Is there such a thing as "skinny beef?"

Well here's good news: Beef has its place on the table. The trick is choosing your cuts and preparation wisely.

From athletes' training tables to Atkins-style dining, many used to beef up on a regular basis. And while it's true a big old slab of prime rib at a restaurant is going to run over a thousand calories and two days of your quota of saturated fat, there are actually many styles, cuts, and cooking techniques that can make beef a healthy part of your diet.

A healthy cut of meat offers zinc, absorbable iron, selenium, B vitamins and protein. Several studies show that a proper portion of meat won't raise cholesterol.

First, look to the sticker and buy meat that says "select" or "choice;" both are leaner than "prime."

Meat that comes from the cow's rear end is leaner. Good choices? Look for top sirloin, eye of the round and bottom round. Typically they offer a couple hundred calories for three ounces and three grams of saturated fat.

Lean meat usually tastes best when marinated or rubbed with some spices. Making your own marinade with tomatoes, vinegar or something acidic helps when combined with a bit of olive oil to bring out beef's flavor.

When buying beef ground, buy the leanest. Ninety-five to 96 percent lean is your best bet, although this doesn't mean it is 96-percent fat-free. Check the nutrition facts and you'll be surprised at the fat content. Buying sirloin and having the butcher grind it for you is even better.

If your wallet allows, you might think about buying grass-fed beef. Better for the environment and your health, grass-fed is lower in fat and rich in omega-3 fats -- as much as what you'll find in salmon. But because it is so lean, you'll need to be careful not to overcook it.

No matter what type you buy, portions should be petite. Three to four ounces is the proper serving size. Take a burger, for example. Pile on some dark green Romaine lettuce, a nice slice of tomato on a whole-wheat bun, and you can beef up taste while staying slim.


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