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Pork Possibilities

Today’s naturally lean pork is a healthful menu staple.

Forget fad diets. Many eschew meat or, in extreme cases, suggest massive intakes of protein, both of which can be detrimental to overall health in the long run. Most nutritionists agree that the best way to achieve and maintain optimal health is to eat a wide variety of foods, including meats, while maintaining an active lifestyle.

Operators can feel confident that they are offering their customers high quality, low fat meal choices when they in fact include meat options on the menu. Foods in the meat group are rich sources of protein, iron, zinc, vitamins B6 and B12, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin and therefore play an important role in healthful diets.

To round out healthful menus that are often dominated by chicken or fish, FSDs and chefs can look to pork, which is leaner today and on average contains 31% less fat, 29% less saturated fat, 14% fewer calories and 10% less cholesterol than it did 20 years ago.

In addition to providing a healthful protein choice for customers, featuring pork on menus also makes good "cents." The edible portion of trimmed, lean pork available today from pork processors has increased—meaning less labor, less waste and more consumer value. Here are four easy steps to follow to ensure that the pork you offer customers is indeed a healthful menu choice.

Start Lean
There are eight cuts of fresh pork that represent the leanest types available—all provide less than 180 calories and 9 grams of fat per 3-oz. serving: pork tenderloin, boneless sirloin chop, boneless loin roast, boneless top loin chop, loin chop, boneless sirloin roast, rib chop, and boneless rib roast. (If you’re not sure which pork products are the leanest, look to cuts labeled with the words "loin" or "round.")

Trim Slim
After selecting naturally lean cuts of meat, go one step further and trim the visible fat before cooking to reduce unwanted calories and fat.

Cook Light
Use lowfat cooking methods like grilling, broiling, stir-frying and pan-broiling. For fork-tender, juicy meat, cook pork to an internal temperature of 160° (medium) and remember to "think slightly pink." (Contracting trichinosis, a disease associated with eating undercooked pork, is no longer an issue as modern farming methods have made the disease virtually nonexistent. Plus, cooking pork to an internal temperature of 137°F kills the trichinella spiralis parasite.)

For added flavor, think ethnic and regional. Seasoning with exotic herbs and spice mixes (other than salt), pastes and dry rubs adds an Indian, Asian and even Tex-Mex influence to entrees.

Marinating lean cuts of pork is another easy way to add full-flavor without adding fat. And stuffing pork with vegetables, grains and low-fat cheese adds flavorful bulk and satisfaction to an already healthful protein choice.

Be Size Wise
The Food Guide Pyramid recommends 5 to 7 oz. from the meat group each day. A 3-ounce serving of one of the trimmed, cooked pork cuts mentioned above is about the size of a deck of cards and, when served with a healthful starch and vegetable, is an ample luncheon or dinner serving. FM

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