Can You Lighten Up Corned Beef and Cabbage? Should You?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Are you wearing green today?

St. Patrick's Day is traditionally a day to feast. These days, at least in North America, it has become a day to wear green, drink beer (usually a Guinness or sometimes a green one) and eat corned beef and cabbage.

Salty and rich, corned beef is boiled in water to shed some of its saltiness.
Cabbage is the vegetable of choice to serve alongside. Although I have some Irish blood in me, I admit that I've never had corned beef and cabbage. So while I usually offer you tips on lightening your meals, this time I'm asking you for advice: How do you improve on corned beef and cabbage? Do you? Should you? Or should you just celebrate and enjoy this traditional food?

Corned beef is comparable with other cuts of beef: 213 calories and 16 g fat for three ounces. It's the 964 mg sodium that set it apart.

I found this lower-sodium version of corned beef and cabbage on SparkRecipes. I wonder: Do you try to lower the sodium or do you enjoy this treat as is?

Holidays pose an interesting "diet" dilemma: Do you indulge in traditional but not-so-healthy foods for the day? After all, it's just one day--one meal, really--and we're all believers in moderation. Or do you buck tradition and change an old favorite?

How do you "lighten" up or lower the sodium levels in your corned beef? Share your tips. If you prefer to enjoy traditional foods the traditional way, tell me! Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

One last reminder: Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink a day, and men should have no more than two. Standard drinks are 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer and 1 1/2 ounces of liquor or spirits.

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PATRICIAAK 10/18/2020
:) Report
PATRICIAAK 8/23/2020
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KATHYJO56 8/13/2020
I love the cabbage, but just not the corned beef Report
GMACAMI 6/15/2020
very interesting comments to an interesting article Report
PATRICIAAK 5/19/2020
:) Report
To me, it is easier to just go light with the portion of corned beef (1 thin slice) and enjoy the accompanying vegetables. We have the usual potatoes and cabbage and add carrots and sometimes turnips. The amount of sodium in a thin slice compares to a regular size slice of roast beef and a little corned beef goes a long way. The vegetables should be cooked separately so they don't absorb sodium. Report
If you want it less salty, rinse it before cooking and you can also change the water a couple times. I use the crockpot, just covering the meat with water. The seasoning packets are basically pickling spice and don't contain salt, the salt is in the corned beef.

Corning is an old method of preserving meat, used before there were modern methods of refrigeration. The meat was layered with coarse salt ("corn") and kept in as cool a place as was available. Report
What we always did (me mum is of the 0'Sullivans in the County Cork) was prepared the meat with the spice kit.... cook it.... then trim off as much of the visible fat as possible. Cool off the water so that the fat rises to top and you can skim it off (or freeze it a few hours etc.). Then she'd cook the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and onions in the water - no need to add extra salt. She would sometimes add more water to help dilute it. Report
i liked it Report
Wow this is indeed amazing! A perfect recipe for my family.Well anyway,I do love Irish foods ever since.Awesome! Since St. Patricks' day is here, a lot of people are looking for St. Patrick's Day recipes, or rather for Irish food recipes in general. Obviously, corned beef and cabbage is far up the list, as well as soda bread, even though that dish was actually a Jewish invention discovered by Irish immigrants in the US. (It is kosher, after all.) You don't have to spend a worth – many stores will be selling a corned beef brisket kit you can cook at home in a crock pot. Also, look into Irish stew, and steak and Guinness pie – and if you celebrate heavy, learn to make boxty for an Ulster fry the morning after.

