Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Bacon Scale

The Bacon Scale
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Bacon is not a health food.

While that's not exactly rocket science, and a fact I sincerely hope doesn't shock anyone, the nutrition of many restaurant dishes just might. Rather than spew out lists of numbers and charts of saturated and trans fats as percentages of total calories by weight, or any of the other common methods of compiling "diet bibles", the Eating Well subsite on Huffington Post has created a rather ingenious, visual tool that measures a meal not by numbers, but in strips of bacon. It is only a tiny set of offerings right now (and only US-based chains), but it's getting enough press and Twitter buzz that I predict it will soon be expanding.

In the meantime, you can calculate your meal's equivalent in fatty rashers of pork yourself, provided the restaurant you choose has the nutritional information available (as all American chains must now legally provide). A single strip of bacon has 43 calories, 3-4 grams total fat (1.1 grams saturated), 9 milligrams cholesterol and 196 mg sodium. A bit of basic division later, and pretso - your dinner on the bacon scale.

In case you were wondering - a KFC Double Down (while not making any health claims) has 13 strips to it's name - an average of all the data. Vegetarian options don't automatically earn a "health" claim either, as the 7-strip worthy Cappellini Pomodoro from Olive Garden demonstrates. By going the vegetarian route (and eschewing the cheesey items) when dining out, though, you can save yourself almost a day's worth of cholesterol and a lot of saturated fat - but if what you choose is cream, butter and cheese filled (such as anything alfredo) or deep fried (hello, vegetable tempura!) grilled chicken or even a small piece of steak is the better way to go!

How many strips of bacon did you eat tonight? Do you have a favourite restaurant meal that you enjoy no matter what the caloric cost?

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition