Fun fact: Did you know corned beef and cabbage is a traditional American dinner on St. Patrick’s Day, and not an Irish one? The tradition started in the 1900s, when the Irish started to merge with other ethnic groups in the United States. In Ireland, people actually celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with chicken, lamb and a plate full of vegetables.
For those who keep to the Irish-American tradition, the bad news is this: the meal is not exactly healthy. Corned beef contains about 285 calories for a four-ounce portion and is packed with a whopping 1,286 milligrams of sodium per serving. That’s more than half of the sodium you’re supposed to have all day. Pair the meat with cabbage, mashed potatoes and an Irish beer, and you have a caloric bomb on your hands.
But if you must have your corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty’s, there are ways to make the meal healthier. At the butcher, ask for an extra-lean cut of corned beef. Cut off all visible fat and steam-cook it to melt away any additional fat.
If you’re willing to give up the corned beef but still want a meat entree, why not try pork tenderloin or sample slow-cooked flank steak instead? These dishes are just as mouth-watering but have far fewer calories and sodium.
For healthier side dishes, experiment with green vegetables to celebrate the holiday. Cabbage can be prepared with white wine and sliced apples, and the potatoes can be sprinkled with lemon and parsley instead of loaded with butter and salt.
A healthier meal this St. Patrick’s Day will be beneficial in the long run, as a low-sodium diet lowers blood pressure and may decrease the risk of stroke. But if you want to indulge, don’t feel too bad. It’s OK to occasionally nosh on foods you love. Moderation is the key.