Just because it is turkey does not mean it is low in fat

September 18, 1991|By Arthur Schwartz | Arthur Schwartz,New York Daily News

Ground turkey can be almost as high in fat and cholesterol as lean ground beef.

Surprised? I bet you are. The general perception is that turkey, ground and not, is low in fat. Why else would anyone want to use it as a substitute for juicy beef in their burgers? Why else has turkey consumption increased by more than 200 percent since 1970?

"What happens is that you can get ground turkey meat made with all or mostly dark meat and turkey skin, so it's really high in fat," says Julie Walsh, a nutritionist who writes programs for Weight Watchers and did a nutritional comparison survey of turkey products for a professional nutritionists' newsletter called Environmental Nutrition.

"Ground turkey can be nutritionally superior to ground beef, but it has to be skinless, all-white meat," says Walsh, who dates the beginning of the "newfangled turkey products" to the early 1980s.

Figures from the National Turkey Federation, "the country's top turkey think tank," as Walsh calls it, bear this out. Between 1983 and 1990, the number of turkeys being processed climbed from 170 million to 281 million.

Last month, Shady Brook Farms introduced an all-breast meat and skinless ground turkey with only 18 percent of its calories from fat, only 4.5 percent of its calories from saturated fat. But other ground turkey products available in the supermarket derive as much as 59 percent of their calories from fat. (Ground beef ranges in percent-of-calories from fat from 64% for the extra-lean to 77 percent for the regular.)

The dietary guidelines of most health organizations recommend that only 30 percent of our daily calories come from fat.

"That 59 percent of the calories are from fat isn't in itself a &L problem," says Walsh. "You could, of course, have more fat at your main meal and less at others to balance it out on a daily basis. Or you could surround the turkey burger with fat-free foods like vegetables and complex carbohydrates that make the meal as a whole lower in fat."

Couldn't you take the same attitude about beef burgers, though?

@Danny's Turkabobs 1 pound ground turkey

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

1 whole egg or 2 egg whites

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large green, red or yellow pepper, seeded, in slices or squares

1 medium onion, cut into eighths

Place turkey in strainer or colander and rinse under cold running water for five seconds. In mixing bowl, combine turkey with garlic, breadcrumbs, eggs, onion, spices, salt and pepper. Mix well. Shape into balls.

In skillet, over medium-high heat, heat oil and saute pepper and onion about two minutes. Add turkey balls and brown lightly.

Cover skillet, lower heat, and let steam 10-15 minutes, depending on size of meatballs. Serve over couscous. Serves four.

Southwestern Turkey Burgers 1 pound ground breast of turkey

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

1/2 tablespoon seeded and finely chopped fresh hot pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For Salsa:

L 10 red or yellow cherry or pear tomatoes, quartered or diced

1/4 cup seeded and diced yellow or red bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped scallions (white and light green)

1/2 to 1 tablespoon seeded and finely chopped fresh hot pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

Salt to taste

4 hamburger rolls, split and toasted

bowl, using hands or fork, gently mix turkey with one tablespoon coriander, one-half-tablespoon hot pepper, and the ground pepper. Shape into four patties about one-inch thick.

Pan-broil patties over medium heat, turning once, for 18 minutes. Or broil patties four inches from source of heat, turning once, for 15 minutes. In either case, centers should no longer be pink. When done, patties will feel firm, not spongy, to the touch.

To make salsa, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Serve on buns, with salsa on side or of burgers. Serves four.

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