Is steak high in cholesterol?

There are few things better than a perfectly cooked slab of juicy steak. The only thing that might come between a man and his beef are the negative effects that red meat, in all its marbled-with-fat and butter-basted glory, has on your heart and your waistline. But that doesn’t mean you should ditch steak altogether.

Red meat is packed with protein, which is critical for muscle growth and recovery. It’s also high in iron and vitamin B-12, which boosts the immune system and keeps red blood cells healthy. So here’s a handy list of superstar steaks that you don’t have to feel guilty for indulging in once the craving for a slab of bloody meat hits.

Whether it’s a dinner out at your favorite restaurant or a cookout at home with the fellas, here are the cuts of juicy greatness you can put on your plate—as well as the ones to bail on at the butcher shop.

Note: The American Heart Association recommends limiting lean meat, poultry and seafood consumption to six ounces per day. The USDA defines an extra-lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains fewer than 5 grams total fat, 2 grams of which are saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

Steak stars: The leanest cuts of beef

Sirloin tip side steak

Taken from the sirloin tip or the top of the round. Very lean, but still holds flavor.

Calories 206; Fat 5.4g; Saturated Fat 2.06g; Protein 39g

Top round steak

Cut from the hip (part of the round) and considered flavorful and more tender than other cuts from the round.

Calories 240; Fat 7.6g; Saturated Fat 3g; Protein 36.9g

Eye of round steak

Similar to the cuts taken from the tenderloin, but tougher and less juicy.

Calories 276; Fat 7g; Saturated Fat 2.4g; Protein 49.8g

Bottom round steak

Taken from the outer park of the round that is a well exercised area of the animal. The meat tends to be tough and typically needs marinating.

Calories 300; Fat 11g; Saturated Fat 3.8; Protein 47.2g

Top Sirloin

Has good flavor, but can be tough, so typically needs marinating.

Calories 316; Fat 10.6g; Saturated Fat 4g; Protein 51.6g

Sinful slabs: These cuts pack an unhealthy calorie and fat punch

Flap steak

Very flavorful, but can be fibrous and chewy

Calories 240; Fat 12g; Saturated Fat 3.8g; Protein 33g

Filet mignon (Chateaubriand or tenderloin)

The most tender and sought-after of all cuts of beef.

Calories 348; Fat 16g; Saturated Fat 6g; Protein 48g

Porterhouse steak

Very expensive and flavorful. Cut from the choice tenderloin.

Calories 346; Fat 16.4g; Saturated Fat 6.6g; Protein 46.2g

Skirt steak

Also known as a flank steak. Taken from the plate or chest of the cow, it’s known for its flavor over tenderness.

Calories 348; Fat 17.2g; Saturated Fat 6.6g; Protein 45.4g

New York strip steak

Very tough cut of meat taken from the T-bone area.

Calories 360; Fat 18g; Saturated Fat 6g; Protein 46g

T-bone steak

A cut from below the porterhouse. Its high fat content means that it stays tender while cooking.

Calories 376; Fat 25.6g; Saturated Fat 10.6g; Protein 33g

Rib-eye steak (rib roast, prime rib)

The crème de la crème of steaks. Very marbled cut, which means it’s flavorful and stays tender while cooking.

Calories 466; Fat 37.6g; Saturated Fat 15g; Protein 30g

Nutritional facts provide by Based on a 2000-calorie diet. Nutrition information for a six-ounce serving.

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Beef: It Can Be What’s For Dinner

TUESDAY, Jan. 3, 2012 — Good news for meat-lovers who are striving to lower their cholesterol levels: You don’t have to completely crush your inner carnivore.

Heart-healthy diets that include lean cuts of red meat can help reduce cholesterol with effectiveness similar to that of the fruit-and-vegetable-based DASH diet, according to a small study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Typically people who are watching their cholesterol are warned to shun red meat because the tastiest cuts are usually high in saturated fat, which can raise blood cholesterol levels.

