Baked Ham, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, April 7, 2009


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. Jennifer Rockar says:

    The word about boiling is great, but I boil mine in ginger ale, then do the glazing, etc., and bake. Won’t need to bake as long, so it won’t dry out, and the ginger ale adds just a touch of sweetness throughout the meat.

  2. Charlotte Hynson says:

    Try making a paste out of bown sugar and apricot brandy. Rub ham and spoon the juice on it as it is cooking.

  3. mary porter says:

    I was just given the taste of a ham that had been boiled and most of the fat removed before baking. it is less salty or fatty and still haad ther same ham taste. basted with a cola of your choice. they used diet cola. ji am diebetic with high blood pressure so this made an NO NO a treat to be able to eat it without worries. still everything in moveration.

  4. Gloria Smith says:

    Thanks for the tips in boiling and the one in ginger ale. Sure will try it

  5. Pam says:

    Liked the ginger ale tip–I might try that. I use a glaze of melted apricot jelly mixed with pineapple juice–it's not too sweet but just right.

  6. RMax says:

    You can also avoid most of the fat, especially with a bone-in ham, by trimming it off the meat. Virtually all of the fat is visible on the outer edge of the meat. There is very little in the meat itself! If you do this then even if you, somehow, could eat one pound (!) then you would be ingesting less than 10 grams of fat. I believe most people in a holiday dinner setting are probably eating less the 1/2 pound. So now with a little trimming have dropped your fat intake to 5 grams or less! Most boneless hams have from 2-5% fat so an 8 ounce portion would contain less than 13 grams of fat.

  7. Annette says:

    I have a honey baked ham and was wondering if there is a "soak", "marinate", etc.. that I can use to eliminate the sweet taste. My family and I like the good ole fashioned country ham flavor. I usually buy a raw ham and coat it with mustard. It is excellent! Does anyone have a suggestion for eliminating the sweet taste of a honey baked ham??????

    • Diana says:

      I'm looking for an answer to the same problem. Everything I see is adding sweetness I want to remove the sweetness.

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