Hello. QueenTammy, you say your grandma taught you to make it like a stew. May-be it's the part of Ireland they were from, but my mom's family do the same thing. They were, of course, of Irish decent and after generations, kept Irish ways and a few words of Gaelic here and there. Once, I asked my mother why she never wore green and decorated for St. Patrick's day and she replied that " the real Irish don't do that sort of stuff!" Report
OK folks. 1st you do need a decent cut of meat. Wash it off and bake it instead of boiling. I found it removes more salt and concentrates the flavor. I never cook my veggies-except for the requisite onions-in with the beef. I always cook them separately-but I do add a scoop of water from the beef to the cooking water for a little xtra flavor-do not add any salt!
Even with this, I still need to watch my sodium intake for a few days and ramp up the water intake.
Hey! It's only once a year! Report
OK folks. 1st you do need a decent cut of meat. Wash it off and bake it instead of boiling. I found it removes more salt and concentrates the flavor. I never cook my veggies-except for the requisite onions-in with the beef. I always cook them separately-but I do add a scoop of water from the beef to the cooking water for a little xtra flavor-do not add any salt!
Even with this, I still need to watch my sodium intake for a few days and ramp up the water intake.
Hey! It's only once a year! Report
With the amount of sodium, there is no need to add salt to anything cooked with it. The way corned beef is made, unless you can find a lower sodium version, there is no real way to cut the sodium. It is soaked in a brine solution for an extended length of time to reach the middle of the cut. Try a corned beef round, our meat guy says they are soaked for less time. Other than the sodium, this is a pretty healthy meal, and if you go light on the sodium for the rest of your day, you should be fine! Have an extra glass of water or two. Report
I love Corned Beef and Cabbage - totally forgot to have it this year - maybe we will make it one day for the heck of it - 80/20 moderation - Corned Beef is definitely a part of the 20 moderation - the cabbage could be 80 if no butter - works for me on occasion. Report
This was a really interesting blog! I made corned beef and cabbage for the first time ever this year! We all really enjoyed it. I got a nice cut of meat and put it in the crock pot all day!
Next year, I will rinse the meat really well, and I will cook my cabbage, carrots and potatoes in a pot by themselves! It's a fun once a year tradition and I've just gotten started! Report
I had my corned beef and cabbage as well. I at it as is and did not feel a bit guilty. I won't have it again until March 17, 2010. That is what makes it so special. It is kind of like girl scout cookies. Can you change them. Who would want to. Report
I had my corn beef and cabbage and it was great.. Report
I love cabbage and corned beef and sometimes even have cravings for it. Luckily I don't have cravings often, but when I do, I cook my corned beef in the crockpot and it gets nice and shredded so I can easily take the fat off and then add it to cooked cabbage. I try not to eat much so I cut my portions, and I know the fat content is high, but I think making a "healthier" version would not taste quite so good. Report
I never boil my corned beef, I baked it in the oven and then when cool, slice off the fat and DH slices and we freeze it for later in the year. Report
My Grandmother (whose Mom was straight off the boat from Ireland) taught me to make it like a soup/stew. We use canned corned beef (1can) 1 large or 2 small heads of cabbage, 6 carrots peeled and cut about 1" pieces, 3-4 potatoes, parsley, onion and garlic, water or stock. This makes a fairly large pot, everyone is satisfied, and not a lot of corned beef per serving. I do remove all the visable fat when I take corned beef out of the can. Report
I haven't had corned beef & cabbage for years, but I wouldn't mess with traditional recipes.

I've learned the hard way that cutting the fat from recipes just messes with me. I'd rather cut the portion back to just a taste if I had to so that I could have "the real" thing!
I couldn't help but laugh when I read this. Last year my mom bought a lower sodium lower fat corned beef and no one would eat it!! We all tried it and it was terrible! I will definitely tell her some of the tips I read here but since we only have it once a year I would rather enjoy it as is. Report
Being pescatarian, I don't really do corned (or any) beef, but I do have a definite opinion on 'lightening up' recipes...

Sure, it works with some things... but there are many foods I that I'd rather eat a little of the real thing than a ton of a 'light' version. For me, eating 'healthier' versions of not-so-healthy foods would be admitting that I cannot control my portions. I'd rather have a little self-restraint and eat ONE homemade biscuit than 3 'light' canned ones, or one small piece of cake with homemade buttercream icing than a big slab with store-bought whipped icing.

I guess that's it in a nutshell - I'd rather have smaller portions of the real thing, even if it's not quite as healthy... and I'd rather make it myself so that at least am not getting a heaping dose of preservatives and artificial junk. Report
I buy the flat cut and remove the large layer of fat. The point or tip (whatever they call it) seemed to have a lot more fat marbled in. We use a whole head of cabbage, 4 carrots, and a few potatoes. Most importantly I measure my portions. I was plenty full and my calories and fat intake were fine for this meal. The sodium, well I didn't do anything for it. Most days I am pretty carefull with sodium, one meal is not going to hurt to much. Report
I love corned beef & cabbage, but the salt does make me sick. Literally, the salt makes me dizzy. This week I did take my chance & eat some, so good at the time, the room was moving last nite.

