Should I Add Imitation Bacon Bits to My Salad?

McCormick bac'n bits

Fooducate community member Caroline asks:

I have a feeling I already know, but how unhealthy are these [bacon bits] compared to simply using real bacon?

Great question. We analyzed the nutrition label and ingredient list (you can too, by using the free Fooducate app for iPhone and Android). This is what we found:

A serving is 1 tablespoon, which is about a quarter of an ounce. It has only 30 calories, but about 180 mg of sodium (8% of the daily maximum). Based on the nutrition facts panel, you may be thinking to yourself that this is a great salad topping.

Let’s take a look at the ingredient list and then decide:

Textured Soy Flour, Canola Oil, Salt, Caramel Color, Maltodextrin, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Lactic Acid, Yeast Extract, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate (Flavor Enhancers), and FD&C Red 40

As you can see, there is no real bacon here, so clever food scientists had to concoct a good enough alternative. The soy flour mixed with canola oil provides the mouth feel. The artificial Red 40 and Caramel color provide the visual cue (and potentially a host of health problems). The Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate provide an umami flavor to foods. They are often found together with MSG. In this product, the yeast extract mimics the behavior of MSG (monosodium glutamate). For people with sensitivities to MSG, this is a product to stay away from.

How does this food-like item compare to real bacon?

If you fry a strip of bacon in its own fat, you’ll get a quarter ounce of bliss for about the same amount of calories as a serving of the aforementioned “bits”.  For the pleasure of eating real food, you will need to pay with the extra steps of frying and crumbling the bacon. Or, you could buy a package of bacon bits made with real bacon.

What would really be great, is to add other toppings with healthier fats, for example toasted sesame seeds or sunflower seeds. Just a thought…

What toppings, if any, do you add to your salad?

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  • Karen

    I’ve haven’t tried to make them but I wonder how those roasted chickpeas would do for a potato topping. I’ve been meaning to try them for some time now.

    My question is sorta related but I’ve wondered how bad (Wight’s) Liquid Smoke is for you. I’ve been trying to get away from using meats/bones in my homemade soups but miss the smoked flavor. Is this just as bad? Thanks.

    • Dan

      No reason to get away from meats/bones provided they are from a healthy source!

      • Rig

        Maybe one wants to get away from meat/bones to have a healthy vegetarian diet. Duh.

  • Crystal

    It’s always best to stay away from substitutes altogether. I rather eat whole foods, than some “mystery” food item. Just look at it this way if you can’t trace back to it’s origins, don’t eat it!

  • Jen Blacker

    Costco’s Kirkland brand of bacon bits is all real. I’ve been buying it for years to use in pizza and soups. Once opened you need to put it in the fridge since it is real food. It is available online and in the store. Real ingredients and tastes so much better than the fake crap. It’s a wonderful shortcut when you forget to take down bacon from the freezer to use in recipes.

  • Sean H.

    Spicy Wasabi Roasted Edamame and pole caught tuna is all I need . Olive oil and balsamic..

  • overseaschinese

    In China, such companies will be out of business! The government would just eradicate top level management! It’s FAKE food!