For most Americans, it is hard to imagine a cookout with out a big juicy steak, hot dogs or a flame-broiled burger piled high with all the fixings.

But even without the mayonnaise, bacon, and cheese, most red meat choices have a bad reputation for fat, especially saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease.

You can decrease your risk by limiting your consumption of red meat to about 6-ounces per week.

This is 2 sensible servings per week. Each serving should be approximately 3-ounces and the size and thickness of a deck of cards.

Red meat is generally considered to be beef, hamburger, pork, or lamb. When purchasing red meat, opt for the leanest cuts by scanning the label for the words “lean” or “extra lean”. The nutrition labels on meat products are considered nutrition claims so they are therefore regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In order to label the meat product as "lean" or "extra lean" it must meet the following criteria:


A 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains less than:

● 10 grams total fat ♥ 4.5 grams saturated fat ♥95 milligrams cholesterol


A 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains less than:

● 5 grams total fat ♥ 2 grams saturated fat ♥ 95 milligrams cholesterol

Other useful tips:

● Choose cuts that are graded “Choice” or “Select” instead of “Prime” which generally contain more fat.

● Be on the lookout for marbling and choose cuts with the least amount of visible fat.

● Look for cuts of meat with “loin” in the name. Some examples include: sirloin tip steak, top sirloin, pork tenderloin, pork loin roast, and lamb loin chops.

In a hurry? Scan the meat section for the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart-Check mark. 

The Heart-Check mark is a voluntary certification that helps consumers spot heart healthy foods. It uses nutrition requirements based on federal regulations and also the American Heart Association’s recommendations. For meat choices the Heart-Check mark is only on “extra lean” selections. 

Sources of the meat is also important to avoid antibiotics and other injections that are administered to animals. Grass fed beef or bison are ideal.

Avoid processed meats that have been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding other chemical preservatives such as: sausage, bacon, ham, hot dogs, pepperoni, salami, pastrami, bologna, corned beef  and deli/luncheon meats

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