It’s surprising that it has taken us so long to cover this topic, but turkey bacon is one of those items on many a healthy eater’s list of replacement foods. Maybe you’ve decided to cut back – or eliminate – regular pork bacon, or perhaps you’re just looking for a change every once in a while. Well, let’s take a look. Is turkey bacon a healthy alternative?
These numbers are taken from random results on Google, so no specific brand names are given. You can pull further data from the USDA website.
Just a quick glance at the above image shows that (according to Googles nutrition information), most bacon has more potassium, less sodium, fewer carbohydrates, and more protein than turkey bacon. Regular pork bacon clearly has more calories and saturated fat, but if youre buying high-quality bacon, then saturated fat isnt a problem. When comparing the numbers to traditional bacon, turkey bacon doesnt actually seem so healthy.
What is Turkey Bacon?
Most of us know that regular bacon is made by curing the fatty slab of pork belly from the pig. Using a little help from nitrates, salt, and sometimes smoke, bacon is born and many people rejoice!
Well, turkeys definitely do not have fatty underbellies, so what the heck is turkey bacon? Where does it come from? Heres the ingredients list from Jennie-O, one of the more popular brands of Turkey Bacon:
Uh? Mechanically separated turkey certainly doesn’t sound appetizing. Wikipedia describes it as a paste-like meat product. Basically, turkey bacon is the SPAM/hotdog of the poultry world! Minced bits of various parts of the turkey are mashed back together to resemble bacon. The major brands use a lot of salt, nitrates, sugar, oil, and other additives to get a hint of bacon flavor and texture. We say this stuff is definitely NOT healthy. But theres still hope! Not all brands of turkey bacon are created equal.
Better Turkey Bacon: Applegate and Trader Joes Turkey Bacon
Reputable smaller brands like Applegate and Trader Joes still use somewhat processed turkey meat, but it isnt mechanically separated (no pink slime involved). The resulting products are relatively clean. Sure, youve got processing and a little added sugar, but everything else passes the real food test.
Ingredients in Applegate’s Natural Turkey Bacon: Turkey, Water. Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Sea Salt, Celery Powder, Maple Sugar, Onion Powder, Spices* *Spices: Cayenne Pepper
Ingredients in Trader Joe’s Uncured Turkey Bacon: TURKEY THIGHS, WATER, SEA SALT, RAW SUGAR, CELERY POWDER, PAPRIKA, ONION POWDER, SPICE.
Is Turkey Bacon Healthy?
It’s probably not the worst thing for you, but it’s certainly not the best. Mechanically separated meat products are kind of like pre-chewed food, which doesnt sound delicious. This one all comes down to the brand youre buying, and both Applegate and Trader Joes use minimal ingredients for a much healthier result.
Compare it to major hamburger chains vs. your local grass-fed burger joint. A hamburger from a local restaurant, made from grass-fed beef can be semi-healthy, full of nutrients, and still delicious, but we all know to avoid burgers from fast food places if were watching our health. The same is true for Turkey Bacon! If youre buying Applegate or Trader Joes, youve still got a semi-unhealthy processed food product, but it is lightyears ahead of the major brands like Jennie-Os and Butterball.
We still think that youre probably better off buying local, pastured bacon, or even top brands of organic bacon (including Applegate). Its actually more nutritious, and much more natural. But if you just cant give up your Turkey Bacon, keep it to a minimum, and stick with the good brands!
- Healthy Food Face-Off: Bacon vs. Turkey Bacon (prevention.com)
- Turkey Bacon Obviously Isnt Bacon, So What Is It, Anyway? (huffingtonpost.com)