Hi! I’m Allison – and I have a bacon problem. And yes, I am a dietitian.
Well – maybe not a problem. But I do enjoy my weekend ritual of frying up a couple delicious slices and pairing them with a late breakfast and lingering over a cup of coffee. And why not? Five to six days out of the week I eat right, workout more than most (I’m a six-time marathon runner currently training for my 7th in April) and I understand the importance of allowing myself to indulge my cravings, in moderation of course. But last weekend I took my bacon obsession to another level with a “Better with Bacon” cooking class at the Wooden Spoon (where we made 5 dishes containing bacon) and it got me thinking – what are, if any, the health benefits of my favorite cut of pork?
The Nutrition Facts:
You probably aren’t surprised to learn that most of the calories in bacon come from fat. Three slices of bacon, pan-fried (34.5 g) have 161 calories, 12 grams fat, 4.1 grams saturated fat, 34 mg cholesterol, 11.7 grams protein, and 581 mg sodium (Reference: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26). That’s just less than 60 calories per slice.
A surprising source of protein: At almost 12g/3 slices (34.5 g), a serving of bacon has almost as much protein as 2 large eggs. As long as you don’t over-do it and are sure to keep your calories in check throughout the day, bacon can be a satisfying way to help meet your protein needs.
An effective mood elevator: For many, eating bacon provides a sense of satisfaction and even happiness, which decreases any feelings of self-deprivation. It may also provide a feeling of nostalgia – for me, the scent of bacon frying almost immediately brings me back to my childhood weekends when my father would fry up some bacon (the only thing he was allowed to tackle in the kitchen) while my mom cooked pancakes.
An affordable, yet familiar, luxury: Not everyone can afford some of the finer food delicacies like truffles or foie gras. Adding bacon to a dish provides not only a burst of added flavor but a sensation that many enjoy and can relate to – but since you aren’t indulging in it that often—it’s also can be seen as a luxury ingredient.
The reduced-fat bacon look alikes are definitely not all created equal in terms of taste and texture.
Turkey bacon can make a good bacon substitute for many people. But few bacon devotees would claim it to be a 100% replacement. At roughly 130 calories and 10g of protein for the same serving size as the info listed previously for regular bacon, many would prefer to take in the extra 30 calories and have the real thing. For me – that holds true – I’d rather have the real thing, less often, than an imposter. But—to each their own–it’s all about your own personal preferences. However – if sodium is of concern – you’re actually better off going with the real thing. A serving of turkey bacon (34.5 g) has about 200 more mg of sodium than regular bacon.
There are also veggie bacon options, which I will admit to never having tasted, so I can’t provide my true opinion of those. Nutritionally speaking, those do have fewer grams of protein/serving, as well as fewer calories and sodium compared to the real thing.
Can’t Get Enough?
All in all, I’m not suggesting we start eating more bacon or that you recommend clients/patients do the same. I just think, in the month where everyone is on a diet, it’s time to sit back and relish the things you really enjoy. Allow yourself and your patients/clients to have those small indulgences and realize that alternatives may not always be what they seem. For me, bacon is a once in a while food that I stop to enjoy when I have it. We all need those foods – because let’s face it – food is fun and meant to be enjoyed.
Bacon Fun around Chicago
Bacon seems to be popping up everywhere and in everything lately so it’s easy to get your fix – especially here in the windy city. Are you a secret bacon fanatic? Be sure to check out some of Chicago’s best bacon bites below:
A maple bacon donut at Dinkel’s
The ‘Flight of Bacon’ at Bakin’ and Eggs
A beer and bacon tasting at Paddy Longs Beer and Bacon Pub
One of the many “handwiches” at David Burke’s grab-and-go style sandwich shop Burke’s Bacon Bar