Oranges, Frozen meals, Lean pork cuts

Q: Are mandarin oranges nutritionally equivalent to regular oranges?
Q: My dad is a widower who eats mainly frozen meals. Should I be concerned about his diet?
Q: Are the pork cuts available today leaner than years past?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Are mandarin oranges nutritionally equivalent to regular oranges?

A: Although many people are only familiar with canned mandarin oranges, there are a large number of fresh varieties including Satsumas, Clementines and tangerines such as Dancy, Honey and Pixie. Most are sweeter than other citrus fruits and are notable for their bright orange, easily peeled skin with flesh that divides easily into sections. Mandarins are smaller than standard oranges, but even comparing equal portions of the fresh fruits, they are not as high in vitamin C as navel oranges (although they are still excellent sources). However, mandarins provide greater amounts of two antioxidant phytochemicals: beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. If you use canned mandarin oranges, choose juice-packed versions instead of those in light syrup in order to minimize added calories and maximize vitamin C.

Q: My dad is a widower who eats mainly frozen meals. Should I be concerned about his diet?

A: Frozen foods can be a wonderful way to make balanced meals with minimum preparation. Frozen vegetables and fruits are great options and can be as rich in nutrients as fresh produce. Using frozen varieties also allows you to prepare only what you need at one time, reducing waste. Utilizing the Nutrition Facts panel on frozen packages is also helpful in choosing meals without excess fat and sodium. A well-balanced frozen meal should contain no more than 25 to 35 percent of your “Daily Value” (DV) for saturated fat (no more than 7 grams for someone eating 2000 calories a day). High sodium meals are often a particular concern for people who are salt sensitive, which includes those with high blood pressure and older adults. Your dad should look for meals with 500 milligrams of sodium or less. Finally, whether food is fresh or frozen, they key to healthful, balanced meals is to center them around grains, vegetables and fruits. Most frozen meals or entrees use small vegetable portions, so adding extra fresh or frozen vegetables or fruits to the meal is a smart move.

Q: Are the pork cuts available today leaner than years past?

A: Pork today is bred to be a far leaner animal than it was years ago. Of course, fatty cuts like bacon and spare ribs are still very high in fat. But several pork cuts meet the criteria of lean meat – less than 10 grams (g) of fat, no more than 4.5 g of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per three-ounce cooked serving (the size of a deck of cards). These lean cuts include sirloin, top loin and center rib chops and roasts. When preparing pork, be sure to trim off the fat around the outside. The leanest cut of all is the tenderloin, which meets the standard for extra lean meat (less than 5 g of fat and less than 2 g of saturated fat per serving). Lean cuts of meat are the most heart-healthy, calorie-conscious choices. But note that experts still recommend limiting even lean red meats – beef, pork and lamb – for optimal cancer protection. Studies link more than 18 ounces of red meat a week with increased risk of colon cancer. There is currently no evidence that the risk is reduced if the meat is lean.

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