The highly controlled study assigned 36 participants, all with elevated LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels, to follow four different diets with similar calorie counts for five weeks. The diets included a “healthy American diet” of more oils, saturated fat, and refined grains than the other diets, the DASH diet of veggies, fruits, and more emphasis on poultry and fish than beef, and two others (BOLD and BOLD+) similar to DASH but with greater proportions of lean beef.

To make sure everyone stuck to their assigned diets, the participants ate one meal every weekday at Penn State’s Metabolic Diet Study Center and took home the rest of the meals, packed by the Center, according to Reuters.

The study found that the “healthy American diet” raised cholesterol levels, while the DASH diet and lean beef-based diets improved levels by about the same amount (10 percent), according to Men’s Health.

The study authors concluded that when following a low saturated fat diet similar to DASH, including lean beef or swapping carbohydrates for a protein (including lean beef) can lower total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels.

The lesson: As long as the meat you eat is lean and low in saturated fat, it can be a surprisingly healthy part of a heart-healthy diet.

So Which Cuts of Meat Should You Buy?

The study authors noted that in real-world situations, people might not know the leanest cuts of meat or the healthiest ways to cook them.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the leanest beef cuts include the round, chuck, sirloin, or loin. When it comes to pork, go for the tenderloin or loin chop. For lamb, choose cuts from the leg, arm, and loin. According to USDA guidelines, a 3.5 ounce serving counts as “lean” if it has 4.5 or fewer grams of saturated fat. The leanest cut, an eye round roast or steak, has only 1.4 grams of saturated fat per serving.

Buy “choice” or “select” grades rather than “prime,” which is also higher in fat, and make your meat extra-lean by cutting off any excess fat before you prepare it. Broil, braise, and grill instead of pan-frying.

Moderation is key. The AHA recommends no more than six ounces a day (for a visual, three ounces is about the size of a deck of cards) of cooked lean meat, poultry, fish, or seafood a day for people who consume 2,000 calories daily.

For the latest news and information on living a heart-healthy lifestyle, follow @HeartDiseases on Twitter from the editors of @EverydayHealth.

Which Meats Have The Lowest Cholesterol Levels?

For people on a low cholesterol diet, eating meat can be a tricky issue because virtually all meats have some degree of cholesterol in them. Fortunately there are many meats that are relatively low in cholesterol that can be enjoyed in moderate quantities as part of a balanced diet. The following table shows the cholesterol content of some common meats and meat products listed from highest to lowest cholesterol levels.

Meat Cholesterol (per 100g) Saturated Fat (per 100g)
Beef Brain 1995mg 4g
Caviar 588mg 4g
Beef Liver 381mg 5g
Shrimp 195mg 0g
Bacon 117mg 12g
Pepperoni (Pork,Beef) 105mg 15g
Lamb (Sirloin Chops) 85mg 3g
Chicken Breast (Skinless) 85mg 1g
Chicken Breast (Skin On) 84mg 2g
Sausages (Beef) 83mg 2g
Ground Beef (25% Fat) 82mg 6g
Turkey Breast 74mg 2g
Salmon (Wild Atlantic) 71mg 1g
Salami (Beef) 71mg 10g
Beef Steak (T-Bone) 62mg 8g
Ham (Lean Leg) 61mg 2g
Beef Steak (Eye Round) 54mg 2g
Tuna (Bluefin) 49mg 2g

It is important to note that saturated and trans fat intake actually influences an individuals cholesterol levels more than dietary cholesterol does. Therefore it is important to choose foods that are low in both saturated fat and cholesterol. Meats that are low in both cholesterol and saturated fat tend to be the ones that have very low levels of animal fat or have the visible fat trimmed off the product before eating. Good low cholesterol options include skinless chicken and turkey breast, lean cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, and most types of fin-fish.

High cholesterol meats to avoid include the internal organs of animals such as livers, brains, and kidneys. Fatty cuts of meat such as porterhouse and skirt steak should also be eaten with caution. Caviar, and most types of shellfish should only be consumed in small amounts due to very high levels of cholesterol.

