Each January, it seems like most of the world begins some sort of “diet.” I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of “diets,” especially freaky fad diets and super-strict eating regimes that come to a screeching halt once a specific weight goal is attained. However, when the term “diet” is used to reference a life-long commitment to eating healthy, whole REAL foods in moderation along with daily exercise, I’ll eagerly endorse that use of the word! Instead of dieting, per se, I achieve a healthy balance on my plate by visually dividing it up. Half of the plate is dedicated to salad and/or seasonal vegetables; about a quarter is filled with typically lean proteins like beef, chicken, fish and even non-animal sources); and the remaining quarter is earmarked for quality carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, a piece of fruit or whole grains. I also like to look at my food and make and educated guess if my choices are something my relatives would have eaten generations ago – if it wasn’t a “REAL” or wholesome food 100 years ago, it probably isn’t a “REAL” or wholesome food today.
Beef is definitely a real and wholesome whole food that can be part of a healthy lifestyle when eaten in moderation. Not just the lean cuts of beef that overwhelmingly populate the butcher’s counter (like cuts of sirloin, round and low-fat grinds), but also the more indulgent offerings like ribeye or porterhouse that have a just a touch more fat. That’s because ALL beef includes roughly the same amount of protein and beneficial nutrients per serving, including iron, B vitamins, zinc, selenium and more. And, when being mindful to “eating in moderation,” I’ve found that I can satisfy myself cravings for red meat without overdoing it — still have plenty of room on my plate for all of the other nutritious foods in on the planet like fruit, veggies, and whole grains.
But, what IS moderation when it comes to eating beef? Many nutritionists say about ¼ of our plates should be filled with a quality protein – that’s about 3 ounces of cooked beef, the size of your fist or a deck of cards. Three ounces of beef provides approximately 25 grams of protein, and research suggests this amount is the optional single-sitting portion to assist with weight management and satiety. I’m not a scientist, so please check out this handout which sums up getting lean with protein quite nicely.
So, eating 3 ounces of beef is the “just right” amount. But, you may also be wondering how many times per week to eat beef. Participants in the study for the BOLD diet (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) at 4 ounces of beef per day, and many even had reductions in their cholesterol levels! Ounce for ounce, beef provides a very dense source of nutrition – and while it provides more than its fair share of nutrients, supplementing with other proteins ensures that you are addressing all your body’s needs – for example, wild salmon is just a far better source of Omega 3 fatty acids than beef, even grass-fed beef. Cattle ranchers won’t even argue this point. Eat beef a few times per week, at a minimum. If you love to eat beef every day, it IS healthy to do in a 3 ounce cooked portion – but add variety to your diet for the remainder of the day by getting protein from other sources, both plant and animal.
In terms of portion control, I have a couple other plate tips to share besides dividing your plate up and filling one quarter with 3 ounces of beef! Another tip is to serve your food on a smaller plate – a fist-sized serving of protein doesn’t look like very much on the super-sized plates of today. But, partnered with loads of veggies on a salad plate, a smaller plate tricks your mind into thinking you’ve just been given a very generous serving. Another optical illusion is to serve on a plate that contrasts the color of your food – because doesn’t blend right into the plate, you’ll be more aware of how much you’re eating. Participants in this interesting study served themselves 22 percent more food when using a plate that matched their food!
My final portion control tip may be silly, but it works for me. I like to choose food that looks big! The perfect example is my recipe for Beef & Veggie Frittata This super simple breakfast recipe (a creative cross between a casserole, crepe and omelet) is prepared to cook very quickly and be very thin. Because it’s so thin, the serving size looks magnificently large when plated – but really, it’s a modest amount of food.
This easy breakfast recipe cooks up fast in the oven and uses deli roast beef or leftover steak and whatever vegetables you have in the produce bin!