Community Agriculture Alliance: Beef is a lean, nutrient-rich choice

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There are many ways to enjoy a lean cut of beef these days. According to USDA data, many cuts of beef are 20 percent leaner, on average, than USDA data indicated just 15 years ago. More than 60 percent of all whole-muscle cuts sold at retail and 14 of the top 20 most popular retail cuts are lean. Twenty of the 29 lean beef cuts have, on average, only 1 more gram of saturated fat than a comparable 3-ounce serving of skinless, boneless chicken breast.

Beef also is a naturally nutrient-rich powerhouse. Just one 3-ounce serving of beef is an excellent source of five essential nutrients, including protein, zinc, vitamin B12, selenium and phosphorus. And it’s also a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, iron and riboflavin.

The secret to moist, juicy, flavorful lean beef is in the cooking. Follow this recipe for selecting, preparing, serving — and enjoying — lean beef:

  1. Select a lean cut of beef — cuts with “loin” or “round” in the name and labeled as “Select” or “Choice.”
  2. Trim visible fat before eating (for even greater fat reduction, trim before cooking).
  3. Tenderize less tender cuts (most steaks from the round) by marinating or pounding. Or plan to cook these cuts using a moist heat method like a slow cooker or roasting in the oven with plenty of liquid.
  4. Use a low-fat cooking method such as broiling, pan-broiling, grilling, roasting, stir-frying, stewing and braising.

Beef cuts that are considered lean include T-bone steak, tenderloin roast and steak, tri-tip roast and steak, top sirloin steak, ranch steak, top loin (strip) steak, 95 percent lean ground beef, brisket flat half, flank steak, shoulder petite tender and medallions, western griller steak, chuck shoulder steak, sirloin tip center roast and steak, chuck shoulder pot roast, shank cross cuts, round steak, round tip roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak, top round roast and steak, sirloin tip side steak and eye round roast and steak.

When eating out, that beef entree you’ve been eyeing may be among the healthiest on the menu. From a lean roast beef sandwich at a casual restaurant or a petite filet for a special evening out, there are a variety of lean beef choices available at your favorite restaurants.

Lean roast beef is a great base for a healthy sandwich. Ask your deli to use whole-wheat bread and layer it with brightly colored peppers, lettuce and tomato. Throw in some hot peppers to kick up the flavor without extra fat. Build a power plate at the salad counter. Pair lean roast beef with quinoa, tomato and mozzarella.

Many of your steakhouse favorites, including the T-bone, filet mignon, sirloin and flank steak, are lean. Just skip the cheese and cream sauces that can add a significant amount of calories and fat. Instead, top that steak with some grilled mushrooms to get in extra nutrients.

Beef up the flavor and nutrition by adding 3 ounces of tenderloin to a crisp and colorful blend of romaine lettuce and mixed veggies. Pair your steak with nutrient-rich sides such as steamed veggies, whole grain rice or a fruit salsa. Order once, enjoy twice. Eat half your steak in the restaurant. Take the rest home to savor tomorrow in a steak salad with juicy, ripe tomatoes or a beef and broccoli stir-fry.

Visit www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com for lean beef ideas to fit your needs and preferences. The source for this information is the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

Erika Murphy is president of Routt County CattleWomen.

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