Current health recommendations are for cholesterol and saturated fat intake to be limited to 300mg and 20g a day respectively so one serving of meat will typically provide between 15 and 30% of your cholesterol and saturated fat allowance.

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“While the media correctly reported that this study added to evidence that processed meats, loaded with salt and other damaging ingredients, are particularly unhealthy, it grossly misinterpreted the study’s findings on unprocessed meat. Never did this study say that eating red meat like burgers and steak was okay.”

The lead author of the new study, Renata Micha, PhD, agreed. In an interview with Pritikin Perspective, the Harvard research fellow stated: “It is very important to stress that unprocessed red meat was not associated with LOWER risk of heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, people should not use these findings as license to eat as much unprocessed red meats as they like.” Rather, “they should give more emphasis to increasing intake in their diet of foods that have been shown to be protective, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts.” Yes, Dr. Micha echoes the Pritikin Eating Plan.

And the media, admonished Dr. Kenney, should give more emphasis to science that is irrefutable. “It is proven beyond any doubt that increasing saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet raises ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, and all meats have some saturated fat and cholesterol. Obviously, fatty cuts are worse, but even unprocessed lean meat, especially if consumed in large amounts, will raise LDL cholesterol.

“There is also irrefutable evidence linking elevated LDL cholesterol levels to increased atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. Unless 1 + 1 no longer equals 2, it would be beyond naive to suggest that increasing meat intake would not increase coronary heart disease.”

Keep in mind, too, that there is growing evidence linking increased heme iron intake and iron stores, the result of increased red meat consumption, with heightened risk of developing not only heart disease and type 2 diabetes but also several types of cancer.

“There is also a growing body of data showing that high-temperature cooking of meat, especially grilling, frying, and broiling, generates a variety of known and suspected carcinogens as well as other troubling substances like advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that may also promote vascular disease, diabetes, and/or cancer,” pointed out Dr. Kenney.

Now, back to the study that got all the press last week. Published online in Circulation, it was an analysis of previously published studies, called a meta-analysis.

Here is one key concern: The studies the Harvard researchers reviewed were observational studies, not controlled clinical trials. “Observational studies,” explained Dr. Kenney, “are notoriously inaccurate at assessing what people actually ate. Such data hardly refute much better quality data from clinical trials.

“Controlled clinical trials, the gold standard of scientific research, have proven a strong and consistent link between eating more red meat and elevated LDL cholesterol levels, and between higher LDL levels and more coronary heart disease.”

Here’s another example of how observational studies can sometimes steer us in the wrong direction. Most have not found an association between salt intake and blood pressure, but numerous clinical trials have clearly shown that the more salt we eat, the greater our risk of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart disease.

There’s one other key issue that needs to be raised regarding this study’s claims about red meat and disease. To begin, let’s assume that the data were accurate, that people did in fact report the correct amount of meat they were eating. We’ll then assume the conclusions were correct: When the scientists compared those who ate steak and other unprocessed red meat with those who ate less (on average, four ounces less per day), they came up empty. Heart disease risk was the same.

But what we don’t know from this study is the total amount of saturated fat and cholesterol that people consumed. It is quite likely that the people who ate less red meat ate more dairy, poultry, and other foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. If they did, they could have ended up eating similar amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol as the heavy meat eaters, and having similar cholesterol profiles and similar risks of heart disease. We will never know because this meta-analysis did not look at total amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol in people’s diets. But it’s certainly a valid question given food trends in America over the past 40 years. Since 1970, beef consumption has dipped considerably while chicken and some dairy products (especially cheese, which is very high in saturated fat) have shot up. Since 1970, the average American has tripled his cheese consumption. That’s a lot of saturated fat. And very likely, a lot of clogged arteries.

Ounce for ounce, cheeses like cheddar and monterey have about three times as much saturated fat as ground beef. Three times!

