Pork ribs can be a delicious and satisfying entrée, but many dieters worry about just how many calories they contain. This is a valid concern, as the calorie count of ribs can vary considerably depending on a number of factors. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide a detailed breakdown of the calorie content in a typical bone-in pork rib serving.
What is a Pork Rib?
Pork ribs come from the rib section of a pig. There are several different types of pork ribs:
– Baby back ribs – These ribs come from the upper ribcage area near the spine. They are shorter and more tender than other rib cuts.
– Spare ribs – Spare ribs come from the belly side of the ribcage. They contain more fat and connective tissue.
– Country-style ribs – These ribs come from the upper ribcage but also contain parts of the pork loin or shoulder. They look similar to spare ribs but have more meat.
– Back ribs/loin back ribs – These ribs come from the blade and center sections of the ribcage. They contain less fat than spare ribs.
For the purposes of this article, we will focus on nutrition information for a typical bone-in pork spare rib or back rib. These are the most common types used for ribs entrees.
Nutritional Profile of Pork Ribs
Below is the basic nutritional information for a 3 oz (85g) serving of boneless, cooked pork spare rib meat with no added sauce or seasoning:
As you can see, pork ribs are high in fat and calories compared to lean protein sources. About 70% of the calories come from fat.
Keep in mind that nutritional values can vary depending on the specific cut of meat. Back ribs tend to be slightly leaner than spare ribs.
Calories in a Single Rib
Typically, a full pork spare rib weighs 4-7 ounces including the bone. This means a single spare rib provides:
|4 oz rib:||~285 calories|
|5 oz rib:||~356 calories|
|6 oz rib:||~427 calories|
|7 oz rib:||~498 calories|
As you can see, a single pork rib can range from around 300 to 500 calories depending on the size.
Back ribs tend to be just slightly smaller, averaging 3-5 ounces each. This would equate to:
|3 oz back rib:||~221 calories|
|4 oz back rib:||~295 calories|
|5 oz back rib:||~368 calories|
So you can expect a single back rib to provide about 200-400 calories on average.
Again, these are estimates only since actual rib sizes can vary. Weighing the ribs on a food scale is the best way to determine calorie content.
Calories for a Full Rack of Ribs
A typical full rack of spare ribs contains 10-13 bones and weighs around 2-3 pounds. Based on our estimate of 4-7 ounces per rib, a full rack provides:
|2 pound rack (10 ribs):||~2,850-3,400 calories|
|2.5 pound rack (12 ribs):||~3,540-4,300 calories|
|3 pound rack (13 ribs):||~4,230-5,075 calories|
Back rib racks are often smaller, containing 8-10 ribs weighing around 1.5-2.5 pounds. This would provide:
|1.5 pound rack (8 ribs):||~2,135 calories|
|2 pound rack (10 ribs):||~2,950 calories|
|2.5 pound rack (10 ribs):||~3,675 calories|
As you can see, a full rack of pork ribs contains a very large number of calories! This is why rib entrees are often meant to be shared by multiple people.
Factors That Affect Calorie Content
Several factors impact the calorie content in a serving of pork ribs:
Added Sauces and Rubs
– Barbecue sauce: ~50-150 calories per 2-3 oz serving
– Dry rubs with oil or sugar: Adds ~50+ calories per teaspoon
– Marinades with oil, sugar, or high calorie ingredients: Can add 100+ calories
– Grilled: Minimal added calories
– Baked: Minimal added calories
– Fried or deep fried: Can add 100+ calories in cooking oil
As shown above, the more ribs you eat the more calories you consume. Sticking to a single rib provides 100-200 fewer calories than eating 2 or 3 bones.
Lean vs Fatty Cuts
The fattier the cut of rib, the more calories it will contain:
– Back ribs are leaner than spare ribs
– St. Louis style spare ribs have the brisket bone removed for a leaner cut
– Rib tips are fattier sections and pack more calories per ounce
Quality and Source
Higher quality, carefully trimmed ribs from premium pork contain fewer excess calories than cheaply produced ribs with lots of extra fat.
Nutrition Tips for Pork Ribs
Here are some tips to lighten up your rib meal:
– Choose leaner back ribs over fattier spare ribs
– Trim off any excess visible fat before cooking
– Remove the skin or bark before eating to reduce fat and calories
– Opt for dry rubs over heavy barbecue sauces
– Use lighter marinades like apple cider vinegar instead of sugary sauces
– Avoid fried and deep fried cooking methods
– Portion ribs into single servings instead of oversized platters
– Pair with non-starchy vegetables instead of high calorie side dishes
Healthier Ribs Cooking Methods
These cooking methods result in a lower calorie finished product:
– Grilling: Use minimal added fat and let excess drip off while cooking.
