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Lower-fat bacon & sausage: the missing link?

I have a confession to make. I love BLTS. Not that I eat them much. As a child, I was only allowed to have them outside our kosher home. As an adult-a nutritionist, for heaven's sake-it was tough to think of them as BLTs and not FSNs Fat-Sodium-Nitrite sandwiches). I indulged only a few times (honest) during my pregnancies, when few other foods tasted good enough to cut through the nausea.

But that all changed last month, when the aroma of sizzling bacon lured me out of my office and into CSPI's test The nitrites are still there, but some brands have cut the sodium in half and slashed the fat by more than 90 percent. There's also hope for health-conscious sausage-lovers (not me, but I'm sympathetic).

You just have to be able to separate the honest-to-goodness improvements from the cheats.

FAKE FLAVOR

It's crisp and scrumptious. But three strips (about an ounce) of ordinary bacon pack 14 grams of fat, five of them saturated, and 455 mg of sodium. That's about one-fifth of a day's (generous) limit for all three.

And as if that weren't enough, tiny amounts of cancer-causing nitrosamines sometimes form in bacon as it's being cooked, probably because of the high temperatures used.

So you can imagine how happy we were to find Lightlife Fakin'Bacon, which contains just one gram of fat, I 1 7 mg of sodium, and no nitrites. Only one problem: except for a few die-hard vegetarians-who may not remember what real bacon tastes like-no one would give it a second bite.

Fakin'Bacon is made out of tempeh (cultured soybeans), so it has a sour taste. You may find that the other flavors in a BLT disguise it, but if you want something to sit next to your pancakes or eggs, keep looking.

BACON IT LIGHT

If they can make bacon out of soybeans, making it out of poultry should be a snap. indeed, an ounce of Armour Turkey Selects Turkey Bacon or Hormel Chicken or Turkey Bacon Breakfast Strips has just two or three grams of fat and less than 240 mg of sodium.

And they taste good, especially Hormel's Breakfast Strips. (Don't peel off the white stuff-it's white chicken or turkey meat, not fat. And don't expect any poultry or soy bacon to cook up crispy. it won't.)

But, as you've probably guessed, you can't assume that all bacon made of poultry is significantly lower in fat (that would make life too simple). Sizzlean Breakfast Strips and Louis Rich Turkey Strips are only 30 to 50 percent leaner than bacon. And Armour Leaner than Bacon isn't any such thing ... unless you eat it raw.

One last tip: Canadian bacon, at one to two grams of fat per ounce, is very lean. (It's cut from a leaner part of the pig.) It's your best bet when eating out. Just keep in mind that it tastes more like ham than bacon.

THE SAUSAGE

JUNGLE

Which has less fat: a Butterball Turkey Smoked Sausage or a Louis Rich Turkey Smoked Sausage? (The Butterball is twice as fatty as the Louis Rich, yet both say "90% fat-free " on the label.)

It's a jungle out there when it comes to sausage packages. That's partly because the USDA allows deceptive "percent-fatfree" claims, and partly because it doesn't always require nutrition labeling, even if a label makes a claim. To make matters worse, sausage is so fatty that cutting half or a third of the fat still leaves lots of grease.

QUICK LABEL RELIEF

Here's a little guide for those awkward moments when you feel a phoney-label-claim headache coming on:

* Pork: Fairbank Farms of Ashville, New York, sells the sausage version of McDonald's McLean Deluxe. It's made of pork mixed with water and a safe binder called carrageenan, and uses a recipe developed at Auburn University. It tastes like the real thing but has less than a fifth the fat. * Poultry/Pork: Jimmy Dean Light, Eckrich Lite, and Hillshire Farm Lite are all made from pork plus turkey or chicken. That cuts the fat almost in half, but it's still too greasy to be good for you. * Pbrk/Rice: Ditto for Jones Dairy Farm's Light Links, which add rice to their pork.

*Poultry: By making Polska Kielbasa, Smoked, and Breakfast Sausage out of turkey, Louis Rich ends up math about as little fat as Fairbank Farms' pork-plus-carrageenan mixture. The turkey does have nitrites and more sodium, but if you prefer poultry to pork, its taste is surprisingly authentic.

* Soy: Lightlife Tofu Lean links, SoyBoy Soysage, and Morningstar Farms all make meatless sausages. But only Morningstar's Breakfast Links passed our taste test. Too bad they've got MSG and more fat than the leanest meat sausages (granted, it's less saturated).
COPYRIGHT 1991 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes comparative nutritional information
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:790
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