Red meat, which includes beef and lamb, is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc, and B vitamins including vitamin B12.
No single food contains all the nutrients needed for good health, so the aim should be to include a wide variety of foods in the diet: balance is the key. Lean red meat can form part of a healthy balanced diet which contains plenty of fruit, vegetables and starchy foods such as wholemeal bread and wholegrain cereals; some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs and lentils; and some milk and dairy foods.
Cutting down on fat
Some types of meat are high in fat, particularly saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels. Having high cholesterol increases the chances of developing heart disease.
When you’re buying meat, the type of cut or meat product you choose (and how you cook it) can make a big difference.
For example, a lean pork leg joint, roasted medium, typically contains one quarter of the fat of a pork belly joint with fat, grilled (5.5g fat per 100g and 1.9g saturated fat, compared with 23.4g fat per 100g and 8.2g saturated fat).
Lean rump steak, grilled, contains half the fat of rump steak with the fat, fried (5.9g fat per 100g and 2.5g saturated fat compared with 12.7g fat per 100g and 4.9g saturated fat). The fat content of beef mince can also vary widely.
Fried chicken breast in breadcrumbs contains nearly 6 times as much fat as chicken breast grilled without the skin (12.7g fat and 2.1g saturated fat compared with 2.2g fat per 100g and 0.6g saturated fat).
Try to go for the leanest option whenever you can. As a general rule, the more white you can see on meat, the more fat it contains. So, for example, back bacon contains less fat than streaky bacon.
Making healthier choices when buying meat
Ask your butcher for a lean cut.
If you’re buying pre-packed meat, check the label to see how much fat it contains and compare products.
Try not to eat too many meat products such as sausages, salami, pâté and beefburgers, because these are generally high in fat. They are often high in salt too.
Remember that meat products in pastry, such as pies and sausage rolls, are often high in fat.
Cutting down on fat when cooking meat
If you’re trying to have less fat, it’s a good idea to cut off any visible fat and skin before cooking because fat, crackling and poultry skin are much higher in fat than the meat itself. Here are some other ways to reduce fat when you’re cooking meat:
Grill meat rather than frying.
Try not to add extra fat or oil when cooking meat.
Roast meat on a metal rack above a roasting tin, so fat can run off.
Try using smaller quantities of meat in dishes and more vegetables, pulses and starchy foods.
For more information visit www.eatwell.gov.uk