How Meat-eaters Can Reduce Saturated Fat in Their Diet

The American Heart Association recommends emphasizing vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your diet. It’s better to get your protein from skinless chicken, fish, legumes, unsalted nuts and low-fat dairy products, while limiting your intake of red meat which can be high in saturated fat.

The trouble with saturated fat is that it raises the level of cholesterol in your blood, especially LDL (“bad”), which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends those who would benefit from lowering their LDL get no more than 5 percent to 6 percent of calories from saturated fat.

That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fats. That’s about 13 grams of saturated fats a day. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 3 oz. of regular (30 percent fat/70 percent lean) hamburger cooked contains 5.164 grams of saturated fat; 1 oz. of regular cheddar cheese contains 5.349 grams; a roasted chicken leg has 2.877 grams.

When you do occasionally indulge, there are things you can do to reduce the amount of saturated fat from the meat you eat:

  • Keep your portion of lean meat to about the size of a deck of cards or about 3 ounces.
  • Select lean cuts of meat with minimal visible fat. Lean beef cuts include “round,” “sirloin,” and “loin.”
  • Buy “choice” or “select” grades rather than “prime.” Select lean or extra lean ground beef.
  • Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking and pour off any melted fat after cooking.
  • Broil rather than pan-fry hamburger, lamb chops, pork chops and steak.
  • Use a rack to drain off fat when broiling, roasting or baking. Instead of basting with drippings, keep meat moist with wine, fruit juices, lower sodium broth or a vegetable oil-based marinade (compare labels to select products with the lowest amount of added sugars and sodium).
  • With stews, boiled meat, soup stock and other dishes in which fat from the meat combines with the liquid, cook the dish a day ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight. Then you can easily remove the hardened layer of fat from the top.
  • When a recipe calls for browning the meat first, try browning it under the broiler instead of in a pan or use a vegetable oil spray to brown. Drain off excess grease afterwards.
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