Nutrition Action Healthletter
July/August 1998 — U.S. Edition

LOWER-FAT
Hot Dogs, Bacon, & Sausage
THE BEST OF THE WURST

By Jayne Hurley & Bonnie Liebman


Bacon, hot dogs, sausage—some of the worst foods you can eat. Or at least they used to be.

The folks at Healthy Choice, Oscar Mayer, Hormel, and elsewhere have gotten religion. They’ve figured out that there’s a market for processed meats with far less fat. And, in some cases, they’ve even cut the sodium. It’s hard to find a big processed-meat maker that doesn’t sell a lower-fat or lower-salt version of its hot dogs, bacon, or sausage.

And the plain truth is: The stuff that doesn’t taste good tastes terrific. Anyone who’s still buying fatty meats has probably never given their lower-fat cousins a whirl.

That’s not to say that lower-fat bacon, hot dogs, and sausage are the foundation of a healthy diet. Most are still loaded with sodium.

And to play it safe, women who are pregnant shouldn’t eat a steady diet of hot dogs, bacon, or sausage that’s cured with sodium nitrite (check the label). Several studies have found a higher risk of brain tumors in children whose mothers ate cured meats frequently, but the evidence is uncertain.

"The studies haven’t asked about the whole diet," says Greta Bunin, an epidemiologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. "So cured meats may be an indicator of a high-fat diet or a lack of something found in fruits and vegetables or who knows what. Until we have studies that look at the whole diet, we won’t know."

The bottom line: Processed meats aren’t perfect foods. But when you want a BLT, something to grill on the backyard barbecue, or a sausage to spice up your dinner, at least now you’ve got plenty to pick from.

Bacon

Meat processors can’t seem to resist challenging our label-reading skills. Maybe that’s why a serving of Louis Rich Turkey Bacon, which has five grams of fat, appears to be only slightly better than a serving of Oscar Mayer (pork) Bacon, which has six grams.

The trick is that a serving of Louis Rich, like all turkey bacons, is a whole ounce of bacon before you fry it. In contrast, a serving of Oscar Mayer, like all pork bacons, is half an ounce of bacon after you’ve cooked it up.

Confused? Here’s all you need to know: Ounce for ounce, even the fattiest turkey bacon has only a third the fat of regular pork bacon.

Just keep in mind that low-fat or fat-free turkey bacon is more likely to taste like corned beef or Canadian bacon (a leaner cut of pork) than ordinary pork bacon. The exception: Jennie-O Fat Free. If it weren’t quite so chewy, you’d swear you were eating the real thing.

If you want the flavor and texture of real bacon—but not the 13 grams of fat per ounce—you’ll have to spend four or five grams of fat on your turkey bacon. Mr Turkey, Louis Rich, and Butterball are all ringers for the fatty stuff, especially Butterball (maybe because it contains rendered bacon fat).

Whatever turkey bacon you use, just make sure your BLT (with low-fat mayo and whole wheat toast, of course) doesn’t go beyond two strips. Otherwise, if the fat don’t getcha, the sodium will. Think of bacon as a condiment that adds flavor to your lettuce and tomato sandwich.

Hot Dogs

It may not make your hands greasy, but an ordinary two-ounce hot dog has 16 grams of fat, seven of them saturated.

Why bother with regular hot dogs when we found nine companies that make franks with no more than two grams of fat (and four of them keep the sodium from topping 480 mg)?

We’re not talking "lite," "lean," or "reduced-fat" franks, which typically have half the fat of regular dogs—still too much. We’re not talking soy or veggie dogs (though we will in an upcoming issue).

And we’re not necessarily talking chicken or turkey dogs. Mr Turkey Jumbo or Bun Size Franks may claim to have "331/3% less fat." But that’s still 11 grams of fat you don’t need. Wampler Foods Chicken Franks and Jennie-O Jumbo Turkey Franks also pack more than ten grams.

Low-fat and fat-free franks are now a dime a dozen. Here’s our take on the Best Bites:

Sausage

Forget claims like "lean" or "50 percent lower in fat." Instead, look for sausages that are "low-fat," "fat-free," or "97 percent fat-free." Here are our Best Bites:

Polska Kielbasas and Smoked Sausages from Eckrich (Fat Free), Louis Rich, and Mr Turkey were all delicious, but missed our fat or sodium cutoff.


On the Links

Since sausages and hot dogs can range from small to large, we’ve ranked the foods in each category from lowest to highest percent of calories from fat. That lets you compare the meat, independent of the size of the piece you eat. Some companies only give numbers for their products before they’ve been cooked. We’ve listed those in italics.

"Best Bites" have no more than 45 percent of calories from fat and no more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Best Bites