The point here is: You can cut a lot of red meat out of your diet, maybe even get rid of it completely, “but it will not likely reduce your LDL cholesterol or heart disease risk if you’re replacing your steak and burgers with Chicken McNuggets and cheese omelets,” points out Dr. Kenney. “Now, you would reduce your LDL cholesterol and heart attack risk if instead of steak and burgers you were choosing meatless chili and veggie burgers because that switch would in fact reduce your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.”

And when it comes to red meat, you’re certainly far better off choosing lean, low-in-saturated-fat cuts like the grass-fed bison steak served at the Pritikin Longevity Center than fattier cuts, especially fatty processed meats like bacon, bologna, hot dogs, ham, and sausages. But even then, bison is a once-a-week choice, not an every-night choice, because it still has some saturated fat and cholesterol. If you eat large quantities of any food containing saturated fat and cholesterol, your LDL cholesterol is bound to go up, and with it, your risk of heart disease.

Summing Up

The new Harvard study concluded that just a little bit of processed meat, each additional two-ounce serving consumed daily, was linked with significant increases in heart and diabetes risk. Processed meat, with its high salt content and larger amounts of other additives, is particularly unhealthy.

This study also looked at the risk of heart disease and diabetes for each additional four-ounce serving of unprocessed meat consumed daily. It did not find a statistically significant association. Translated: Red meat was not linked with raised risk, but it was not linked with lower risk either.

What this study did not show, but what many media reports erroneously inferred, is that eating lots of unprocessed red meat was perfectly fine; it would not increase our risk of heart disease or diabetes. These reports, more intent on sensational headlines than on accurate analysis, left many people thinking, “Let’s fire up the BBQ. Let’s pile on the pork chops and steaks.” What a tragedy.

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Fancy a juicy steak? It is good for you, reports the Daily Mail, because the saturated fat in a cut of beef is actually healthy for the heart. The claim is based on a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that showed eating lean beef improved cholesterol levels and therefore reduced the risk of heart disease. Eating beef as part of a low-fat diet had the effect of reducing risk factors for heart disease, namely levels of the bad cholesterol LDL, as with eating chicken breast. But how can red meat be as healthy as chicken? And eating any meat may seem counter intuitive, especially in a month that’s seen the horsemeat scandal and the publication of a paper in BMC Medicine saying that a diet packed with sausages and bacon increases your risk of dying from heart disease by 72%.

But the link between red meat and “good” saturated fatty acids adds just another layer of confusion about our intake of fats. Last month a paper in the BMJ stated that replacing saturated animal fats, which are traditionally thought of as bad, with omega-6 polyunsaturated vegetable fats, found in wholesome margarine, actually increased deaths among people who already had heart disease. So are there any animal fats that are good for us, and if so do we need to get them from steak?

The solution

Saturated fats are generally thought of as bad because they raise cholesterol levels. They get their name from the fact that the chain of carbon atoms that makes up their chemical structure is fully saturated with hydrogen atoms. They usually exist in solid form, in cream, cheese and butter. Sources of unsaturated fats include olive oil and oily fish and these are thought to be cholesterol-lowering. The British Dietetic Association recommends a daily intake of saturated fat of 30g for men and 20g for women.

Stearic acid is a saturated fat that is found in lean red meat and other healthier sources. It is known from previous studies to reduce cholesterol levels perhaps because it is broken down to oleic acid, which is an unsaturated fat. Oleic acid is so healthy it’s found in olive oil and thought to be a component of the healthy Mediterranean diet that lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.

This doesn’t mean you need to eat steak to get the benefits of healthy fats. Or that you need to eat more fat since most of us eat more than the recommended amount already. It means, as research so often does, that most things in moderation are fine and this includes eating saturated fats in lean red meat.

Find out more

• Mayo clinic: Dietary fats: know which types to choose
• NHS Choices: Fat: the facts
• The Guardian: Cancer risk higher among people who eat more processed meat, study finds
• The Guardian: Ten Mediterranean recipes to help you live longer

The Effect of White Meat on Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fat) called a sterol made by the liver and present in every cell in an animal’s body, including human animals. It is found only in foods of animal origin – white meat, fish, eggs, and every other meat and dairy product. Foods from plants – all types of fruits and vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds – are cholesterol-free.

