Lamb provides a lean meat choice

Don’t overlook the lamb when looking for lean meats on the menu.

A 3-ounce serving of lamb has only 175 calories and meets the Food and Drug Administration’s definition for lean. (According to FDA guidelines, a 3 1/2-ounce portion of lean meat must have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol.)

Besides being an excellent source of protein (23 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving), lamb is a powerhouse of many other important nutrients, including three B vitamins (B-12, niacin and riboflavin) and the minerals selenium, zinc and iron.

The majority of lamb in supermarkets or on restaurant menus is raised in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. The Tri-Lamb Group collaborative, representing producers in those three nations, aims to teach consumers and health professionals about the nutritional value of lamb and share recipes to show the meat’s versatility.

While in Boston for a meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, I joined a group of food bloggers and writers for a lamb dinner at the home of registered dietitian Janice Bissex, who develops recipes for the Tri-Lamb Group. The menu was a tasty tour of lamb dishes, including leg of lamb sliders and lamb loin with a quinoa salad.

Bissex, family nutrition expert and co-author of “No Whine With Dinner,” says, “I’m a big fan of lamb not only because of the flavor and the fact that it’s nutrient-rich, but it’s also surprisingly lean, especially the leg, loin and rack.”

A world of lamb

Lamb is a great taste partner for other elements of healthy dining such as entree salads, grilled vegetables, flavorful low-fat sauces and exciting spice blends. Since lamb is a lean meat, it lends itself to slow-cooked stews or to high-heat quick-cooking methods, such as searing in a skillet or grilling, which add flavor but keep the meat juicy and tender.

From burgers to Mediterranean-style grilled kebabs and slow-cooked Moroccan lamb tagine, lamb leaps onto Atlanta menus with an international flair, too.

At the Imperial Fez restaurant, lamb is a star player on the Moroccan menu, including a lamb tagine with apricots, dates, sweet onions and roasted walnuts.

Executive chef Pano I. Karatassos at Kyma marinates lamb chops for three days in a classic Greek blend of olive oil, lemon and oregano before they hit the grill. At Nan Thai Fine Dining in Midtown, the fresh and flavorful dish Geah Yang is a presentation of Thai-style barbecue lamb chops with green papaya salad and sticky rice.

So, whether you opt for traditional steakhouse loin lamb chops with mint jelly at Bone’s or lamb shank simmered in northern Thai red curry with peanuts, potatoes and ginger at Nan’s, leaning on lamb is another entree option for diners who crave great taste and good health.

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