Are you considering beef for your holiday meal, but feeling just a bit guilty about it? Chances are that is because you’ve heard mixed messages about nutrition and beef.

Myth No. 1: If you have high cholesterol you should not eat red meat

A heart-healthy diet can include lean red meat such as beef, veal and pork. A research study looked at adults with high blood cholesterol levels over an 18-month period. The participants followed a low-fat diet, and some ate 6 ounces of lean red meat daily while others ate the same amount of lean white meat — either poultry or fish. At the end of the study there were no differences in blood cholesterol levels between the two groups. Overall, the study participants reduced their total cholesterol and LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels and increased their HDL, or good, cholesterol levels. Including reasonable portions of lean beef in addition to chicken and fish can be part of a heart-healthy diet.

Myth No. 2: Hamburger should be avoided because it has too much fat

The U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its official nutrition data for ground beef a few years ago. Much of the ground beef available is lower in fat and calories but remains high in many essential nutrients. Most grocery stores have several varieties of ground beef available. Common are ground beef labeled as ground round, ground sirloin and ground chuck. Most often ground beef is labeled by the percent of lean and percent of fat. The leanest ground beef is labeled as 95 or 96 percent, which means that most of the weight is from lean muscle with only a small amount from fat.

Calories, fat and cholesterol in 3-ounce servings of cooked ground beef

95 percent lean, pan-broiled patty: Calories 139, Total Fat(g) 5.0, Saturated Fat(g) 2.4, Cholesterol(mg) 65

90 percent lean, pan-broiled patty: Calories 173, Total Fat(g) 9.1, Saturated Fat(g) 3.6, Cholesterol(mg) 70

85 percent lean, pan-broiled patty: Calories 197, Total Fat(g) 11.9, Saturated Fat(g) 4.5, Cholesterol(mg) 73

80 percent lean, pan-broiled patty: Calories 206, Total Fat(g) 13.6, Saturated Fat(g) 5.1, Cholesterol(mg) 73

The best way to keep ground beef entrees lower in fat is to start with a lean meat choice. The meat doesn’t have to be flavorless. Beef is tough if the wrong cooking method is used or if the meat is overcooked or cooked for too long at too high a temperature.

Changes in cattle breeding and fat trimming methods by butchers have resulted in increased availability of leaner beef. Most people don’t realize that more than 69 percent of the beef sold at retail, including popular cuts such as sirloin steak, tenderloin, T-bone steak, and 95 percent lean ground beef, meet the government guidelines for lean.

To qualify for “lean” a cut must contain less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving. Some choices to look for when shopping for your holiday meal are eye-round roast, shoulder petite tender roast, tenderloin roast or tri-tip roast. These choices will help to ensure that you have lean beef protein at the center of your holiday table. Calorie-for-calorie, beef is a naturally nutrient-rich food. On average, a 3-ounce serving of lean beef is about 150 calories and provides 10 essential nutrients — protein, selenium, vitamin B12, zinc, niacin, vitamin B5, phosphorus, choline, iron and riboflavin.

Here’s a recipe to impress your friends and relatives.

Hearty Glazed Tri-Tip Roast with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce

Total Recipe Time: 1 to 1-¼ hours Marinade Time: 30 minutes to 2 hours

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 beef tri-tip roast (1-½ to 2 pounds)

1 red onion, cut into 16 wedges,

4 cups broccolini or baby broccoli, trimmed (about 9 ounces)

Nonstick cooking spray

Salt and pepper


⅓ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced,

Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce:

¼ cup reduced fat cream cheese, softened

¼ cup plain nonfat yogurt

2 tablespoon crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1 tablespoon minced onion

¼ teaspoon pepper

1. Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons for basting. Place beef roast and remaining marinade in food-safe plastic bag; turn roast to coat. Close bag securely and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes to two hours.

2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove roast from marinade; discard marinade. Place roast on rack in shallow roasting pan. Place onion wedges around roast. Do not add water or cover. Roast in 425 degrees oven 30 to 40 minutes for medium rare; 40 to 45 minutes for medium doneness, basting with reserved 2 tablespoons marinade halfway through roasting time.

3. Remove roast when instant-read thermometer registers 135 degrees for medium rare; 150 degrees for medium. Transfer roast to carving board; tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let stand 15 minutes. (Temperature will continue to rise about 10 degrees to reach 145 degrees for medium rare; 160 degrees for medium.)

4. Meanwhile prepare Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce. Combine all sauce ingredients in small bowl; mix well. Set aside.

5. Spray broccolini with nonstick cooking spray, tossing to coat. Place on metal baking sheet. Roast in 425-degree oven 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp-tender and slightly browned. Toss onion wedges with broccolini. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

6. Carve roast across the grain into thin slices. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Top beef with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce. Serve with vegetables.


One 3- to 4-pound beef round tip roast may be substituted for tri-tip. Double the amount of ingredients for the red onions, broccolini, marinade and Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce. Marinate roast as directed above, reserving ¼ cup marinade for basting. Heat oven to 325 degrees and prepare roast as directed above, inserting ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is centered in thickest part of beef. Roast in 325 degrees oven 1¾ to 2 hours for medium rare; 2¼ to 2½ hours for medium doneness. Place onions wedges around roast and baste roast with reserved ¼ cup marinade halfway through roasting time. Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 140 degrees for medium rare; 150 degrees for medium. Transfer roast to carving board, leaving onions in pan. Tent roast loosely with aluminum foil. Let stand 15 minutes. (Temperature will continue to rise about 10 degrees to reach 145 degrees for medium rare; 160 degrees for medium.) Meanwhile increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Prepare broccolini as directed above. Place onions and broccolini in oven; roast 10 to 15 minutes or until broccolini is crisp-tender. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Recipe from National Cattleman’s Beef Association. Nutrition information per serving, using tri-tip roast, ⅛ of recipe: 179 calories; 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 3 g monounsaturated fat); 51 mg cholesterol; 117 mg sodium; 8 g carbohydrate; 0.7 g fiber; 20 g protein; 5.0 mg niacin; 0.4 mg vitamin B6; 1.0 mcg vitamin B12; 1.6 mg iron; 20.9 mcg selenium; 3.3 mg zinc. This recipe is an excellent source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, selenium and zinc; and a good source of vitamin B12.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at or email her at