When I fixed corned beef at home I soaked it, kept rinsing it, pulled a lot of salt off. Now I know that corned beef is just beef brisket that's been brined for 2 weeks. Next time I fixed it I'll use brisket that isn't brined. Report
I had my corned beef and cabbage yesterday, and I loved it! I only make it once a year. I bought a leaner cut of corned beef a few years ago and my children did nothing but complain. No one enjoyed it and it cost me extra. I will use some of your tips next year. Report
I had a reuban which didn't have lots of meat in it. I don't worry about the sodium because I use no salt and cook fresh vegetables and when I spice of the meat its no salt so I can probably go over once in a while Report
I guess "should" and "will" are two different things.
I love corned beef and cabbage. An occasional over-step on sodium isn't the end of the world, and it's one meal a year for some...I say long live the Irish! Report
If I'm going to make this dish for my family I will make it the traditional way. I'm all for eating healthy but I see no need to make every single reciepe I cook in a low fat way. I just eat a smaller portion. My family has no weight problem so why should have to eat every meal low fat. And let's be honest here, these diet reciepies are not always as tasty. If I'm cooking my family a home cooked meal I want it to taste good as well as be healthy. Report
I found a healthier corned beef. It was from wal-mart, labeled premium. According to the label a 4 oz serving has 130 calories, 7 fat. Still has a lot of sodium, butIi rinsed it and soaked it before I cooked it. I also eliminated the potatoes. Report
If we are really committed to changing our lifestyle than we need to start new traditions take away the holiday links with food. In our previous lives everything revolved around food, that's how we ended up obese. To break the cycle we need to break the connection between food and the emotions that come with holidays. So, my answer is to forget about foods that are unhealthy for us even if they can be made "lighter" and replace them with a healthy food instead. Report
I lighten up the meal by adding more carrots, potatos, turnips, parsnips and cabbage. Don't do all the side dishes and hold the bread, well maybe one piece of rye. Add some mustard to the corned beef and enjoy... Report
Corned Beef and cabbage isn't my favorite meal, but I do make it for the family as they all seem to love it. I usually purchase a nice cut with low fat on it, less marbling and I always rinse it and cut away extra fat. I usually do use the seasoning packet, but as it boils all day its not overly salty. I start the meat, boil it in plain water for couple hours then I dump that water, put water back in the pan and add the seasonings and 2 sliced onions, bring to boil and lower to simmer for at least 4 more hours usually more like 6 hours, an hour before its done I add red potatoes, then maybe 20 minutes before its done I add carrots, parsnips and the cabbage last. My hubby was a major salt freak, he usually added salt to everything and on occasion he did add salt to this meal, so I assume it was not overly salty once it was done. I don't ever add salt to my food, just pepper and other spices. I think anything is fine to eat as long as its in moderation and you account for it with whatever else your eating that day/week. Report
I always buy the round cut of corned beef as it is very lean and what little fat there is, I cut off before I prepare it. It isn't marbled at all. I simmer the beef with cabbage and carrots and just enjoy it on St Patrick's day and for several other meals after! I sprinkle it with balsamic vinegar, the way I was taught to enjoy it. This is a once-a-year thing for me that I allow myself. Report
actually I have a recipe thats lower in Carbs & Sodium- tip rinse the meat & use only 1/2 the seasonings. And Ms Dash instead of salt. Report
Every year, my husband and I take the kids to an Irish pub in Worcester, MA called O'Connor's. This year, I had the lamb and barley stew, and my husband had the corned beef and cabbage. We don't eat at this restaurant or have corned beef on any other day of the year. He had a 16-ounce Guiness with his corned beef, and I had water with my stew. I think this qualifies as "in moderation," and the food was delicious! We both ate 1/3 of our meals (we are post-op gastric bypass) and then had our leftovers for TWO other meals! So it is not cost-prohibitive for us, either. Report
Even though I have to watch my sodium intake very closely, I did indulge in the traditional corned beef and cabbage meal.

