Nutrient-rich lean beef can be enjoyed in many ways

July 21, 2004|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Beef is naturally a nutrient-rich food. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet. At the same time, beef supplies more than 10 percent of the daily value for nine essential nutrients, including protein, iron, zinc and many B vitamins.

USDA defines lean beef cuts as ones that have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving and per 100 grams. There are at least 19 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines to qualify as lean. The most popular lean beef cuts chosen at the grocery store or meat market include top sirloin, top round steak, round tip and T-bone steak.

Choose beef with a bright cherry-red color, without any grayish-brown blotches. A darker purplish-red color is typical of vacuum-packaged beef. Once exposed to oxygen, beef will turn from a darker red to bright red. When shopping, select beef last to ensure that it stays as cold as possible until you get home.


Select packages that are cold, tightly wrapped and have no tears or punctures. Be sure the packages do not contain excessive liquid, indication of temperature abuse or excessive storage. For vacuum-packaged beef, be sure that the seal has not been broken and the package is not leaking.

Choose steaks, roasts and pot roasts that are firm to the touch and not soft. Purchase before or on the "sell-by" date printed on the package. A package of ground beef may appear bright red on the surface, where it is exposed to oxygen through the permeable plastic wrapping, while the interior, where oxygen is absent, remains purplish red. With extended exposure to oxygen, beef's cherry-red color will take on a brown color. Fresh ground beef does go through a number of color changes during its shelf life. These color changes are normal, and the ground beef remains perfectly wholesome and safe to eat if purchased by the sell-by date on the package label.

Here are some simple ways for your family to enjoy their favorite cuts of beef - and pump up their nutrients:

  • Slice an eye round roast: Roast your own beef for sandwiches and wraps - an easy way to get more flavor for less money.

  • Stir-fry top round steak: Cut top or bottom round into small pieces. Marinate with soy sauce and ginger; fry with broccoli or peapods.

  • Sauté top sirloin steak: Sliced steak, onions and peppers are the perfect combination. Serve over brown rice or a whole-wheat sub roll.

  • Bake 95-percent lean burger: Lean ground beef (5 percent or less fat) is perfect for baking in lasagna and all your family's casserole recipes.

  • Braise brisket: Slowly cook brisket in wine or broth with veggies, such as carrots, red potatoes and leeks.

  • Stew chuck roast: Beef stew is superb for dinner and even better as leftovers for lunch. It also freezes well for emergencies.

  • Microwave pot roast: New precooked beef products are convenient and tasty when time is short.

  • Marinate flank steak: Surprise your family with a unique and flavorful new marinade from

  • Barbecue a ribeye steak: Nothing beats a succulent steak and baked potato meal, especially with ranch beans and a tossed salad.

  • Roast a tri-tip roast: Maximize the flavor of beef with a dry rub before cooking. Try a mix of herbs, black pepper and garlic.

  • Broil a tenderloin steak: Use an oven broiler or indoor grill to quickly cook a steak, while steaming asparagus or beans on the stove top.

  • Grill a T-bone steak: Who knew your favorite steak was lean? For a nutrient-rich meal, grill with sliced veggies and fruit.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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