Bacon, bacon…who’s got the bacon?


We recently had house guests and served bacon for breakfast.  The husband got all excited, saying “Wow, real bacon, my wife only allows me to have turkey bacon.”  I, personally, had never considered switching to turkey bacon; I’ve always thought that some folks switch to turkey products falsely thinking they are eating more healthful.  But this got me thinking and wondering.

So, I bought two packages of bacon. One turkey and one pork.  At first glance they look similar. But under closer scrutiny the first obvious difference is the turkey bacon was a 12 ounce package. The number of slices differed, too.  You got 15 slices in the 16-ounces of pork and 22 slices in the 12-ounces of turkey.  So, obviously, the weights of the slices were smaller in the turkey bacon. All of this makes in-store comparison difficult.

Compare the Nutrition Facts labels for serving sizes:

  • The pork bacon lists serving sizes as 2 slices (I guess they are being practical that no one could eat just one.)
  • The turkey bacon identifies serving size as 1 slice. 

So, let’s compare them slice-to-slice.

                                                                Pork                                       Turkey

Calories:                                               40                                           35

Total fat:                                              3.5  grams                            3 grams

Saturated fat:                                    1.25  grams                         1 gram

Cholesterol:                                         10 mg                                    15 mg

Protein                                                 2.5 grams                             2 grams

Sodium                                                 150 mg                                  180 mg 

The turkey bacon label promotes that their bacon “gives you all the great bacon taste you want with 50% less fat.”   The package says they used the USDA nutrition data for pork  bacon to come up with that statement.  But the math from the two packages I compared just didn’t show that.


They also list 6% Daily Value of Vitamin C in the turkey bacon.  I don’t usually think about bacon as a source of vitamin C so I called the company. They responded that the Vitamin C comes from the soy. The last item on the ingredient list is soy lecithin.               

I then cooked them and compared the products.

Turkey bacon cooking

The cooked weight of the pork bacon was 4.2 ounces and the turkey bacon was 6.25 ounces. So there was obviously less loss of fat and moisture in the turkey product. It’s important to note that the turkey bacon was completely pre-cooked.  After cooking there was ½ cup of fat that could be drained from the pork bacon. There was very little fat in the pan where the turkey bacon was cooked.

Comparing the final cooked product: you got lots more turkey bacon on the plate (see photo). The turkey slices didn’t shrink as much. The turkey bacon is “smoked cured turkey chopped and formed”.  That was very obvious in the texture.  It’s hard to describe, but I guess the best way is that it was “chewier”.   This isn’t noticeable when the bacon is added to a sandwich or eaten combined with other foods, but just on a plate for breakfast, this chewy texture was obvious.

Cook comparison pork vs. turkey bacon

12 ounces of turkey bacon, cooked


So, what’s my overall thought as a result of this comparison? 

  • The overall fat, calories and sodium are very comparable.  Although the turkey product is slightly lower in fat and calories than the pork it is slightly higher in sodium. 
  • Flavor and texture-wise I guess I’d vote for the pork bacon. 
  • If you’re comparing price, you get more cooked edible product for the money in the turkey bacon.   

Bacon (pork or turkey) is really one of those products generally thought of as an “occasional” food.  There is very little “good nutrition” in any kind of bacon.   But, most people like it now and again for the flavor and you can’t beat a BLT sandwich. 

But, you can get a lot of flavor from perhaps a little less bacon.  Maybe go for 2 slices instead of 3 and then only every so often (like when you have special guests for breakfast.)  A small amount of bacon chopped could go a long way to add flavor to a recipe.

They may also be other companies that make different bacon products that might actually give you a little less sodium or little less saturated fat than those I purchased.  You’ll need to do your own nutrition comparisons.  Both products also are considered “processed meats” and do contain nitrates and other preservatives that might be contraindicated in some diets.

But overall I don’t think “whole hog” switching to turkey bacon is doing you any favors nutritionally.

