The smell of grilled hamburgers and sausage fills the air at tailgating parties and summer barbecues, but you may wonder if leaner versions of these fatty meats are better for your heart and your waistline. Lean hamburgers and pork sausage may trim a few extra fat grams from your festive feast, but you should still limit your intake of these foods.
Ground beef and sausage are protein foods, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends women consume 5 ounce equivalents of protein foods a day. Ground beef provides 21 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, but it also contains high levels of saturated fat, the unhealthy fat that builds up in your artery walls, raises blood cholesterol and contributes to cardiovascular disease. When you buy ground beef for your hamburger patties, choose the leanest option available. Three ounces of 70 percent, lean ground beef contain 230 calories, 15 grams of total fat and 6 grams of saturated fat. The 90 percent, lean ground beef option provides 184 calories, 10 grams of total fat and 4 grams of saturated fat per serving.
Lean Pork Sausage
A high-fat, processed meat, sausage provides approximately 15 grams of protein per serving. One 3-ounce link of regular pork sausage contains 277 calories, 25 grams of total fat and 9 grams of saturated fat. You can cut 10 grams of fat by choosing light pork sausage, which contains 213 calories, 15 grams of total fat and 5 grams of saturated fat per 3-ounce serving. Since sausage is a processed meat, it's also high in sodium. A high-sodium diet increases your risk of developing high blood pressure, and the Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. One 3-ounce serving of regular pork sausage contains 745 milligrams of sodium, and the light variety has 501 milligrams per serving.
Buying lean ground beef and sausage for your once-a-year backyard barbecue may reduce your fat intake during this special meal, but research shows that reducing your intake of red and processed meats can benefit your health. In a 2007 study published in “Public Library of Science Medicine,” people with the highest intakes of red and processed meats had a significantly higher rate of colon cancer than people with the lowest intakes. In 2009, the “Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine” published a study that evaluated red meat intakes, chronic disease incidences and death rates of 500,000 people. The study found that people who consumed the highest intakes of red meat also had the highest risk of death from cancer and heart disease.
When you have burgers on the menu, lighten up your meal with leaner meats and vegetarian options. Three ounces of cooked, ground chicken provide only 161 calories, 9 grams of total fat and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Instead of a traditional burger patty, try a turkey breast sandwich topped with basil pesto or make homemade garden burgers with beans, chopped veggies and your favorite spices. If you’re in the mood for sausage, try vegetarian Italian sausage links. These delicious and spicy sausages contain 120 calories, 0.5 grams of saturated fat and 350 milligrams of sodium per 2.3-ounce link.
- USDA: How Much Food from the Protein Foods Group is Needed Daily?
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Beef, Ground, 70% Lean Meat / 30% Fat, Crumbles, Cooked, Pan-browned
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Beef, Ground, 90% Lean Meat / 10% Fat, Patty, Cooked, Broiled
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Polish Sausage, Pork
- CalorieKing.com: Jimmy Dean Premium, Pork Light Sausage, Cooked
- Public Library of Science Medicine: A Prospective Study of Red and Processed Meat Intake in Relation to Cancer Risk
- Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine: Meat Intake and Mortality
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Chicken, Ground, Crumbles, Cooked, Pan-browned
- CalorieKing.com: Morningstar Farms Italian Style Veggie Sausage
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.