"Beef: It's What's for Dinner." You've probably heard that slogan before. And when you hear and think about that slogan, maybe one of the first things that pops into your mind is a sizzling, juicy steak from the grill. That certainly is one option; but did you know that there are lots of options when it comes to selecting and eating beef and that many of those options include lean cuts of beef?
Last month I was one of four dietitians from Minnesota selected to attend an event sponsored by the National Beef Council in Kansas City. The program titled "A Nutrition Adventure: Connecting Food, Farm and Science" connected scientific, culinary and consumer research experts with 45 dietitians from ten different states and provided up-to-date information about beef and the beef industry. We visited the Tailgate Ranch in the Flinthills of Kansas, participated in chef-led culinary classes, learned about pairing beef with wine, competed in our own version of a "Chopped" competition and much more. It was a very informative and educational three day experience.
I was born and raised on a farm in southwest Minnesota and I have relatives and friends who are farmers and who raise livestock. I thought I already knew quite a bit about this industry, but I was amazed at how many new things I picked up and learned about. For example, when I think about choosing "lean" cuts of beef for a meal that I'm preparing, the first two beef items that would have come to my mind would be a lean cut of steak - such as a sirloin steak or extra lean ground beef. Those would be the two mainstay items for my beef menus. But did you know that there are more than 29 cuts of lean beef? I did not know that!
The grocer's meat case is full of exciting lean beef choices, ranging from top loin (strip) steaks and tenderloin roasts, to 95 percent lean ground beef and some cuts you may never have tried before like tri-tip roast, flat iron steak or boneless country-style ribs. To meet the government guidelines for being considered a "lean" meat, one serving must be less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and contain less than 95 mg of cholesterol.
Matching the correct beef cut to the appropriate cooking method is the key to moist, juicy, flavorful beef. There are beef choices to satisfy all tastes, schedules and budgets. However, choosing the right cut can be confusing. Knowing what to look for when buying beef and how to read the label will help you make wise choices for your meals. Labeling has improved, and now there is more nutrition and cooking information available at your grocer's meat case. There are also some very good materials and booklets that are available from the Beef Council, as well as information posted on their websites. One booklet that I think is especially good is entitled, "Confident Cooking With Beef." It provides good information to help you navigate the meat case, select the right cut and feel confident when cooking it for your next meal. This booklet as well as other materials are available from our state beef council at www.mnbeef.org or from the national beef council at www.beef.org.
Lean beef can fit into a healthy meal plan quite easily. I will write about other things that I learned in future columns.
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.