My problem now: What do I do with all this cooked bacon?

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus,
The Ohio State University


More on Mangos

IMGP0043After the discussion on mangos being the most consumed fruit in the world I realized I didn’t know as much about this fruit as I thought. So I did some additional research.

While it might be the most eaten fruit in the world, it’s still far down the popularity list in the United States. According to a 2012 study by Fresh Facts Shopper Insights found at mangos are only purchased by 14% of the households in the US. To compare this with other fruits: bananas have an 85% market penetration and apples 71%. When looking at “mainstream fruits” purchased, mangos fall below bananas, apples and grapes but above pineapples, kiwi and papaya. Mango buyers typically purchase them 2-3 times per year. The strongest buyers are “foodies”, natural/organic shoppers and Hispanic shoppers.

Mangos grow in frost free climates which is why Hawaii, Florida and California are the only states in which they grow. They must have warm dry weather to produce fruit.They are native to Southeast Asia and are considered a staple in India, China and the Philippines. Mangos have two seasons and different varieties are available at different times of the year so they are available year round. Mexico is one of the biggest suppliers of mangos to the US along with Haiti, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.

The size and shape of a mango differs based on variety. They can range in size from 6 -24 ounces. It is said that mangos with the best flavor are those that are allowed to ripen on the tree. But unless you have a tree in your backyard this is going to be difficult.

The leathery skin of a mango is waxy and smooth. When ripe it can be pale green to golden yellow or orange marked with red. But color is not the best indicator of ripeness. Mangos continue to ripen off the tree if kept at room temperature. A ripe mango will give slightly and become softer as they ripen. When ripe the fruit will feel similar to a ripe peach or an avocado. To speed ripening place them in a paper bag. Ripe mangos can be refrigerated, but should be used within several days. Once cut they will keep in an airtight container for a few days or up to six months in the freezer.

The flesh of a mango is peach-like, juicy and in my opinion luscious. The large oval-flat husky stone/seed makes it difficult to cut or use. One of the best ways to cut a mango is to cut the fruit lengthwise just along the outside of the seed. This gives you two large portions of seedless fruit. I usually work to get a few more bites off the top and bottom of the seed. There is frequently inedible fiber close to the stone/seed. A high-quality mango will have minimal fiber, this is mostly due to the variety/cultivar and difficult to tell when selecting.

Mangos are fat, sodium and cholesterol free. Nutritionally, one cup (165 grams-about 6 ounces) of mango chunks contains 100 calories and 3 grams of fiber, 35% of the RDA for Vitamin A, 100% RDA for Vitamin C and 20% RDA of folate. Mangos also contain copper, Vitamin K and Potassium.

I’m now on a personal crusade to increase the consumption of mangos in the US. We’ve had them at least five times this year and I vow it’s going to be more. Here’s a great way…make your own mango salsa Try it on fish!

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Free pasta or gummy noodles – too good to be true?

Calorie free, carb free, fat free, cholesterol free noodles and pasta. Is this too good to be true?

Some of the popular daytime television doctors have been recommending shirataki noodles to help with everything from weight loss, to cholesterol reduction, diabetes control and intestinal regulation. They can be purchased on-line, at health and Asian food stores as well as some grocery stores.  My sister-in-law bought several bags of these noodles and recently shared them with me.  I’m not sure if she gave them to me because she knew I’d write about them…or she just wanted to get rid of them.IMGP9896

Described as the ultimate guilt-free, miracle noodle, this pasta-like product is made from the konjac plant (a relative of the yam). It’s mostly composed of a soluble fiber called glucomannan. The 8.8 ounce package (they consider this one serving) contained 9 grams of fiber. Her cost was about $3 + shipping.

OK. I was a little leery. The angel hair “noodles”  came in a bag surrounded by water, looking very much like white or almost translucent pasta. The instructions say to drain and rinse well. I read a newspaper article about this product and it said to drain the “funky, earthy, fishy” smelling water—I got thinking—why would I want to eat something that smelled “funky”. I’m told this is the natural smell of the plant and it goes away with rinsing or heating—and it did. They are ready-to-eat once rinsed or can be heated.