Our livers make all the cholesterol we need – approximately 1,000 milligrams per day – and it is used in the manufacture of hormones and cell membranes and in other parts of the body. It follows that we have no need for cholesterol in our diet at all.

Cholesterol can’t be avoided by choosing lean cuts of meat as it’s mainly found in the lean parts. Neither is white meat lower in cholesterol than red meat as chicken contains as much cholesterol as beef. One small, grilled, skinless chicken breast contains around 100 milligrams of cholesterol – an amount that can add roughly 0.13 mmol/L (or 5 mg/dL) to your cholesterol level!

Animal products also contain saturated fat which causes our livers to manufacture even more cholesterol. Unsaturated fats don’t have this effect.

Despite a welter of evidence that a vegetarian diet is the best way to avoid high cholesterol levels and the diseases which go with them, official advice, amazingly, is not to go vegetarian.

But to switch to a lower fat diet – avoiding fatty cuts of red meat, eating white meat and fish and ditching butter for margarine.

Dr Neal Barnard, president and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, states that: “…chicken-and-fish diets are not low enough in fat or cholesterol to do what vegetarian diets can… The leanest beef is about 28 per cent fat as a percentage of calories. The leanest chicken is not much different, at about 23 per cent fat.

Fish vary but all have cholesterol and more fat than is found in typical beans, vegetables, grains, and fruits, virtually all of which are well under 10 per cent fat.

“So, while white-meat diets lower cholesterol levels by only about five per cent, meatless diets have three to four times more cholesterol-lowering power, allowing the arteries to the heart to reopen.”

Cholesterol Control: Chicken vs. Beef

Chicken and beef are both staples of many diet, and they can be prepared and seasoned in thousands of different ways.

Unfortunately, these common animal proteins are also sources of the type of fat that can elevate your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, and cardiovascular problems.

LDL cholesterol contributes to plaque that can clog and narrow your arteries, which can break off as clots. This narrowing and these clots can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Since your body produces all of the LDL cholesterol it needs, eating foods that are high in saturated fats, like fatty meats, can increase the amount of LDL cholesterol that your body makes.

But that in no way means fried chicken with the skin on is a better choice than a grilled sirloin steak — at least if you’re talking about heart health.

Comparing cuts

In recent years, the focus has shifted away from how much cholesterol a food contains and shifted to focusing on how much saturated fat that food has.

The more unhealthy saturated fats you eat, the more LDL cholesterol your body makes, and this is considered more important to cholesterol management than the actual cholesterol content of foods.

In 2015, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines were updated to remove a restriction on cholesterol consumed in food, as it had little effect on our LDL levels.

Though they do go on to say that you should eat as little cholesterol as possible since foods high in cholesterol are usually also high in saturated fats.

While people assume that chicken is lower in saturated fat than beef, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthier.

Chicken and cows store fat differently, and in different parts of their bodies. For instance, chickens store fat primarily under the skin, and chicken thighs are higher in fat and cholesterol than breast meat.

See the cholesterol and saturated fat content of every 3.5-ounce cut of these meats:

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people who like to eat meat lean toward lean proteins, like skinless poultry, tofu, fish, or beans.

Fish like salmon, trout, and herring tend to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed beef is also higher in omega-3 fatty acids, as compared to factory-farmed beef.

The AHA further recommends limiting even lean cuts of beef or skinless chicken to less than 6 ounces a day, which is about the size of two decks of cards.

Cooking with less cholesterol

Even if you choose lean meats, you can easily add extra saturated fats to them during the cooking process.

Deep-frying in lard? Wrapping it in bacon? That’ll undo what you’re trying to achieve.

Here are some ways that heart health experts say you can reduce your cholesterol levels through diet:


Choose lean cuts of beef, like round, chuck, sirloin, or loin.

When you’re eating chicken, eat the white meat only.

Avoid processed meats like salami, hot dogs, or sausages. The most heart-healthy cuts of meat are usually labeled “choice” or “select.” Avoid labels like “prime.”


