Are BBQ Ribs Healthy? (Grilling Guide)

Everyone in our family loves eating BBQ ribs. Personally, I’m a bit like Scooby-Doo smacking my lips when I see those bad boys sizzling on the grill! But are ribs healthy or actually quite bad for you?

An average serving of baby back pork ribs, the most popular and lowest fat type of BBQ ribs, has 70 ounces of fat or 1,000 calories. However, BBQ ribs are also a great source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins. Eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet they are not necessarily unhealthy.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the topic of how healthy BBQ ribs are – and discover which types are fattier than others, how we can prepare and cook them to make them healthier – and if we should really be worried anyway…

Are BBQ Ribs Healthy?

How Bad Are BBQ Ribs for You?

While we all love tucking into a rack of ribs, we all know that they’re a treat, not an everyday staple. This is because ribs are a fatty cut of meat, so they’re high in fat and calories (and we’ll look at these in more detail in a moment).

But… pork ribs are also a great source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins. A typical portion of ribs (really? There’s such a thing? We thought you just ate until the BBQ ran out of charcoal…) can provide up to half your daily zinc allowance, and up 15% of your iron. You’ll also get a decent dose of Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D.

So, when we’re weighing up “how bad are BBQ ribs for you”, there’s a bit of good and bad in this delicious meal.

How Fattening Are BBQ Ribs?

Well, don’t order the ribs if you’re aiming for a low-fat diet. While some cuts of pork are lean and perfect for a low-fat meal, ribs are extremely high in fat.

Unlike other pork cuts, when we eat ribs, we eat a lot of the fat. There isn’t much in the way of meat in the bones, so if we removed the fat, there wouldn’t be much left to eat. 

A restaurant serving of baby back ribs has 70 ounces of fat, resulting in a whopping 1,000 cals. If you love ribs but don’t want to chow down on this much fat, aim for smaller servings of meat. Have a small portion of ribs alongside a large salad, and keep it as an occasional treat.

Do BBQ Ribs Have a Lot of Calories?

Yes, BBQ ribs have a lot of calories. A restaurant serving of baby back ribs has around 1,000 calories, which is a lot, considering that this is just part of the whole meal (and this isn’t even one of the fattiest cuts). 

However, one of the plus points is that because ribs are so satisfying, you won’t need to add any carbs. No fries, potatoes, bread… Some ribs have fewer calories than others, and we’ll go through these shortly. 

Is Eating Rib Bones Healthy?

Eating bone-in meat, like ribs, brings plenty of health benefits. Bones are rich in calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A, and other vitamins and minerals, which are released into the meat during the cooking process.

Which BBQ Ribs Are the Least Fatty?

Baby back ribs are actually the least fatty, and these have become an extremely popular cut of rib. They’re tender and tasty, and cook slightly quicker than most other cuts. If you want a good all-round rib, baby back is an excellent option.

Are Chicken Wings or Ribs Healthier?

Chicken wings have about half the fat of most ribs. If you want to cut down on fat and calorie intake, chicken wings are a better choice to stick on your BBQ. They also have similar amounts of protein to ribs.

As ever, it depends on what you accompany your meat with, and how much you eat! Wings are often crying out for a heap of fries or potatoes to go with them, whereas ribs are fine with just a salad.

Are Beef Ribs Healthier Than Pork?

There really isn’t much difference between pork and beef rib, although as the latter naturally have bigger ribs, we may end up eating a bit more!

Any rib is fatty – that’s just how they’re made; however, because beef ribs are often cut and served separately, it is a bit easier to lose some of the fat.

Both bone-in meats are rich in protein and full of essential minerals and vitamins, so as well as the fat and calories, you’re still getting plenty of good stuff.

What Are the Leanest Pork Ribs?

Baby back ribs are the leanest pork ribs. They’re also tender and delicious, and because they’re smaller, cook a bit faster than cuts such as spare ribs. Well, we say fast, but we’re still talking two hours on the coals…

A tip to make them even leaner is to cook them for a while in the oven first. This renders down some of the fat, so they are slightly lower in fat by the time they hit the BBQ.

Are BBQ ribs bad for you?

Are Baby Back Ribs Lean Meat?

No type of rib should really be described as lean: they’re naturally high in fat, and if you trim that fat off completely, you’d be left with a tiny sliver of dry meat clinging onto the bone. Baby back ribs are leaner, not lean.

Which Rib Meat Is the Most Fattening?

The mighty spare rib, which comes from towards the belly of the pig, is the most fatty. But, don’t despair if you’re on a low-fat diet, because these hefty ribs can actually be trimmed. 

There is much more meat on a spare rib, so you can actually take off some of the fat and still be left with a hearty meal rather than just pickings. St Louis style ribs are trimmed, so you lose a bit of the fat with this popular spare rib cut.

How Do You Make BBQ Ribs Less Fatty?

You can’t change the nature of the beast, but here are a few tips to help you reduce the fat content in your delicious dish of BBQ ribs:

  • Choose a leaner cut like baby back ribs
  • If you have a meatier cut like sore ribs, trim off some of the fat
  • Cook the ribs in the oven for a short while first, to render down some of the fat content
  • Use a dry rub to impart a rich flavor, which can have fewer calories than a sticky BBQ sauce
  • Have a smaller portion of ribs, and ramp up the accompaniments
  • Or, have a small portion of 2 or 3 ribs as an appetizer, then follow this with a lower-fat BBQ main, like chicken or fish
  • And of course, keep ribs as a treat. Having a higher-calorie meal once in a while isn’t going to spoil a weight loss program

Does Slow Cooking Remove Fat?

Slow cooking can’t remove fat, but it can reduce it. Fat melts at around 130 degrees fahrenheit. It goes into the meat, tenderizing it and adding flavor. Slow cooking is a great way to start off your ribs, as they’ll be extra tender as well as a bit leaner.

Here’s a great recipe for BBQ ribs cooked in a crockpot rather than on the actual BBQ. This short film takes you through an easy way to make delicious BBQ ribs in your slow cooker.

The secret ingredient? Cola, of course! The ribs spend around six hours in the crockpot before just a few minutes in the oven to finish them off.

Should I Cut the Fat Off Short Ribs?

You can remove some of the thick layer of fat from short ribs. This is one of the advantages of a cut like beef short ribs – because there is so much meat on the bones, you can afford to lose more fat.

However, make sure that you don’t remove the connective fat, or the ribs will fall apart.

Final Words

While BBQ ribs are fatty and high in calories – and perhaps not something you’d eat while on a diet and trying to lose weight – eaten now and then as part of a normal balanced diet they are not going to be unhealthy in themselves.

As mentioned earlier – we all love BBQ ribs in our family – so just as long as we don’t eat them all the time, and throw in some potatoes, salad, and slaw with them – we should be just fine.

Right, my mouth is watering so I’m off to fire up the grill. Scooby-Doooooooooo!!! 🙂