I cut as much fat off as I could in order to reduce the fat content, then I soaked the beef in water with a russet potato, which I cut in quarters. The potato removes a lot of the salt. I learned that trick a few years ago, and it really does work. The meat still had a high fat and calorie content, but that potato cut the sodium WAY down. :-))

Next year I will know to change the water a couple of times during cooking. Report
16g of fat is ridiculous. Buy grass fed beef for about 3g fat/serving. If salt can spike your blood pressure dangerously, don't risk your life for a corned beef dinner!!! Report
I skipped the corned beef and used turkey and slaw to make a Reuben for St. Pat's. Pitiful, huh? I'm very aware of sodium and fat in meat and although I love a good corned beef I decided to forgo it this year for my health. I was able to find a light, seedless rye too and that helped and I used a Spark recipe for roasted potatoes and had some boiled okra on the side for the greenery:). Report
Had my corned beef on Sunday for breakfast in the form of Irish Eggs Benedict: corned beef & cabbage on Irish soda bread with poached eggs and mustard hollandaise. MMMM! Report
Had mine last night (written on March 18). Everything in moderation! I don't drink alcohol so I had green tea instead!!!

Blessings, lads and lassies! Report
We eat Irish food regularly, but I'm vegan. So I replace the meat in dishes with a meat analog which makes them not only vegan but much lower in calories and fat. For example tonight we're having Shepherd's Pie using my grandmother's recipe but made with soy cheese instead of dairy cheese and Sausage-style Gimme Lean instead of lamb. (I use the sausage flavor just because I like the spices) Report
Being an everything in moderation type of person, I'm willing to splurge on this treat once a year. If you work it into your nutrition plan, it should be doable. I, too, made my corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot. Super yummy and so easy. Report
I don't know how many of you are food network fans. Alton Brown made corned beef from scratch and then made dishes from the leftovers. The name of his show is Good Eats and the website is . You can find the recipe on the website. It takes several days to make your own corned beef but it may be worth the trouble if you want to monitor what goes into the food. Report
I crockpot my corned beef,I started it at midnight and at 6am added the carrots and new potatoes,topped them with carmalized onion,cabbage and seasoned with chipolte seasoning marinade powder.
When the beef finished I removed it,trimed most of the fat,but one hunk of fat and beef I ate,to me it's the best thing about corned beef and I enjoyed it very much.In my fatty days I would have eaten all the fat,I like it that much.ewwwww,I know.
When finished I cube the beef and put it in with the vegies and pack it in SP size packages and freeze most of it.I enjoy cp.portions all year long.
Point being I enjoy this dish and SP has showed me that I don't have to be a salad beast.I have everything entered on my nutrition counter and as long as it fits my daily quota,I have almost everything, I used to eat.I'd be a purest and spank myself for eating the fat but I'm not like that anymore.I enjoy my thinner life now,and am kind to myself.
Thanks to SparkPeople and you fine folks,hope you had a wounderfull
St.Pattys Day.,just stay away from the green twinkies and you'll be ok...Chef Jim Report
Trim the corn beef, rinse and cook in slow cooker, made mashed potatoes for DH, boiled cabbage by itself, drained, then added a little butter and cream. I ate the cabbage, corn beef but not the potato. We do have this on St Patty's Day and we do like this meal, we usually have this meal twice a year. We are not irish, but germans do like this dish too. Report
With a name like Delaney, you really have to wear green and cook Irish food on St. Patrick's Day. However, with a Norwegian heritage, I'm not too familiar with Irish cooking, and no one in my family likes Corned Beef. Our tradition is to boil Healthy Choice Polish Sausage, along with the potatoes and cabbage and throw some carrots in for color, and eat this "boiled dinner" for St. Patrick's Day and actually every 2-3 months. There is not much left over, and the calorie count and fat grams are minimal. And it's yummy!!! Report
I was married to a man who was born on the "green isle" and they are raised with salt, salt and more salt. They even put salt on their bacon and pickles! I have made corned beef and cabbage many times and I always change the water several times to eliminate a lot of the sodium because traditionally everything, including the vegetables are supposed to be cooked in the same water. I also will bake the corned beef for a short time; it helps to give meat an extra "edge". There are some briscuit cuts that are leaner than others or you can trim it. The day is a joyous holiday and while its good to cut corners a little bit its also for enjoyment. Report
Unless you have to watch your sodium intake for health reasons, why bother to change it? This is actually a fairly healthful meal otherwise! Report