Bacon rules despite our healthy eating concerns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s how an acquaintance describes her 2 year old grandson’s diet: “Bacon!

We love bacon, and our love starts at an early age.  According to conventional diet wisdom, high fat/high sodium bacon is completely evil.  According to certain fad diet adherents, it’s the staff of life.  According to food marketing geniuses, bacon is the magic flavor that sells just about anything, from ice cream sundaes to burgers to salad dressing.

What’s so bad about bacon?

  • It tastes great, so you can easily over-eat it.  According to USDA data, a cooked slice of bacon has about 50 calories.  But slices differ in size and thickness, so your slice may have more calories.  If you’re eating at a restaurant that loads bacon onto your plate, you could easily have 200+ calories just from bacon.
  • It’s high sodium.  That’s inevitable, as part of the curing process involves salting the meat.
  • It’s high fat.  That slice has almost 4 grams of fat, but almost half of that is monounsaturated fat, also found in olive oil.

What so wonderful about bacon?

  • Nutritionally speaking, it’s not spectacular.  There’s the fat, which may be good or bad, depending on which fad diet you’re following.  Bacon really isn’t a significant source of any particular vitamin or mineral, although it does contain small amounts of several.
  • But… It tastes great!  For plenty of people, young and old, that’s all that matters.  There’s something compelling about the flavor, which is why it’s being added to so many foods.  Paleo diet purists may think of bacon as the main event at a meal (or perhaps the only event), but when bacon is added to sundaes or burgers or salads, it just means extra calories.

What to do?  Portion control!  You don’t need 4 slices of bacon with your eggs or pancakes or your double cheeseburger.  For calorie and sodium control, limit yourself to 1-2 slices only once a week.

Fake bacon?  Some are just as high in fat and sodium, and some of the low fat versions are extremely high sodium, twice the sodium of regular bacon.  If you like bacon, eat the real thing.  Just don’t gorge on it and limit how often you enjoy it.

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