Is Corned Beef Healthy?


St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th. Most likely you associate this day with leprechauns, green beer, and corned beef and cabbage. Did you know that corned beef and cabbage is actually more of an American tradition rather than an Irish one? St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally celebrated in Ireland with chicken, lamb, and lots of veggies. This meal is much lower in calories and sodium than the American tradition of corned beef and cabbage.

What is Corned Beef?

Corned beef is a salt-cured brisket of beef that is usually paired with cabbage and potatoes. The term ‘corned beef’ comes from the rock salt, also known as ‘corns’ of salt, used to treat the meat. To create corned beef, a tough cut of beef is brined or cured using a salt water or sodium nitrite mixture and is then slowly cooked with sugar and spices. One 4-ounce serving of corned beef contains about 285 calories and contains around 1,300 milligrams of sodium. This is more than half of the daily recommended sodium intake! Add in the cabbage, potatoes and a glass of green beer and you now have a caloric bomb on your hands.

Is Corned Beef Healthy?

Since corned beef is loaded with sodium, those with or at-risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke should only indulge in moderation. A low-sodium diet and healthy choices more often will be beneficial in the long-term.

Looking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a healthy way? Go to your local butcher and ask for an extra-lean cut of corned beef, then cut off all of the visible fat and steam-cook the beef to melt away any additional fat. If you’re looking for a different meat to showcase, try pork tenderloin or a slow-cooked flank stank as both are lower in calories, fat, and sodium.

Healthier St. Patrick’s Day Alternatives

Try some of these simple, healthy recipes to have a happy and healthy St. Patrick’s Day!

Leprechaun Dip: Create an edamame-based dip with steamed and shelled edamame pureed with olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro. Serve this nutrient-rich dip with green veggies like cucumber slices, snap peas, or green peppers for an appetizer that is full of flavor and on theme.

Shamrock Mini Pizzas: Take one half of a whole wheat English muffin and top with pizza sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. Cut a green bell pepper crosswise to make a shamrock shape and top the mini pizzas with one pepper slice each. Bake until the cheese has melted.

Green Pasta: Cook whole grain pasta according to the directions and toss the pasta with pesto and green peas.

Fruit Skewers: Create a delicious, fruity treat with green grapes and kiwi slices on a wooden skewer. Place one pineapple chunk at the end of each skewers as the leprechaun’s pot of gold!

Apple Pie Smoothie: This green smoothie is full of nutrients and flavor. Simply blend baby spinach, plain Greek yogurt, green apples, and a pinch of apple pie spice. Pour 1/2 cup of the smoothie mixture into glasses and serve cold.

For additional nutrition tips, seek the help of a Registered Dietitian! Start with a FREE one-on-one nutrition consultation to discuss your current habits and what you’d like to accomplish. Services include meal planning, recipes, meal intake tracking, and more!

Schedule a Nutrition Consultation

Sarah Brunner Registered Dietician at Elite Sports Clubs

Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian

Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.