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?
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?