Dozens of studies have been done over the years to determine the value of red meat for a healthy diet.
A Harvard health study done in 2012 found that those who consumed red meat had a higher risk of cancer. Another study done in 2012 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who consumed red meat had healthier cholesterol levels and therefore had healthier hearts.
So how does someone wade through the information? Short answer, they can’t, said Lizzie Kasparek, a registered sports dietitian with Sanford Health.
Kasparek joined the Sanford Health team a few years ago and has worked with the Beef Industry Council in South Dakota schools educating student-athletes about the value of beef in their diets. With the vast amount of studies done on red meat, Kasparek said it’s best to focus on one primary goal – moderation.
“Take note of what (you’re) currently doing,” Kasparek said. “What do you eat and what portions are you eating?”
Based on her own experience, Kasparek said most people seem to be getting their protein in just one meal a day, which is causing real problems in people’s diets. She said that when all a person’s protein comes from dinner and a 20-ounce steak, it negates the purpose of having protein in your diet.
She recommends eating roughly 20-30 grams of protein in any given meal, or a piece of meat the size of your hand. Lean beef is the best option for avoiding the fatty parts of any cut of meat, she said.
“Your body can only really utilize so much at one time,” she said. “A quarter of your plate should be that protein.”
Kasparek has found that even though people overeat at specific meals during the day, skipping meals has become the worst offender in an unhealthy diet. Three meals a day with healthy snacks in between should be the key, she said.
“A snack should be an opportunity to get in those food groups that you usually forget about,” she said.
While lean beef provides a healthy option for protein, Kasparek advises against eating only one source of protein. Mixing beef with occasional dishes of fish and plant-based protein can help give your diet the boost necessary for a healthy lifestyle.
In her own diet, she has become to lean on plant-based foods more often as she’s gotten older.
“I’m not going to convert you over, but I can encourage more variety in their side dishes. We can make those plants more desirable,” she said.
Kasparek typically asks her patients to write down what they eat on a daily basis. After that, finding what works for you and how to incorporate better foods to eat should be an easy step.
“If you did the upfront work, you’re way less likely to go through the drive-through,” she said.
The last component to a diet is simply a person’s lifestyle, Kasparek said. Because of the way rural South Dakotans are raised – many eating locally grown foods and beef – Kasparek tries to work with that diet as much as possible.
“At the end of the day, most people are going to eat the way that they do because of the way they’re raised,” she said.
She recommends locally grown foods, as opposed to those processed, preserved and shipped.
Kasparek grew up in Wisconsin and moved to South Dakota to work with the Sanford Field House Sports Science Institute in Sioux Falls. She has primarily worked with athletes at all levels and was one of the dietitians working with the Beef Industry Council to promote beef in student meals.