The last hotel I stayed in had an awesome breakfast buffet. Yogurt, fruit, granola, eggs, bacon... you name it, they had it.
And like a consciously healthy eater, I loaded my plate with fruit and yogurt and daintily added 2 strips of bacon.
Even though I work as an associate food editor at EatingWell Magazine, and spend a great deal of time in our test
kitchen developing healthy recipes, I can't deny my love for bacon. But seeing the white juicy veins of fat running between
the layers of “meat” and curling up around the ends of each glorious strip tells me that bacon is something to enjoy in
moderation. That’s why when we develop recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen that use bacon, we use it sparingly.
I’ve got bacon’s nutritional profile memorized: 1 medium strip of bacon has 43 calories and 1.1 grams of saturated fat. I
also am aware that the American Heart Association recommends limiting intake of saturated fats to less than 7 percent of
daily calories. (That’s 16 grams, if you’re consuming 2,000 calories.) That’s because saturated fats raise levels of LDL
(“bad”) cholesterol in the blood, damaging the heart and arteries, triggering inflammation that may eventually leading to a
heart attack or stroke. Hmmm. That bacon’s not looking so good after all.
Fast-forward a couple of hours and I’m starving. My husband and I ended up at Chili’s and he suggested splitting an order of
the Shiner Bock BBQ Ribs. Not that I thought ribs are a health food, but I was shocked to learn that a full order of those
succulent ribs has 1,750 calories and 29 grams of saturated fat. So, if I were to order and eat that dish by myself, it would
have the same amount of saturated fat as 26 strips of bacon. I could have cleared out the entire tray of bacon at breakfast
for what I would have gotten from those ribs. (By the way, I ended up ordering salmon.)
That got me thinking how funny it was that I would never consider having more than 2 strips of bacon on my plate at
breakfast, but I would certainly (unknowingly) entertain the thought of eating a dish that had the saturated fat equivalent
of 15, 20, even 30 strips of that smoky goodness. So like some people carry around tip calculators, I’m carrying around my
own mental bacon calculator—that is, I’ll be figuring out how many strips of bacon fit into the meal I want to order and if
the answer results in a giant heap, I think I’ll pass and look for something better. Or better yet, make it healthier at
Here are some menu items at a few popular restaurants and how much bacon you’d have to eat to get the same amount of
saturated fat, plus some healthier alternatives and recipes you can make at home.
Restaurant: Uno Chicago Grill
Menu Item & Nutrition: Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza, 770
calories, 55 grams fat, 18 grams sat fat
Number of bacon slices you’d have to eat to get this amount of saturated fat: 16
Better Option at Uno: Farmer’s Market Deep Dish Pizza, 540 calories, 35 g fat, 9 g sat fat
Menu Item & Nutrition: Shiner Bock BBQ Ribs at Chili’s “as served,” 1,750 calories, 84 g fat,
29 g sat fat
Number of bacon slices you’d have to eat to get this amount of saturated fat: 26
Better Option at Chili’s: Grilled Salmon with Garlic and Herbs “as served,” 620 calories, 27 g
fat, sat fat 9 g
Restaurant: Olive Garden
Menu Item & Nutrition: Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara, 1,440 calories, 88 g fat, 38 g sat fat
Number of bacon slices you’d have to eat to get this amount of saturated fat: 35
Better Option at Olive Garden: Venetian Apricot Chicken, 380 calories, 4 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat
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