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The best wurst of the hot dogs, sausage, and bacon slim down.

When was the last time you heard health experts urge people to eat more sausage, hot dogs, or bacon? Just as we thought.

Traditionally, those meats have been conveniently wrapped packages of salt, saturated fat, and preservatives. Tasty, yes. But not exactly tops on the hit parade of healthy foods.

In recent years, a handful of brands have trimmed much of the fat and some of the salt. Even so, when it comes to sausage, sometimes the only way to dodge both is to switch from pork to chicken-feta-spinach-garlic-mesquite-mango.

Here's a quick guide to meaty and meatless hot dogs, sausage, and bacon.

Grab the Gobble

If you just glance at the label, bacon doesn't look so salty.

Most brands have 200 to 300 milligrams per serving. But that's for only 1/2 ounce (1 or 2 slices). We used a more-realistic one-ounce serving.

For less sodium but no less genuine bacon flavor, try Jennie-O Turkey Store Extra Lean Turkey Bacon (280 mg of sodium in two slices) or Oscar Mayer Louis Rich Turkey Bacon (360 mg of sodium--just above our cutoff).

For even less sodium, try Wellshire Farms Uncured Turkey Peppered Bacon. Each substantial strip has just 180 mg of sodium, no saturated fat, and just 20 calories. Like other uncured turkey bacons we sampled, it tasted more like Canadian bacon or pastrami than ordinary bacon, but it's still delish.

Less Fatty Franks

Trying to skip the saturated fat in hot dogs? Don't grab a package of Hebrew National Reduced Fat Beef Franks. They may have "25% less fat than USDA data for beef franks," as the label promises, but that's still 5 grams--a quarter of a day's worth--of saturated fat.

Instead, look for Hebrew National 97% Fat Free Beef Franks. They've got just 1 gram of sat fat (and 370 milligrams of sodium), yet manage to deliver that garlic-and-paprika kick that kosher hot dog fans crave.

If that's not you, try Healthy Choice Low Fat Franks (made with turkey and pork) or Ball Park Bun Size Smoked White Turkey Franks, though both have a tad too much sodium for an Honorable Mention.

We wouldn't waste our mustard on any of the meatless dogs we tried. But if you don't mind a frank that smacks of turkey, Shelton's (frozen) Uncured Turkey Franks are worth a bun.

Lite, All Right

"50% fewer calories," says the label on Bob Evans Express Lite Sausage Links. "60% less fat than USDA data for cooked pork sausage."

You'd never know it. Bob manages to infuse his Lite links with the same juiciness and subtle sage flavor that you'd get in fattier pork sausage. Who would guess that each link delivers just 40 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, and 120 milligrams of sodium? (The package gives numbers for a two-link serving.) Makes you wonder why Bob doesn't can the fatty stuff altogether.

If you live outside of Evans country (the East Coast), look for Armour Brown 'N Serve Lite Original Sausage Links. Link for link, they pretty much match Bob's numbers.

Just steer clear of Jimmy Dean 50% Less Fat Original Pork Sausages, which are no better than many regular pork sausages.

Nouveau Sausage

Sausage ain't what it used to be. Thanks to companies like Al Fresco, Bilinski's, Gerhard's, Hans' All Natural, Applegate Farms, Trader Joe's, and Wellshire Farms, you can choose from chicken or turkey sausages flavored with everything from spinach, apple, and sundried tomato to tequila, cognac, chipotle pepper, and more. At two or three ounces per link, you get a perfectly portion-controlled serving of protein to pair with your bun, soup, rice, or pasta.

Hans' All Natural's succulent Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Chicken Sausage, for example, has no nitrites, no MSG, no added sugars, and no growth stimulants or hormones. (It does use a pork casing, though.)

Caution: the calories and other numbers on sausage Nutrition Facts panels may make it tricky to figure out what you're eating. The Wellshire Farms (fabulous) Turkey Andouille Sausage label, for example, gives calories, sodium, etc., for a two-ounce serving, even though each link weighs three ounces.

And don't assume that all upscale sausages are good for you. Each Emeril's Gourmet Sun-dried Tomato Smoked Chicken & Pork Sausage has 8 grams of saturated fat and 1,030 mg of sodium.

Gourmet shmourmet.

Pig Out

One way to skip the saturated fat in sausage is to skip the meat.

Boca, Garden-burger, and Morningstar Farms all sell meaty-tasting meatless breakfast patties and/or links. (Yves, on the other hand, seems to have forgotten what real meat tastes like.) Our favorite: Morningstar Farms Veggie Breakfast Sausage Patties.

Just remember that the sodium is no longer low if you go back for seconds. Suddenly, the 270 mg of sodium in Morningstar's rather small (1.3-ounce) patty leaps to 540 rag, way beyond Best Bite territory.

The information for this article was compiled by Tamara Goldis.
COPYRIGHT 2005 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 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:healthy foods
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Previous Article:Fish for thought.
Next Article:Makin' bacon.

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