How to Cook Amazing Healthy Recipes with Bacon

How to Cook Amazing Healthy Recipes with BaconBy Hilary Meyer, Associate Food Editor, EatingWell Magazine

It's hard to deny that bacon possesses some magical qualities. It regularly gets people out of bed in the morning, it converts vegetarians to meat eaters. In fact I'm having a hard time writing this blog because all I can think about is bacon's intoxicating aroma. Everything about bacon--its smoky perfume, its salty, yet subtly sweet bite--screams "Eat me! Eat lots of me!" But here's where the fairy tale ends. If you sit down to a plate full of bacon, you will probably die. Okay, maybe not. If you sit down to a plate full of bacon, you will probably regret it.

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That's because though bacon does have its virtues, being a health food isn't one of them. Downing a 3-ounce portion of bacon will set you back 460 calories and 36 grams of fat. Like so many good things in life, we have to learn to use bacon in moderation. And, lucky for us, bacon is so powerful that using just a little bit goes a long way. Here are three of my favorite recipes with bacon and a few tips on how to enjoy bacon responsibly:

1. Use it as a garnish
Instead of having it take up real estate on your plate, treat bacon more as a garnish like we do here in this delicious New England Clam Chowder. Sprinkling bacon on top of the soup not only makes the soup look good, but it also gives it the appearance that there is TONS of bacon per serving (when really there is just a little) which helps you feel satisfied.

2. Keep your portions reasonable
A good rule of thumb for a reasonable portion size of bacon is about half an ounce per person. That's about one thick slice per person, which comes in at around 61 calories and 5 grams of fat. In this BLT Salad recipe, we actually use less than that--about three slices for four people. Why? It doesn't need more than that because we chop it up finely so that it's distributed throughout the salad. Plus the salad dressing helps carry the flavor of the bacon so there's no need to pile it on.

3. Get rid of unnecessary fat
How you cook bacon influences how healthy it is in the long run. The healthiest way to cook bacon is to cook it until crispy (but not burned), which allows the most fat to melt off, then drain it on a paper towel or brown paper bag to remove even more fat before consuming.

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4. Buy bacon that has a big, bold, smoky flavor
Bacon has a taste (mostly salty), but it also has an aroma (that nice subtly smoky smell). In this Slow-Cooker Stout and Chicken Stew, a small amount of bacon is cooked into the stew. There's not a lot of it, but you can smell the smokiness in each bite. Now if you buy and taste different bacons you'll notice that there's quite a bit of difference in terms of how smoky they are. Try double-smoked or cob-smoked bacon: you can use less of it for a bigger flavor impact.

What are your favorite bacon recipes?

By Hilary Meyer

Hilary Meyer

EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.


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