So, How About That Steak?

 Flank Steak with Tequila Lime Marinade and Chipotle Lime Cream

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

 Eyeing the beef tenderloin on the menu of The Barking Frog, a Woodinville, Washington restaurant where we were celebrating my birthday, my daughter asked, “Is an 8-ounce portion a lot of meat?”  

My husband said that it was a good, generous portion.  I explained that for “everyday eating” dietitians and other health professionals recommend a meat serving size of 3-ounces cooked, which looks like a deck of cards or the palm or your hand.

 Most of us have heard the cry to limit intake of red meat (beef, lamb and pork) for better health.  (See below, Why Limit Red Meat?) I don’t worry about it for my family because we don’t eat a lot of meat. When we do, we thoroughly enjoy it. 

 My favorite cut of beef is the tenderloin but the price keeps me from indulging often. In summer I prefer flank steak, because takes so readily to marinades and cooks in a flash on the grill. Thinly sliced against the grain, and served with a variety of side dishes, a serving of 3 ounces is just right.  At least once a year I prepare this Tequila Lime Marinade, made by whirling all marinade ingredients in a blender.    

 I accompany it with whole grain corn and wheat tortillas, shredded reduced-fat cheese, and beans cooked with beer, tomatoes, onion, garlic, ground chilies and cumin.  Instead of salad (shown in my photo) try crunchy shredded cabbage tossed with thinly sliced green onion, lime juice and a little olive oil.  Lime Chipotle Cream (recipe follows) is a favorite accompaniment to burrito and taco meals. 

 Key nutrients in lean beef include protein, zinc, iron, selenium, B6, B12 and choline.  (Lean is defined by the government as under 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 or less grams of saturated fat and under 95 grams of cholesterol per 100 grams or about 3 ½ ounces.) 

 Here’s a chart  showing the fat and nutrient content of different cuts of beef with comparisons to chicken, pork and seafood. 

 There’s more to picking out beef than getting the right cut.  The diet cattle are fed impacts the flavor and nutrient profile.  For example, grass increases the omega-3 fatty acids.  Here is another chart defining grain-finished, grass-finished, naturally-raised and certified organic beef and the nutritional differences.    

Why Limit Red Meat?  According to the American Institute for Cancer Research AICR, red meat has substances linked to colorectal cancer.  They recommend one consume no more than 18 ounces of cooked red meat per week and avoid processed meat such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages.  Processed meat, preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives, can cause carcinogens to form and lead to the development of cancer. Another factor in the meat-cancer connection is that people who eat lots of red meat tend to eat fewer plant-based foods which can protect against cancer.  Learn more on the AICR website. Cooking meat at high temperatures can also cause the formation of cancer-causing substances, however marinating meat, even for just 30 minutes, can mitigate their formation. AICR has more information and tips for healthier grilling on this Press Release

The Harvard School of Public Health HCPH has more conservative recommendations on red meat consumption, suggesting no more than two 3-ounce servings per week, if consumed at all.  The basis is that, “research suggests that people who eat even modest amounts of red meat have a higher risk of developing colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and a higher risk of dying from heart disease, cancer, or any cause. There’s also substantial evidence that replacing red meat with fish, poultry, beans, or nuts, could help prevent heart disease and diabetes—and could lower the risk of early death.”  For more on their approach to selecting healthier protein sources visit the HCPH website .

Many Americans are not going to give up beef and other red meats. Learning to enjoy smaller portions, perhaps less frequently, and cooking it in creative, healthful ways with other nutritious foods, is possible and easy to do.

Flank Steak with Tequila Lime Marinade and Chipotle Lime Cream

 Serve the steak in soft tacos made with whole grain corn or wheat tortillas, shredded lettuce or cabbage, fresh cilantro, sliced radishes, shredded reduced-fat cheese, cooked beans, chopped tomatoes – or your other favorites.  Add Chipotle Lime Cream (recipe follows). 

Tequila Lime Marinade:

1/2 cup tequila (I use an amber-colored aged anejo tequila.)

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 3/4 pounds flank steak

In food processor or blender, combine marinade ingredients.  Whirl until smooth.  Prick flank steak all over on both sides with a fork.  Place in a non-reactive container and cover with marinade.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours for best flavor, turning once or twice.  Broil or grill until cooked as desired.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Chipotle Lime Cream

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 to 3 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Combine ingredients for Cream and chill until serving time.  Serve with tacos or burritos. 

Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


  1. Cheryl Eiger says

    Amazing wealth of knowledge. I appreciate knowing these detail about beef; i.e. how grass fed cattle will increase our own omega 3fatty acids… very interesting. I wish
    it became second hand for all to begin looking at food in this manner…thank you Ms. Savvy ….

  2. Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog.
    Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal
    but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions?
    Many thanks

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