contributor: Charlotte Rommereim, RDN, pig farmer

With so much market focus on plant-based foods right now, many people think a balanced diet means leaving red meat off the plate entirely or only eating it as a guilty pleasure on a rare occasion. The fact is, nutrition experts – registered dietitians (RDs) – do include red meat in recommended healthy eating patterns and balanced diets.

Nutrition consultant and sports dietitian Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, owner of Active Eating Advice and contributor to U.S. News and World Report Health, recently wrote “8 Protein Myths Too Many People Still Believe.”  As an RD and pig farmer, I contacted Leslie Bonci to find out her view of red meats like pork in a healthy diet pattern. Bonci began by saying, “Working in the world of bigger, faster and stronger – where my athletes live – I need to advise them on ways to achieve their body and performance goals with foods they enjoy, in the quantities they require, at the times that optimize performance and recovery. Red meat is a great way to bring taste, nutritional value and versatility to the plate.”

As a red meat, pork is a protein source in a balanced diet and provides an excellent source of thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and phosphorus. These nutrients are a key reason why RDs recommend lean pork in a healthy diet, but Bonci also speaks of its ability to be a perfect partner to fruits, vegetables and grains to help with nutritional gaps on our plate.

“Certainly, we want people to eat a balance, which would include protein, produce and some type of grain on the plate. Not all people are excited and inspired by steamed broccoli, but pork fajitas with peppers, onions, mushrooms and salsa in a whole wheat tortilla brings the produce, grains and the protein to the plate. Pork loin with onions, apples, roasted potatoes and carrots provides both fruits and vegetables along with the protein. Meat can be the perfect partner to produce, and this combo can help consumers improve intake and maximize flavor.”

Pork’s contribution to the overall eating experience can’t be understated either. Its eye appeal, texture, pleasing taste and ability to satisfy are factors in a quality eating experience that pork can provide. As Bonci reminds us, “Food should provide enjoyment, not guilt!”

Overall, the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy diet pattern is finding foods like delicious, nutritious pork to inspire our healthy plate and bring enjoyment to our balanced diet.

“There are those that do not eat meat, there are those that view red meat as a treat. At the end of the day, we all have to strive for balance on the plate,” says Bonci.

Balance on the plate can, and does, include nutritious pork.

Bonci speaks of how appreciative she is of the pig farmers, calling them “heroes that feed our communities.” In turn, pig farmers are grateful for RDs, like Bonci, who include pork in their recommendations for a healthy diet pattern and balanced diet.

Find more about pork nutrition and tasty pork recipes.

Leslie Bonci can be contacted at


Charlotte Rommereim is a consultant dietitian to healthcare facilities in southeastern South Dakota and northwestern Iowa with experience in long-term care facilities, critical access hospitals and assisted living centers. She provides diabetes education through American Diabetes Association recognized programs and has a Certificate in Adult Weight Management. Charlotte is the Agriculture subgroup chair on the executive committee for the Food and Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is past chair of the National Pork Board’s Pork Safety, Quality, and Human Nutrition committee. With her unique perspective as a dietitian who understands the agriculture industry, she has been a resource for the National Pork Board as a speaker and participant at the Registered Dietitian Summit at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone and has hosted an RD Farm Tour event on her farm. Charlotte has been a previous FoodFluence speaker sponsored by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA).  Charlotte encourages conversations about how food is raised and speaks from her perspective of living “farm to fork.” She has provided countless hours in speaking engagements, media interviews and farm tours for the South Dakota Soybean Association “Hungry for Truth” initiative, South Dakota Pork Producers, South Dakota Common Ground and Agriculture United for South Dakota. She was chosen for a Food and Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group/Academy Foundation Speaker Grant and will be bringing her message to the Ohio Academy affiliate meeting in 2018. Charlotte and her husband are the fifth generation on their family farm where they raise pigs, cattle, corn and soybeans.