Shop Smart to Make Pork a Healthy Option for Your Family
Including meat in your diet can make it easier to ensure you and your family get the protein you need to support your active lifestyle. And, let's be honest, reaching for healthy staples like chicken breast and salmon can get a little boring sometimes. Other types of meat, including pork, can have a place in a healthy diet, but you need to choose the right cuts and preparation methods to keep it healthy.
The Healthy: Lean Cuts of Pork
The major nutritional drawback of red meats, including pork, is their fat content, so selecting lean cuts is key to avoid eating too much artery-clogging saturated fat. Look for tenderloin and loin chops as your leanest options. A 3-ounce portion of roasted pork tenderloin, for example, supplies 22 grams of quality protein for only 122 calories and 3 grams of fat. The same size serving of broiled loin chops provides 22 grams of protein for 164 calories and with 8 grams of fat. The relatively low fat content means these cuts can fit into a heart-healthy diet, so you can introduce your kids to a greater variety of foods without sacrificing their future cardiovascular health.
The May-Be-Healthy: Ground Pork
Ground pork comes loaded with flavor, and mixing in a bit of pork can make your burgers or meatloaf that much tastier. However, if you don't read the label carefully, that pork might come loaded with fat, too. Three ounces of 72 percent lean ground pork, for example, packs in a whopping 333 calories and 27 grams of fat – more than enough fat to count as "unhealthy." If you like to cook with lean pork, ensure you get the leanest type you can find. A 3-ounce portion of 96 percent lean ground pork, for instance, has 103 calories and just 3 grams of fat, which is much more welcome in a balanced diet.
The Unhealthy: Cured and Processed Pork
Your family might enjoy the occasional fast-food breakfast run (sausage-filled breakfast sandwich and all) and bond over bacon at brunch, but processed pork should be eaten in moderation. Processed meats tend to be higher in saturated fat and sodium – three slices of fried bacon, for instance, have 12 grams of fat and up to two-thirds of a child's sodium allowance for the day – which outweighs the benefits of their protein content. Serve these meats on special occasions as a treat, but don't make them part of your daily (or weekly) meal plan.
Preparation Matters, Too
Even the healthiest cut of pork can go from nutritious to "not so much" if you're using less-than-healthy cooking methods. Avoid dousing your pork in store-bought sauces and marinades, which may add fat and sugar, and instead use black pepper, garlic powder and other spices to add flavor. Get your children involved in healthy meal prep by enlisting their help to make your own spice mixes and rubs, and use the opportunity to teach your children about healthy ways to add flavor without much sugar or salt. When it comes to cooking, stick to roasting, grilling, braising and other methods that don't require adding much oil, and avoid fattier cooking methods, like frying.