How to make pork and sauerkraut healthier

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For many, eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day is a tradition. However, some have turned away from the holiday staple in search of healthier options.

Incidentally, the classic dish can be refined to maximize its nutritional benefit. The pork and sauerkraut you’ve grown to love can easily be the focal point of a healthy New Year’s dinner.

Tradition

The Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day stems from the idea that pork signifies looking toward the future and sauerkraut symbolizes wealth, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Starting the year with a meal meant to bring good fortune has become a tradition, especially in the Midwest.

Times change

It’s time to change your misconceptions about pork. Like everything else, farming is constantly advancing and becoming more efficient. As a result, today’s pork is certainly healthier. According to the Ohio Pork Council, fresh pork has 16 percent less total fat and 27 percent less saturated fat than it did 20 years ago.

The pork available today is much leaner, which makes it a better choice. A three-ounce serving of roast pork loin contains 165 calories, 25 grams of protein and seven grams of fat, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Making it an even healthier option, pork is also a good source of thiamin, selenium, niacin and phosphorus.

Cooking

Pork needs to be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145 F. Once you’ve confirmed it’s cooked through with a meat thermometer, let it sit for three minutes after removing it from the heat. This ensures harmful bacteria is destroyed as the pork finishes cooking.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut has both health benefits and drawbacks. However, there are things you can do to capitalize on its better qualities, while minimizing the others.

Although sauerkraut is a low-calorie vegetable, it has a lot of sodium. According to The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, a half of a cup of undrained canned sauerkraut has 780 milligrams of sodium, which is more than one-third of the upper recommended daily intake (2,300 milligrams) and more than half the recommendation for those with high blood pressure (1,500 milligrams).

You can combat this issue by choosing a variety with less sodium, draining and rinsing your sauerkraut before heating or eating it and keeping portions reasonable to limit sodium intake.

While high sodium is a drawback, sauerkraut has some surprising health benefits. As a fermented food, it contains probiotics — the healthy bacteria that boost your immune system and help synthesize vitamins. To amplify this quality, it’s best to pick refrigerated sauerkraut that hasn’t been pasteurized or heated. Additionally, sauerkraut is an acidic food with the ability to lower the glycemic index of a meal and reduce the chance of blood sugar spikes.

Moderation

Everything seems to have the greatest benefit in moderation. This New Year’s Day staple is no different. Make sure you keep your portions reasonable and complement them with other vegetables to add to the nutritional value of your meal.

Happy New Year!

Now that you know how to make your pork and sauerkraut healthier, there’s no reason to give up on tradition. You can start the New Year right, ushering in good fortune at the same time.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

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