Before you even start to cook it, trim the fat off of your beef. Continue to skim off the fat if you’re making a stew or soup.

Avoid frying your food. Opt to grill it or broil it instead, and keep the meat moist while cooking it, with wine, fruit juice, or a low-calorie marinade.

The kind of oil you use also makes an impact on your cholesterol intake. Butter, lard, and shortening should go out the window because they’re high in cholesterol and saturated fat.

Oils based from vegetables, including canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, or olive oil are significantly more heart-healthy.

Also make sure to include plenty of vegetables, as fiber can help reduce cholesterol absorption after a meal.

Finally, don’t replace your fat intake with carbohydrates as this won’t reduce your chances of coronary artery disease.

Which Is Healthier: Filet Mignon or Lobster Tail?

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There’s nothing fishy about lobster’s triumph. “Ounce for ounce, it has fewer calories and less fat than even a lean filet of beef,” says Stephanie Middleberg, RD, founder of Middleberg Nutrition in New York City. It’s especially a good order if you’re a member of the Clean Plate Club—finishing the whole thing does zero damage to your diet.

“A lobster tail, at 170 calories, is nature’s perfectly packaged portion,” Middleberg notes. And while a tail boasting 8 ounces of meat has less protein than a comparably sized slab of steak, you’re still getting close to your full recommended daily allowance.

RELATED: Quiz: Which Restaurant Meal Is Healthier

The caveat: That cup of melted butter (300 calories and 21 grams of saturated fat in about 3 tablespoons) will drown out your best intentions. Instead, squeeze on a lemon wedge, then dip your fork in the butter before skewering a piece.

More steakhouse strategies

Go surf or turf

Otherwise you’re basically eating two meals. (Steak-and-seafood combos can run upwards of 1,000 cals!)

Be smart about shrimp

Popcorn shrimp are tiny but deep-fried and caloric, as are coconut shrimp. Order a shrimp cocktail to save as many as 400 cals.

RELATED: What Health Pros Order At Restaurants

Lean up your steak

Ask the server to have it prepared without butter. Most restaurants use a pat (or more) but don’t mention so on the menu.

Make it a Manhattan

Clam chowder, that is. At about 90 calories a cup, it’s at least 100 calories per cup lighter than the creamy and fatty New England variety.

RELATED: Which Is Healthier: Chocolate or Cheesecake

”You can build a decent meal around a sirloin steak or a filet mignon,” the center says, adding that that is not true of any other steak tested. After making a complicated nutritional analysis, the center concluded that a rib-eye or New York strip has the fat of two sirloins and that a T-bone has the fat of three sirloins, while a porterhouse steak or prime rib has the fat of four.

The center’s methodology? It bought takeout portions of 15 popular appetizers, entrees and side dishes at 26 steakhouses in Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas, Nev., and Washington. It then made a composite from nine samples of each item and had them analyzed. Included were some of the best-known chains: Tony Roma’s, Outback, Steak and Ale, and Lone Star. The analyses say that a 12-ounce sirloin steak has 15 grams of fat and 390 calories after the fat is trimmed. The only leaner steak is a round steak. A trimmed 9-ounce filet mignon has 18 grams of fat and 350 calories.

But once you move into the strip-steak and prime-rib category, you have to give up eating at least a couple of meals to do penance. After being trimmed, a 12-ounce New York strip has 34 grams of fat and 570 calories; a 16-ounce prime rib, 62 grams of fat and 980 calories.

Other frowned-upon items are Buffalo wings, stuffed potato skins, fried whole onion and the cheese fries. But would someone actually eat a whole order of the fries, which contains four cups of potatoes and eight tablespoons of dressing? That would be 3,010 calories and 217 grams of fat.

Having acknowledged that it is possible to eat steak and not expire on the spot, the center remains faithful to its original premise: red meat is not the best choice. ”The healthiest dish you can order at a steakhouse is not steak,” it says, ”but barbecued chicken breast or grilled fish.”

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