Ask a Dietician

Ask a Dietician

Question: If I use ground beef in a stew instead of beef stew cubes (to reduce cost) will the fat content be increased?

To answer this question, I visited the Beef Information Centre and gathered some interesting information.

Beef stew cubes can be pretty lean. Actually, all trimmed beef cuts, with the exception of short ribs, meet Health Canada’s definition of “lean” meat. This means, all trimmed beef cuts contain no more than 10% fat. In fact, many trimmed beef cuts qualify as “extra lean,” with 7.5% fat or less. Cuts from the hip, such as round steak/roasts and sirloin tip are usually the leanest choices.

When substituting ground beef for beef stew cubes, it’s important to know about the different types of ground beef to make sure the fat content is not increased too much. Ground beef has it’s own classification for fat. When buying ground beef look for the words “regular,” “medium,” “lean” and “extra lean” on the label. Federal government regulations require that ground beef be labelled this way. These terms show the maximum fat content allowed by law in ground beef. Government inspectors routinely check retail samples to ensure the meat is labelled correctly.



Maximum Fat Content

Maximum Fat Content for a 100g serving (about the size of a deck of card)

Extra lean beef (not ground)


7.5 g

Lean beef (not ground)


10 g

Extra Lean ground beef


10 g

Lean ground beef


17 g

Medium ground beef


23 g

Regular ground beef


30 g

Extra lean ground beef would be your best choice in ground beef to make a lean beef stew. And a good tip is to rinse your ground beef after cooking. New Canadian studies on ground beef show that by simply rinsing it after cooking can reduce the fat (Diversified Research Laboratories Inc. 1999). The rinsed crumbles can be used in recipes such as pasta sauce or chilli and season to taste.

Rinsing ground beef causes little difference in the amount of most nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc and B-vitamins. The main difference is in terms of fat and calories. Rinsing regular ground beef crumbles after cooking and draining can reduce the fat content by about 25% – to approximately the amount of fat in an equal serving of cooked lean ground beef crumbles. Rinsing regular ground beef also reduces the number of calories by 12% and decreases the amounts of sodium, potassium and phosphorus.
Try these five easy steps to lower fat next time you prepare regular ground beef:

Pan fry regular ground beef crumbles until well done.

Drain well.

Pour crumbles into a colander or strainer while holding over the sink.

Use hot water, rinse crumbles well.

Shake colander to remove excess moisture

The “Ask a Dietician” column is an initiative of the Miramichi Regional Health Authority MANGO (Miramichi Action for Nutritional Guidance Opportunities) Program that promotes healthy eating and active living. The Miramichi people and its surrounding communities are invited to ask their nutrition and physical activity related questions to a MANGO dietician by email at, or calling 623-3555 and leaving a message.