Healthy Meat Alternative to Short Ribs

beef short ribs

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Short ribs are a succulent beef cut known for their fall-off-the-bone tenderness, but they are not a heart-healthy menu choice. With 250 calories, 15 grams of fat and 80 milligrams of cholesterol in just a 3-ounce serving, short ribs are one of the high-fat animal proteins that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says are potentially harmful to your health. If you want to enjoy the rich flavor of short ribs without the fat and calories, seek out healthier meat alternatives and prepare them with ingredients found in recipes for short ribs.


A few changes to your meal preparation routine can make healthy meat alternatives even healthier. When shopping for meat, purchase “select” or “choice” grades rather than the fattier “prime” grade. Before cooking, trim all visible fat from raw beef. Then prepare meat dishes at least one day ahead. As the food chills in the refrigerator, the nonvisible fat that had melted into the cooking liquid will rise to the surface where it is easier to remove.

Lean Beef

Lean beef from the round and chuck benefits from the kind of moist-heat simmering often used to cook short ribs. These cuts meet the USDA’s definitions of lean because they have fewer than 10 grams of fat in a 100-gram serving. To prepare beef round for braising, brown a whole roast on all sides in a large Dutch oven. Add onions, peppers and garlic, your favorite spices, water or fat-free broth, and simmer for about two hours until beef is fork-tender. You can duplicate the flavor of soups made from short ribs by substituting boneless beef chuck cut into cubes. Brown the cubes in a stock pot with diced onions and crushed garlic. Then, cook with water, sliced mushrooms and pearl barley until beef and barley are tender.


With 147 calories and 5 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving, pork loin is a healthy meat substitute in short ribs recipes. Nutritionally, pork is a good source of phosphorous, which strengthens bones. Pork is high in thiamine, which helps the body process carbohydrates, protein and fat, and it is an excellent source of niacin and vitamin B6, which aid metabolism. You can duplicate the slow-cooked flavor of short ribs by placing a whole boned loin of pork in a crock pot along with onions, carrots, mushrooms and tomatoes, and simmering the dish for seven hours. To lower the calorie count further, replace the traditional side dish of starches with a salad or steamed vegetable.


Veal cut from the shoulder and round makes a healthful substitute for short ribs. Three ounces of naturally lean veal has only 165 calories and 6 grams of fat, but it is a good source of niacin, zinc and vitamins B12 and B6. Veal cubes cut from the shoulder can take the place of short ribs in a hearty stew. Just simmer lightly browned cubes and fresh artichokes in water and white wine until tender. Then, bind the finished stew with a mixture of beaten eggs, lemon juice, cornstarch and fresh dill. If you prefer veal leg cutlets, just lightly brown cutlets on each side in cooking spray and serve with a gremolata sauce made of onions, carrots, celery, diced Canadian bacon, white wine, tomatoes, lemon, garlic and parsley.


The shank and leg cuts of lamb easily replace short ribs in classic braised recipes. Three ounces of lamb has between 180 and 200 calories with 10 to 12 grams of fat. Nutritionally, lamb is rich in vitamin B12, niacin and zinc. For a low-calorie main dish, brown lamb shanks in olive oil before cooking with garlic, orange peel and Greek olives for about two hours. You can also make a classic lamb curry with cubes of boneless lamb leg, fried onions and garlic, spices such as cloves, cinnamon, coriander, paprika and turmeric, and freshly chopped tomatoes.