut, like sirloin, then take half of it home or split it with a friend. Just add a big salad (light on the dressing) and a vegetable side dish to round out your meal.

  • Make a better burger Ground beef labeled 75 percent lean still has 8 grams of saturated fat in 3 ounces. Stick to 95 percent lean ground beef, which has 2 grams of saturated fat, or have a butcher trim and grind a piece of sirloin for you.

  • Consider grass-fed Grazing cattle are better for the environment than typical corn-fed cattle. It takes huge amounts of chemical fertilizer to grow corn, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil to produce. Grass-fed beef is more expensive, but it's generally lower in fat and rich in omega-3s, the heart-healthy fat found in fish. Because it's so lean, though, you need to be careful not to overcook it.