Baked Ham, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, April 7, 2009

Ham

When I used to teach at a culinary school, my bonus each year was a ham (I know, a ham!). Baked ham can be healthy, but it can also be a sugar and sodium disaster. Avoid the common pitfalls and create a healthier main course for your holiday feast — or for dinner any time of year.

Nutrition Facts
First of all, yes, ham is a lean meat. Glazed ham — with bone-in — is about 190 calories and 11 grams of fat per serving (that’s about 3 ounces). However, typical glazed ham recipes usually suggest a 1-pound serving per person, which ups those figures to 760 calories with 44 grams of fat. Also, a typical 3-ounce portion of ham has 860 milligrams of sodium (or about 36% of your daily sodium needs). Factor that towards a larger, more traditional portion and that puts you at about 150% of your daily sodium needs.

The Sugar
The sweet and savory combination of ham and fruit are an Easter favorite. Most folks make their homemade glaze with honey, brown sugar, raisins or even pineapples. Other fruits to try are pears, apples, cranberries, peaches or oranges. Rather than honey or fruit juice, why not make a glaze with whiskey or brandy? About 90% of the calories and alcohol are eliminated once the alcohol is cooked.

Of course, you can always use half the amount of brown sugar or honey, but sometimes you just want the real deal. If you just can’t bear to de-sweeten your ham, consider lightening up some of your other sweet dishes — maybe skip the marshmallows on your yams or forgo a sugar-heavy dessert.

The Salt
Traditional hams are smoked or cured, which is the main reason for those high sodium levels. Paired with sodium-heavy sauces such as Worcestershire or chicken broth, your sodium totals will skyrocket even more. The simplest trick is to cut the salty ingredients by half or go for the low-sodium version of usual ingredients (i.e. low-sodium chicken broth).

[Editor’s note: check out some more salt-cutting tips from our readers below]

Size Does Matter!
Yes, it’s a holiday, but portions still count on Easter (and you want leftovers, don’t you?). As I said, traditional recipes often call for a 1-pound serving of meat. To keep calories, salt and fat under control, opt for a smaller-sized ham and slice it in small pieces. Aim for about 3-4 ounces of ham per person (that’s about the size of your palm). Then fill up on fresh side dishes — with all the spring veggies coming into season, there are many options.

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Comments (38)

  1. Linda Cheatham says:

    Ham’s sodium level can be reduced by boiling it before baking to rid it of the salt. I always start with cold water let that come to a boil then dump out and start again. Doing this 3x usually works.

  2. P. TYSON says:

    I WASH AND SOAK IN WHITE VINEGAR OVER NIGHT..THEN PAT DRY AND RUB W/SPICY GOLDEN MUSTARD ALL OVER.. THEN BAKE UNTIL DOWN.

  3. Shibi says:

    Thanks for the tips. Thanks especially to Linda (comment above) for the trick of boiling the salt out before baking. I was going to skip making ham altogether but I think that this will put ham back onto our menu. Thanks!

  4. Marilyn Petrenas says:

    my family likes a roasted leg of lamb embedded with thin bits of fresh garlic, wet-rubbed with salt, pepper, fresh ginger, yogurt, lime, coriander, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and cardomom.

  5. Donna Brown says:

    Boiling ham first is a great tip.

  6. Ben Kempinski says:

    You can reduce salt in cold cuts by dropping in hot water,then pressing out juice. Rinse with cold water and there you have it.

  7. MARTHA WHEAT says:

    LOOK FOR A LOW SODIUM HAM,WHICH ARE IN LARGE GROCERY STORES, THEN BOIL BEFORE BAKING! GOOD FOR FOLKS ON A VERY LOW SODIUM DIET!

  8. S Crutchfield says:

    You can reduce the salt by cooking the ham with peeled raw potatoes. When ham is cooked, throw out the potatoes. The potassium from the potatoes attract and collect the sodium.

  9. Tonya says:

    Can you boil a ham that has been smoked? WIll that take the flavor out?

  10. Soak your ham in whole milk overnight, to remove excess salt. I promise it will still have the smoked flavor, and not be bland. This works because, if you taste the milk it will be very salty afterwards.

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