You love bacon… What does your heart have to say about that?

bacon_sandwich
ashley-vangel

By: Ashley Vangel

I know, I know. Bacon… I know what you’re thinking. “This is supposed to be about how foods are healthy for us…” Well, let’s break it down. Bacon may not be the healthiest food in the world. It may as well be one of the least healthiest foods actually. But let’s be real and talk about how you can continue eating a healthy diet AND still incorporate one of your favorite foods. Or maybe you’re open to trying a healthy bacon alternative?

How unhealthy is bacon really? You might be surprised (or not) to find out that most of the calories that come from bacon actually come from fat… not protein. About 68% of the calories to be exact. That’s why there’s so much grease when you cook it. Well, the American Heart Association recommends to eat no more than 6% of our calories from saturated fat, which is the type of fat that you’ll be finding in bacon and other animal products that bumps up your blood cholesterol numbers. That’s about 13 grams of fat. So can you still in enjoy bacon? The answer is yes… from time to time… and not too much. The key is to limitation. Ever heard of everything in moderation? Opt for one slice with your breakfast meal. Or sprinkle some chopped bacon on top of a salad. Cook a bit with some wilted greens, like kale or collard greens. Savor the flavor of a little bit of bacon, rather than stuffing your face with a whole plate!
 

Maybe moderation isn’t your style. Want more of a smokey taste? Try turkey bacon. When you compare two slices of turkey bacon versus two slices of the original pork bacon, you find out just how much healthier turkey bacon is. As you probably guessed, turkey bacon is about 20% lower in calories and has 2 grams less of total fat and 1 gram less of saturated fat. Though turkey bacon stacks up a bit better in numbers compared to pork bacon, it too should be enjoyed occasionally rather than be part of your everyday diet.
 

Canadian bacon is another bacon alternative, but it’s more like a ham than the bacon that most Americans are used to. Because Canadian bacon is typically a cut of meat from the loin of the pig (rather than the belly like American bacon) it’s a much leaner cut of meat. The serving size of this type of bacon is usually about two slices and offers up only about 90 calories. About 40% of the calories in this type of bacon comes from fat, much less than the 68% from American bacon. It also has a higher protein content than regular bacon with about 12 grams of protein per serving.
 

Are you a little more adventuresome? Maybe you’ve heard of vegetarian “bacon” options. Tempeh is a tasty, fermented soybean product that can easily take on the flavor of spices, which makes it a great vessel to flavor up like bacon. Plus tempeh offers a lot of lean protein and is much lower in saturated fat than pork bacon. Some vegetables can also be seasoned and cooked to mimic the flavor and texture of bacon. Eggplant and Shitake mushrooms are a couple of them. These “bacon” variations are going to much lower in calories, but won’t offer nearly as much protein. Tempeh “bacon”, eggplant “bacon”, and Shitake mushroom “bacon” are just three kinds of “bacon” that vegetarians and vegans enjoy when they want a BLT or “bacon” with their breakfast.
 

Would you try any of these bacon alternatives? Or would you prefer to stick to the original American pork bacon? Let us know in the comment section below!

 

Ashley is a registered dietitian and a licensed dietitian in the state of Texas. She graduated from Framingham State University, majoring in nutrition and dietetics and she completed her dietetic internship at the University of Connecticut. (more)

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