Fats Friday: Fatten Up Your Grill Game


grill-meatWho doesn’t love a backyard barbecue? This time of year, though,, Americans are more concerned with whiteouts than cookouts. Let’s forget about Old Man Winter for a minute—we’ve spent way too much time dealing with him lately. Let’s thaw out our thoughts in preparation for Spring. It’s nearly upon us and you know what that means. That’s right, it’s time to get your grill on.

While we let our minds wander to warmer times, let’s not overlook what we learn each February during American Heart Month. Here are few tips and fun nutrition facts to keep up our heart health while working the grill.


Dietary Guidance has long suggested that we limit our consumption of red meat.  Instead, experts recommend that we choose more lean sources of protein. “Lean” meats have no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, no more than 10 grams of total fat, and less the 95 mg of cholesterol per 3.5 ounce serving. Recently, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) discussed  whether red meat can be  “lean.”

FUN FACT: There are 29 cuts of beef that are considered “lean.” Those cuts make up 65% of all beef on the market.

QUICK TIPS:cooking-temperatures-meat

  • Grilling a steak? Choose cuts labeled “choice” or “lean” over “prime.” They’ll have less fat.
  • Making burgers? Choose at least 93/7 ground beef. 7% fat or lower is “lean.”
  • Cooking chicken? Buy skinless chicken or remove the skin yourself.
  • Read your labels: compare levels of saturated fat between cuts and select the one with lower amounts.
  • Cooking Temps: Whether you like it rare or well-done, always remember to check the internal temperature of your meat. Check it while cooking and before serving to ensure it has reached the appropriate temperature shown on the right. 

Meats are often associated with unhealthy fats. However, the majority of fats in meats (pork, chicken and beef) are healthful monounsaturated fats. That’s the kind that may help lower cholesterol and may also improve insulin sensitivity. Some cuts do contain high saturated fat. Just remember that that fat-containing foods contain more than one type of fat. Meats are no different.

DID YOU KNOW? It’s recommended that we consume 5-7 ounces of protein foods per day from a variety of plant and animal sources.

FUN FACT: The Protein Food Group consists of meat like beef, pork, and lamb; poultry; seafood; beans and peas; eggs; processed soy products; nuts; and seeds.



enjoy-some-fishSeafood doesn’t always come to mind first when you fire up the grill, but perhaps it should. Seafood is generally low in saturated fat. Most seafood varieties are good sources of the health-promoting monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fatty acids. Dietary Guidelines recommend that we eat 8 ounces of seafood per week. Eating this amount of seafood contributes to the proper amount of calories, protein, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12 for our bodies!

DID YOU KNOW? Cold-water seafood such as salmon, sardines, and Pacific oysters are great food sources of healthful omega-3 PUFAs. They also provide eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. EPA and DHA are the most beneficial types of fat that we can eat. They help protect our hearts against cardiovascular disease. They also play a key role in brain development and mental health. 

FUN FACT: Fat helps to insulate the fish’s body. PUFAs stay liquid, even at colder temperatures, while saturated fatty acids would solidify and make it hard for fish to swim!



While not everyone has to be a carnivore, meat and seafood can play important role in maintaining good heart health. As with all food groups, portion control is the name of the game. So, as soon as the weather makes its turn for the better, get your grill on and go lean with protein!


*contributions from Erica Gavey, UMD Dietetic Intern