Meat is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals
Meat is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc, and B vitamins. It is also one of the main sources of vitamin B12. Cutting down on fat
Some types of meat are high in fat, particularly saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels. Having high cholesterol increases the chances of developing heart disease.
When you're buying meat, the type of cut or meat product you choose (and how you cook it) can make a big difference.
For example, a lean pork leg joint, roasted medium, typically contains one quarter of the fat of a pork belly joint with fat, grilled (5.5g fat per 100g and 1.9g saturated fat, compared with 23.4g fat per 100g and 8.2g saturated fat).
Lean rump steak, grilled, contains half the fat of rump steak with the fat, fried (5.9g fat per 100g and 2.5g saturated fat compared with 12.7g fat per 100g and 4.9g saturated fat). The fat content of beef mince can also vary widely.
Fried chicken breast in breadcrumbs contains nearly 6 times as much fat as chicken breast grilled without the skin (12.7g fat and 2.1g saturated fat compared with 2.2g fat per 100g and 0.6g saturated fat).
Try to go for the leanest option whenever you can. As a general rule, the more white you can see on meat, the more fat it contains. So, for example, back bacon has less than half the fat of streaky bacon.
Making healthier choices when buying meat
• Ask your butcher for a lean cut.
• If you're buying pre-packed meat, check the label to see how much fat it contains and compare products.
• Go for turkey and chicken, without the skin, because these are lower in fat.
• Try not to eat too many meat products such as sausages, salami, pate and beefburgers, because these are generally high in fat. They are often high in salt too.
• Remember that meat products in pastry, such as pies and sausage rolls, are often high in fat.
Cutting down on fat when cooking meat
If you're trying to have less fat, it's a good idea to cut off any visible fat and skin before cooking because fat, crackling and poultry skin are much higher in fat than the meat itself. Here are some other ways to reduce fat when you're cooking meat:
• Grill meat rather than frying.
• Try not to add extra fat or oil when cooking meat.
• Roast meat on a metal rack above a roasting tin, so fat can run off.
• Try using smaller quantities of meat in dishes and more vegetables, pulses and starchy foods.
It's very important to cook meat properly to make sure that any harmful bacteria have been killed. Otherwise you might get food poisoning.
Bacteria can be found all the way through certain meat. So this means you need to cook the following sorts of meat until the juices run clear and there is no pink or red left in them:
• poultry and game such as chicken, turkey, duck and goose
• burgers and sausages
• rolled joints
But you can eat whole cuts of meat that are still pink inside, as long as they have been properly sealed.
This means you can eat whole cuts of beef and lamb when they are pink or rare. This is because any bacteria are generally on the outside of the meat so if the outside is cooked, this should kill any bacteria, even if the middle of the meat is still pink. These include:
Storing meat safely
It's especially important to store meat safely to stop bacteria from spreading and avoid food poisoning.
• Store raw meat/poultry in clean sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge, so it can't touch or drip onto other food.
• Follow any storage instructions on the label and don't eat meat after its 'use by' date.
• When you have cooked meat and you're not going to eat it straight away, cool it as quickly as possible and then put it in the fridge or freezer. Remember to keep cooked meat separate from raw meat.
It's OK to freeze raw meat providing you do the following things:
• freeze it before the 'use by' date
• follow any freezing or thawing instructions on the label
• defrost it in a microwave if you intend to cook it as soon as it's defrosted, otherwise thaw it in the fridge so that it doesn't get too warm
• try to use the meat within two days of defrosting - it will go off in the same way as fresh meat
• cook food until it's steaming hot all the way through
When meat thaws, lots of liquid can come out of it. This liquid will spread bacteria to any food, plates or surfaces that it touches. Keep the meat in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge, so that it can't touch or drip onto other foods.
Always thoroughly clean plates, utensils, surfaces and hands after they have touched raw or thawing meat, to stop bacteria from spreading.
If you defrost raw meat and then cook it thoroughly, you can freeze it again, but remember never reheat foods more than once.
Liver and liver pate
Liver and liver products, such as liver pate and liver sausage, are a good source of iron and they are also a rich source of vitamin A.
But, because they are such a rich source of vitamin A, if you eat liver or liver products every week, you might want to choose not to have them more often.
This is because the body stores any vitamin A it doesn't use and so levels can build up over many years and be harmful.
If you do eat liver or liver products every week, you should avoid taking any supplements that contain vitamin A or fish liver oils (which are also high in vitamin A).
Older people should avoid eating liver or liver products more than once a week, or you could eat smaller portions. If you do eat liver products every week, you should also avoid taking any supplements that contain vitamin A or fish liver oils. This is because having too much vitamin A (more than 1.5mg of vitamin A per day from food or supplements), might increase the risk of bone fracture.
Women who are pregnant or trying for a baby also need to avoid vitamin A. See below for advice.
Older people who have weakened immunity (including those who've had transplants, are taking drugs that weaken the immune system or with cancers affecting the immune system, such as leukaemia or lymphoma) and pregnant women should avoid all types of pate, including vegetable pate because they can contain listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause severe foodborne illness.
To stop harmful germs growing, it's important to make sure you don't use food after its 'use by' date and follow the storage instructions on food labels.
More on vitamin A
More advice for older people
When you're pregnant
Food poisoning can be particularly unpleasant during pregnancy, so:
• always wash your hands after handling raw meat, and store raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods
• make sure you cook meat properly and take particular care with sausages and minced meat
You should avoid all types of pate, including vegetable pate because they can contain listeria, a type of bacteria that could harm your unborn baby. To stop harmful germs growing, it’s important to make sure you don’t use food after its ‘use by’ date and follow the storage instructions on food labels.
You should also avoid eating liver and liver products, which includes pate, because these foods are very high in vitamin A. Having too much vitamin A might harm your unborn baby. For the same reason, you also need to avoid taking supplements containing vitamin A or fish liver oils. Ask your GP or midwife if you want more information.