My family joked— calling them “gummy” noodles  (this was “gummy”  like gummi bears–not gummy like over-cooked oatmeal).  They had lots of texture and little flavor. The “pasta” tends to pick up the flavor of the sauces or other foods added to them.

The supplement glucomannan is promoted as an appetite suppressant. The supplement and the “noodle” product tends to absorb water as it hangs out in your intestinal track— thus making you feel full. While some promoters of the noodles say they don’t cause bloating or gas, other web sites warn people to eat a small amount initially—to see if you have intestinal distress.

So what did I think? They were OK. It is fiber and it gives you something to chew (and chew and chew). Not awful—but just OK. I do think this is another one of those fads or gimmicks. It’s always fun to try different foods. I’m back to the moderation thing, I certainly won’t want to eat lots of these on a regular basis. They may be good for a person on a gluten-free diet…but there are other pasta products available, too. I, personally, would rather have a smaller portion of regular pasta or a flavorful dish of spaghetti squash. Don’t know what to do with spaghetti squash?  Try our recipe for Spaghetti Squash Parmasan.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Half of what?

Fat-free half and half

A couple of weeks ago I suggested the temporary addition of fat-free half-and-half to skim or 1% milk when transitioning the family to a lower fat milk from whole milk. The purpose is to increase the “mouth feel” of the milk—to make you (or your kids) think you’re drinking the higher fat milk.

This idea inspired some questions. The obvious one is how can half-and-half be fat-free when by definition it’s half milk and half cream?  I looked it up.  The FDA’s Federal Regulations say that half-and-half consists of milk and cream which contains between 10.5 and 18% milk fat.  There are several optional ingredients including emulsifiers, stabilizers and sweeteners.

So how can it be fat-free?  According to the Land O’Lakes website, there is a FDA regulation (in an effort to promote and facilitate healthier food) that allows manufactures to modify a standardized food to meet a nutrient content claim.  In the case of fat-free half-and-half, they are using less cream and nonfat milk/skim in the place of whole milk.  Like the original regulation, they are allowed to add other ingredients that improve texture, flavor and appearance.

Comparing the Nutrition Facts labels, you’ll note two tablespoons of regular half-and-half has 40 calories with 3 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbohydrates. The fat-free version of half-and-half contains just is 20 calories, 0 fat and 3 grams of carbohydrates for the same two tablespoon serving. The ingredients show that the cream has been replaced by corn syrup as the second ingredient.  Folks that love cream (or half-and half) in their coffee need to make their own decision between the two products.  I know it’s not the same…………..but how about using plain skim milk?

Cheryle Jones Syracuse MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Transition skim milk recipe:

  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free half and half

Use the addition of fat-free half-and-half to skim milk just like you you are adding it to coffee: one or two tablespoons per cup. You can also make one or two quarts in advance with the same ratio. As with all dairy products, keep refrigerated.

What is the significance between skim milk and whole milk?

Here is a comparison for one year, keeping in mind most people are supposed to have 3 glasses per day:

  • 1 cup whole milk: 150 calories, 8 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat
  • 1 cup skim milk: 83 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat
  • Savings for switch for a whole year X 3 cups per day: 73,365 calories, 8760 grams fat, 5475 g saturated fat per year!!

Here are more uses for fat-free half and half (besides using it as a coffee creamer):

  • Cream soup
  • Smoothies
  • Custard sauce
  • Home-made ice cream – use it in your favorite ice cream recipe for a delicious treat
  • Sauces – fat-free half and half makes a creamy finish to gravy or any pan sauce that you make at home.

Disclaimer: although we have pictured Land O’Lakes fat-free half-and-half here, we are not receiving any compensation. Many store brands also feature this product. Choose what you like in your store.

Handout: SkimMilkTrick

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