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Tips For Eating Meat On a Low-Fat Diet

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Updated December 15, 2012

Tips For Eating Meat On a Low-Fat Diet

Eating meat on a cholesterol-lowering diet -- can it be done?

Mike Dabell, istockphoto
You’re following your low-fat diet plan, a common thing when trying to lower cholesterol, but you just cannot let go of the meat. You’re not alone. If you've been a meat eater all your life, it's hard to cut it out just like that.

Meat contains protein necessary to build muscle and carry out a variety of functions in the body. Unfortunately, meats also contain varying amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that, if you are trying to lower your cholesterol, your saturated fat intake should not be more than 7% of your total caloric intake each day. Following a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet doesn’t actually mean that you have to surrender your meat entirely. But there are a few things you can do to offset the damage it may do to your cholesterol levels:

Know Which Meats Are Leaner

Some meats are higher in fat than others. For instance, poultry (chicken, turkey), lamb, veal, and “loin” or “round” cuts of pork or beef are considered some of your leaner options.

Although it's not really what comes to mind when you think of "meat," fish -- including tuna, salmon, mackerel and trout -- is another great, lean option. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your triglycerides and are considered to be heart healthy. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends consuming fish at least two times a week because of their high omega-3 fatty acid content.

Know Your High-Fat Meats

You don't have to cut out meat entirely, but you should make an effort to steer clear of any high-fat meats or meats that are processed (or try to lower your consumption of them). Meats that are high in fat content include ground beef, bacon, and organ meats (like liver). Meats that are processed, including sausages, hot dogs, and some luncheon meats, are also high in fat and should be consumed in minimal amounts. If you are in doubt, always check your food labels for saturated fat content.

Lean Cuts Are Also Important

If you see that any portions of your meat are trimmed with fat, be sure to remove it. This can also lower the fat content of your meat. Stay away from meats that appear fatty or have a “marbled” appearance to them.

How Is Your Meat Cooked?

The manner in which your meat is cooked also counts in the cholesterol department. Frying your meat is probably the worst way to prepare meat if you are trying to follow a low-fat diet. Meats that are fried are also high in saturated fat, which can increase your cholesterol levels. Instead, try baking, broiling, or roasting your meat. These methods can also deliver some tasty dishes and will not sabotage your cholesterol-lowering efforts as badly as frying your meat.
20 Ways to Cut Fat When You Cook

Moderation Counts

You could eat meat with the lowest fat content. But if you eat lots of it, your cholesterol levels can still rise. Moderation also counts when trying to lower your cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 6 ounces of meat daily, which is roughly the size of a deck of cards.

Sources:

Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 3rd ed 2005.

American Heart Association. 2008. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4632. Accessed 21 December 2008.

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