Consumer Reports: A meat lover's guide to healthy eating

Posted at 5:36 PM, Mar 11, 2020

It's a confusing time for carnivores. Most people know that it's healthier to eat less meat, but meat lovers are left wondering if they have to give it up entirely.

Professional chef Brian Sernatinger serves up sizzling steaks and pork for his customers.

“I like meat because it’s delicious. I don’t eat it every day but I like to have it as part of my diet,” Sernatinger said.

And Chef Brian is right to be thinking about how much meat he eats. A new study from Northwestern Medicine and Cornell University found that people who eat red and processed meat have a small, but significant, increase in risk of heart disease and death from any cause.

Worried you can’t give up meat cold turkey? Fear not. Experts from Consumer Reports say that the key, like everything in life, is moderation.

“You don’t need to give up meat to have a healthy diet. It delivers important nutrients and can be a concentrated source of protein" said Consumer Reports Health and Food Editor Trisha Calvo. "However, most people do need to cut back. You should have no more than a few 3 and a half ounce servings of red meat per week.”

CR has a few rules -- so you can have a healthy diet and still keep meat on the menu.

First, let meat play a supporting role on your plate, with veggies, beans and grains taking center stage.

“When you eat meat, it should take up just one-quarter of your plate," Calvo said.

Another tip -- be choosy about what you buy and eat, looking for less fatty cuts of meat -- like beef or pork tenderloin, or petite or top sirloin.

“I like to cut off any extra fat. You can even ask your butcher to cut off the fat before you take it home to cook," Calvo added.

Consider buying grass-fed beef, which along with being raised in more humane conditions, is typically leaner.

Next, think about how you’ll cook it. Roasting, braising and stewing can be healthy ways to cook meat without having to add extra butter or oil.

Grilling also uses less oil, but, “Charring food can create compounds that may cause cancer," Calvo said. "You should grill meat on a low flame and if you marinate it beforehand, that can also reduce the formation of those compounds.”

Health risks may be greater with processed meat, like cold cuts and bacon. They’ve been linked with cancer in several studies and tend to be high in sodium. Instead, CR suggests using pork tenderloin, chicken breast, or another cooked fresh meat for sandwiches and salads.