7 Healthy Hacks for Meat Lovers

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

You may have heard that if you want to lose weight and get healthier, you should eat less meat. And that’s with good reason: Eating too much red meat has been associated with certain forms of cancer and an increased risk of heart disease. Plus, meats are among the most calorically-dense foods you can eat—meaning that less volume means more calories, and more potential weight gain.

But take heart, meat lovers: The bulk of those calories are protein, which helps slow down digestion so you feel fuller, and has been shown in studies to help with weight loss. You don’t have to abandon meat completely. Try these seven healthy hacks to make your favorite meaty meals lower in calories, higher in disease-fighting antioxidants, and just as tasty and filling:

1. Marinate to fight cancer.
If you love to grill, the fire is exposing you to cancer risks: Grilling meats create compounds called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, compounds that scientists say increase risk for colorectal, lung, breast, pancreas and prostate cancers.

You can help stem these risks by marinating your meat. Using herb-infused marinades for an hour, especially those with rosemary, helped decrease the formation of HCAs by more than 70 percent in a study from Kansas State University. And Portuguese researchers found another marinade that helped: Beer. When meat was marinated in beer or red wine for six or more hours—a long soak, to be sure—HCAs fell by almost 90 percent.

2. Mix leafy greens with your mince.
You can pump up the juiciness, size and nutrient-density of your burgers with leafy greens: A loosely-packed half-cup of finely chopped spinach, kale or other leafy green will provide Vitamin C, more Vitamin A than you get from carrots, as well as antioxidants that reduce inflammation and ward off cancer. There’s a bonus, too: Since these greens are so low in calories, you’ll increase the size of your burger patty while potentially reducing the overall calories in your burger.

3. Use your hand to determine proper portions.
We’re all used to quarter-pounders, but a properly portioned serving of meat—whether it’s chicken, beef or fish—is actually three ounces, not four. And, if you’re on Nutrisystem, two ounces of most meat, fatty fish and poultry constitutes one PowerFuel serving.

If you don’t have a scale handy, chances are you’ll overserve yourself: In a study from Nature, men and women correctly guessed the amount of food in a portion only about half the time. The other half of the time? Most overestimated the portions.

So how can you tell how many ounces are in a piece of meat? Check out this super handy tool, which equates portions to common household items.

4. Don’t eyeball the cooking oil.
If a recipe calls for you to fry, marinate or rub your meat with olive oil (or another cooking fat), take the time to measure it. A tablespoon of olive oil is 119 calories. If you let the bottle glug and wind up with two tablespoons instead of one, you’ve added 119 unnecessary calories to your meal. Over-measure like that a few times per week, and you could gain several pounds over the course of the year.

5. Put your fork down between bites of steak.
Your mom was right: You need to chew your food more thoroughly. A study from the journal Obesity found that chewing deliberately results in fewer calories consumed at a meal without a reduction in feelings of fullness. That’s easier said than done, though: When you’re tearing through a steak or your favorite burger, it’s hard to remember to slow down.

Try this: Put your fork—or the burger or sandwich—down between each bite. As you chew, think about why you’re loving it so much. Studies show that “mindful eating” techniques like these can reduce the amount you eat without sacrificing satisfaction. The Cleveland Clinic suggests that dropping your fork after each bite can reduce the amount you consume at a meal by 70 calories. Do that twice per day, and you could lose a pound in about a month.

6. Stretch your meat in a stir-fry.
Instead of a steak or chicken breast with a side of broccoli and rice, try mixing these protein-packed foods with a few other veggies in a simple stir-fry. You can enjoy a bigger bowl of food while eating half of a steak instead of a whole one. And you’ll never notice the reduction in calories.

If you like things spicy, try this simple procedure to make a stir-fry for two. Start by roughly chopping some veggies: A half-pint of mushrooms, one whole red or white onion, a whole green pepper, and a big head of broccoli. While you’ve got your knife going, trim the steak of fat and cut it into one-inch cubes. Spray a large pan with zero-calorie cooking spray. Over relatively high heat, toss in the veggies and keep them moving around. Splash on some soy sauce, garlic powder, a pinch of ground ginger, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Toss the veggies until they start to brighten in color, then add the steak. Keep stirring and cooking until the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Still have a SmartCarb left for the day? Serve with brown rice.

7. Pair meatballs with spiralized veggies.
If you love meatballs but don’t want to look like you eat pasta every single night, try replacing the noodles with zoodles—quick-cooking, easy-to-make noodles made from zucchini. This is usually accomplished by using a spiralizer, a pencil sharpener-like tool that allows you to twist zucchini, beets and other sturdy veggies into noodles. Boil them for about a minute and then serve them as you would spaghetti—smothered in sauce, topped with meatballs, or however your love ‘em. Check out this video to see how it’s done.

These veggie noodles can save you hundreds of calories in a big plate of pasta, and with the sauce and meatballs, you’ll barely notice the difference. In fact, the zucchini noodles can actually add flavor that makes your meatballs even better. Plus, since zucchinis are unlimited on Nutrisystem, you can double up on the noodles and cut back on the meat.

Not sold on the whole zoodle concept? Try it without investing in a spiralizer: Use a vegetable peeler to cut through a zucchini to make wider, linguini-like noodles. If you like them, you’ll be ready to grab a spiralizer on Amazon.