Surprise: Steak isn't as bad for you as you thought
Food police turn attention to steakhouses
January 18, 1997
Web posted at: 10:00 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A juicy slab of steak isn't the worst
thing you can order, but it isn't the healthiest choice either, says a consumer group famous for uncovering the high fat content of favorite foods.
In its latest restaurant-food survey, the private Center for
Science in the Public Interest turned its fat-and-calorie
counters on steakhouses.
What they found was that steak isn't so bad after all. Choose
wisely, the watchdog group says, and an occasional steak
doesn't have to hurt your heart.
The appetizers, however, can kill you.
"Cheese fries served with ranch dressing is worse than
anything we've ever analyzed," said CSPI senior nutritionist
Jayne Hurley. "It's worse than fettucini Alfredo, a dish we
called heart attack on a plate."
According to CSPI's analysis, the entire cheese fries
appetizer -- more than a pound of french fries buried beneath
cheese, crumbled bacon and ranch dressing -- had 3,000
calories and three days worth of fat.
The second-worst appetizer was a battered, deep-fried onion,
which had 116 fat grams and nearly 1,700 calories, the survey
Share the appetizers
Health experts recommend on average, people should eat no
more than 65 grams of fat per day.
"My advice would be to share it with the whole table," said
Edith Hogan, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic
OK, you're ready for the main course. Can your heart handle
Steak is fine, Hogan said, as long as diners heed this
advice: "You've just got to remember that you've got to
balance this and probably stay on the treadmill an extra
The healthiest dishes at steakhouses are barbecued chicken or
grilled fish, Hurley said. But it is also possible to
build a decent meal around a slab of sirloin or chunk of
filet mignon by choosing healthy side dishes -- vegetables,
salads with low-fat or fat-free dressing and a baked potato
with just one tablespoon of sour cream.
Go for sirloin or filet mignon
Still, it's a juicy dilemma. If you're in the mood for steak,
do you order the sirloin or the prime rib?
"If you're going to get a steak, make it a sirloin or filet
mignon," Hurley said. "They're the real cut above the rest."
But what about the prime rib?
"A 16-ounce prime rib has four times the fat of one sirloin
steak," Hurley said.
When CSPI analyzed meals at some of the largest steakhouse
chains, they found a typical serving of sirloin steak with
all visible fat cut off has 15 grams of fat.
The average filet mignon, 18 grams of fat; rib eye, 30 grams;
New York strip, 34 grams; T-bone, 44 grams; prime rib, 62
grams; and porterhouse, 64 grams of fat.
But the National Restaurant Association counters that beef
eaten today has 27 percent less fat than a decade ago. It
also says beef is an important part of a healthy diet,
providing diners with such essentials as protein, zinc, B
vitamins and iron.
"Restaurateurs have found that, above all, consumers want
choice," said W.W. Naylor, the trade group's chairman. "They
want steaks and fish and pasta and salads -- and the freedom
to choose for themselves."
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