– Baking: Cook ribs on a baking sheet lined with foil or a wire rack. Bake at a high temp (425°F) to promote fat dripping.
– Broiling: Cook under the broiler in the oven, flipping half way.
– Roasting: Cook in a roasting pan, again allowing fat to drip off.
– Pressure cooking: Pressure cooking allows ribs to become tender quickly using liquid like broth rather than added fats.
– Air frying: The air fryer allows you to crisp up ribs without the need for submerging in oil.
Healthy Low Calorie Ribs Recipes
When made carefully, ribs can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. Here are some tasty and lighter recipes:
Baked Dry Rub Ribs
Coat trimmed ribs with a dry rub and bake at 425°F for 1-1.5 hours until crispy.
Air Fried Hoisin Ribs
Marinate ribs in hoisin sauce, cook in the air fryer at 400°F for 15-20 minutes flipping occasionally.
Apple Cider Vinegar Pork Ribs
Simmer ribs in apple cider vinegar, garlic, onions, and spices until tender.
Coca Cola Marinated Ribs
A quick marinade in spice rubbed cola tenderizes ribs that can be finished on the grill.
Smoked Paprika & Garlic Grilled Ribs
Season ribs with smoked paprika, salt, garlic, and pepper. Grill over indirect heat for maximum flavor.
Should You Eat the Rib Bones?
Some people like to gnaw off every last bit of meat and cartilage directly from the bones. However, the bones themselves provide no nutritional value. You’ll ingest some extra fat and calories for very little added meat. It’s best to cleanly remove the meat first, then discard the bones if you want to keep your meal lighter.
Choosing Healthy Side Dishes
Since ribs themselves are high in fat and calories, you can balance out a meal by pairing them with non-starchy low calorie vegetables and sides:
– Cole slaw
– Broccoli salad
– Roasted cauliflower
– Collard greens
– Cornell salad
– Baked beans (portion controlled)
– Roasted carrots
– Air fried okra
On the other hand, avoid heavy starches like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, fries, etc which will pile on even more calories.
Condiments and Sauces
Barbecue sauce and creamy condiments like ranch dressing can sabotage your healthy rib meal. Here are some lower calorie alternatives:
– Hot sauce
– Balsamic vinegar
– Lemon juice
– Pickled vegetables
– Apple cider vinegar coleslaw dressing
– Dry rubs and spices
Dip ribs or brush sparingly to keep calories in check.
Watch Portion Sizes
It’s easy to overeat when presented with a huge platter of delicious ribs. Practicing proper portion control is key:
– Stick to a single rib as one serving
– Share a full rack with at least 3-4 people
– Remove ribs from bones after cooking so you eat less mindlessly
– Serve ribs on individual plates rather than a giant platter
– Avoid all-you-can-eat rib buffets
Healthier Rib Meals
By making smart choices, you can enjoy ribs while still eating a balanced lower calorie meal:
– Choose leaner back ribs or trimmed St. Louis style ribs
– Rub with dry spices instead of sugary barbecue sauce
– Grill, bake or air fry instead of frying in oil
– Portion out single ribs rather than overloading your plate
– Pair with non-starchy veggies instead of heavy starches
– Use mustard, vinegar and hot sauce for flavor rather than creamy sauces
– Remove meat from bones to avoid overeating
– Share racks among more people to control portions
General Nutrition Guidelines
To keep your daily diet healthy, aim for reasonable portion sizes of ribs while balancing them out with nutritious foods:
– Stick to the equivalent of about 1 pork chop or 3-6 oz of ribs per meal
– Include plenty of non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, and fresh fruit
– Choose whole grains like brown rice or quinoa instead of white starches
– Drink plenty of water and limit sugary beverages
– Avoid fried and heavy sauced ribs
– Watch your alcohol intake if enjoying ribs at a barbecue or cookout
Pork ribs can range from 200 calories for a single bone up to 4,000+ for a full rack depending on the size and preparation. While they’re high in fat and calories, there are many ways to lighten up your rib meal. Opt for leaner cuts, go easy on sauces, use healthier cooking methods, watch portions, and pair with light sides and veggies. By making smart choices, you can still incorporate ribs into an overall balanced diet. Moderation and portion control are key for enjoying ribs without overindulging.