There are few things more tantalizing than the smell of bacon crackling away in a pan on a Saturday morning. Delicious as it is, bacon was thought to be one of the worst foods you could possibly eat during the low-fat craze. But now that fat is in vogue, there are some confusing messages around this mouthwatering breakfast treat: How good or bad is it for you, exactly?
The answer to the big bacon question isn’t a simple one, which is why we grilled a handful of nutritionists to get all the information we could. Pay close attention, bacon lovers of the world: Here’s what nutritionists really think about your bacon habit.
Should We Be Eating Bacon At All?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a nutritionist in 2018 who will say that you should absolutely never eat a certain food, and that’s true for bacon as well. As a general rule, nutritionists will say that it’s completely fine to eat bacon, but you should think of it as a treat, not a staple.
“There are foods that I place into a ‘sometimes’ category,” explained nutritionist Nikki Ostrower. “I believe that these foods should not be part of a regular day-to-day diet but consumed on an occasion. Bacon falls into this category, as it is extremely high in fat.”
Want numbers? Let’s take a look at bacon’s nutrition facts. Two slices of bacon contains 70 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat (that’s 10 percent of the daily recommended fat intake), 30 mg of cholesterol (10 percent of daily recommended cholesterol intake), and 360 mg of sodium (15 percent of daily recommended sodium intake).
So, bacon is OK in moderation, but how much of it should we be eating? Holistic registered dietitian and Meg the Dietitian founder Meg Hager said it varies from person to person. “Two slices once a week might be OK for a younger person without health conditions, whereas two slices once a month might be more appropriate for someone else.”
The Type Of Bacon You Should Eat, And How To Prepare It
Health-wise, all bacon is not created equal. Ostrower said that if you’re going to eat bacon, you should aim to buy nitrate-free bacon from pasture-raised pigs as opposed to factory-farmed bacon. “Factory-farmed pigs tend to have a diet based on soybean meal and corn, making the feed extremely high in omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids,” she explained. “Pastured pigs are fed a diet consisting of more green grass, leaves and nuts. This diet type provides more omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or ‘healthy’ fats.”
Ostrower added that roasting your bacon is the healthiest way to prepare it. “Place strips of bacon on a baking rack and roast at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through,” she advises.
Nutritionist Stacy Leung said you can also prepare bacon in a pan and skip the oil. “Since bacon has a high fat content, bacon can cook by itself,” she said. “Placing slices directly in a heated pan or on a baking sheet in the oven without the use of extra oil will yield bacon that is less greasy.”
Bacon Alternatives Worth Considering
If you want to have your bacon and eat it, too, consider opting for a bacon alternative. While it may not be quite as tasty as a slice of good old-fashioned bacon, it can still be delicious — and, as a nice bonus, you can eat a lot more of it. “I suggest trying tempeh bacon or mushroom bacon,” Leung said. “These alternatives mimic the meaty flavor of pork bacon and can have a similar crunchy texture.”
Nutritionist Tamar Samuels said that turkey bacon can be a great alternative as well, particularly for people who are predisposed to colorectal cancer. “Turkey bacon has less heme iron, which can increase the formation of carcinogenic compounds,” she explained. “I would skip any vegetarian bacon made from ‘meat substitutes,’ as they often contain processed plant proteins that are difficult to digest. Eggplant bacon is amazing, though! You can’t go wrong with ‘bacon’ made from real, whole veggies.”
Nutritionist-Approved Bacon Dishes
Now the fun part: What bacon dishes do nutritionists recommend? Samuels suggested going for bacon and eggs with a side of sweet potatoes, while Ostrower loves a BLT with a twist. “It’s a BLT-stuffed avocado,” she said. “I usually cut an avocado in half, remove the pit, mix together bacon, lettuce, tomato, lime juice and salt, and stuff it into the avocado. It’s absolutely delicious.”
Hager, on the other hand, has a favorite veggie bacon dish. “I love homemade tempeh bacon bits sprinkled on top of salads or in soups, mac and cheese and especially on sandwiches!” she said.
With the right tweaks and preparation methods, bacon can be part of a healthful diet. Bon appetit!