Bacon
(number of strips in 1 oz. of bacon or 2 oz. of Canadian bacon)
Calories Fat
(% of cals.)
Fat
(grams)
Saturated
Fat
Sodium
Jennie-O Fat Free Turkey Bacon# (2) 40 0 0 0 260
Jennie-O Extra Lean Turkey Bacon# (2) 40 23 1 0 260
Yorkshire Farms Uncured Turkey Bacon# (2) 40 23 1 0 360
  Oscar Mayer Canadian-Style Bacon (2) 50 27 2 1 620
Shelton’s Turkey Breakfast Strips# (2) 50 36 2 1 420
  Hormel Canadian Style Bacon (2) 70 39 3 2 640
  Armour Turkey Selects Turkey Bacon# (1) 40 56 3 1 200
  Mr Turkey Maple Turkey Bacon or Turkey Bacon╣# (2) 60 60 4 2 300
  Louis Rich Turkey Bacon# (2) 70 64 5 2 360
  Butterball Turkey Bacon (2) 60 75 5 2 330
  Swift Premium Sizzling▓ (1) 70 77 6 3 230
  Bacon, pork, typical (1) 130 93 13 5 170
  Hot Dogs (weight of one dog) Calories Fat
(% of cals.)
Fat (grams) Saturated Fat Sodium
Ball Park Fat Free (Beef Franks or Franks)╣ (2 oz.) 50 0 0 0 460
  Butterball Fat Free Franks# (1 oz.) 40 0 0 0 490
  Oscar Mayer Free Hot Dogs (2 oz.) 40 0 0 0 490
  Jennie-O Fat Free Turkey Franks# (2 oz.) 40 0 0 0 520
  Ball Park Fat Free Smoked White Turkey Franks# (2 oz.) 40 0 0 0 530
  Eckrich Fat Free (Beef Franks or Franks)╣ (2 oz.) 50 0 0 0 570
  Hormel Fat Free (Beef Hot Dogs or Hot Dogs)╣ (2 oz.) 50 0 0 0 590
Healthy Choice▓ (2 oz.) 60 23 2 1 430
Empire Kosher Turkey Franks# (2 oz.) 50 27 2 1 320
Hebrew National 97% Fat Free (2 oz.) 50 27 2 1 440
  Hillshire Farm Lean & Hearty Roast Turkey Hot Dogs# (2 oz.) 80 56 5 2 650
  Eckrich Lite (Bunsize Franks or Franks)╣ (2 oz.) 110 57 7 3 480
  Ball Park SmartCreations Lite (Beef Franks or Franks)╣ (2 oz.) 100 63 7 3 630
  Louis Rich (Bun-Length, Cheese Franks, or Franks)╣ (2 oz.) 90 64 7 2 540
  Gwaltney Great Dogs (Chicken)# (2 oz.) 140 64 10 3 730
  Hillshire Farm Lean & Hearty Hot Dogs▓ (except Roast Turkey ) (2 oz.) 80 65 6 3 610
  Oscar Mayer Light (Beef Franks or Wieners)╣ (2 oz.) 110 65 8 4 610
  Butterball Bun Size Franks# (2 oz.) 130 69 10 3 600
  Shelton’s Smoked Uncured Turkey Franks# (3 oz.) 200 72 16 5 800
  Mr Turkey (Cheese Franks or Franks)╣# (2 oz.) 110 74 9 3 540
  Hebrew National Reduced Fat (2 oz.) 120 75 10 4 350
  Mr Turkey (Bun Size or Jumbo Franks)╣# (2 oz.) 130 76 11 3 670
  Jennie-O Jumbo Turkey Franks# (2 oz.) 130 76 11 4 600
  Shelton’s Uncured Franks (Chicken or Turkey)╣# (1 oz.) 80 79 7 2 350
  Jennie-O Turkey Franks# (1 oz.) 80 79 7 2 360
  Wampler Foods Turkey Franks# (2 oz.) 90 80 8 3 430
  Frankfurter, beef, typical (2 oz.) 180 81 16 7 580
  Wampler Foods Chicken Franks# (2 oz.) 120 83 11 3 480
  Breakfast Sausages
(number of links or patties in 2 oz., unless otherwise noted)
Calories Fat
(% of cals.)
Fat (grams) Saturated Fat Sodium
Jimmy Dean 97% Fat Free (1/4 pkg.—3 oz.) 90 20 2 1 410
Healthy Choice Links or Patties╣ (2) 50 27 2 1 300
Yorkshire Farms Morning Maple Turkey # (1) 70 45 4 0 280
Shady Brook Farms Turkey# (2) 80 45 4 2 480
  Wampler Foods Turkey Links# (1 link—3 oz.) 110 49 6 2 440
  Perdue Links# (2) 100 54 6 2 450
  Bob Evans Country Lite Links (3) 120 60 8 3 350
  Swift Premium Brown ’N Serve Lite Original (3) 120 60 8 3 410
  Mr Turkey# (1/6 pkg.—3 oz.) 130 62 9 3 460
  Jimmy Dean 50% Less Fat Turkey & Pork (1/6 pkg.—3 oz.) 180 70 14 5 500
  Swift Premium Brown ’N Serve Turkey Sausage# (3) 140 71 11 3 380
  The Turkey Store Links and Patties╣# (2) 140 71 11 3 400
  Jones Dairy Farm Brown & Serve Light (2) 110 74 9 3 280
  Jennie-O Breakfast Lover’s Turkey Sausage# (2) 130 76 11 3 330
  Shelton’s Turkey Breakfast Sausage╣# (1) 140 80 13 4 320
  Sausage, pork & beef, typical (4 links or 2 patties) 210 82 20 7 440
  Multiple-Serve Dinner Sausages
(2 oz., unless otherwise noted. Portion of a link is in parentheses)
Calories Fat
(% of cals.)
Fat (grams) Saturated Fat Sodium
  Eckrich Fat Free (Polska Kielbasa or Smoked Sausage)╣ (1/4) 60 0 0 0 510
  Butterball Fat Free (Polska Kielbasa or Smoked Sausage)╣# (1/4) 60 0 0 0 680
Healthy Choice (Polska Kielbasa, Beef Smoked Sausage, Smoked Sausage, or Tomato Basil Sausage)╣ (1/3) 70 19 2 1 480
  Hillshire Farm Lean & Hearty 97% Fat Free▓ (1/7) 70 19 2 1 560
  Hormel Light & Lean 97 Low Fat Smoked Sausage (1/6) 60 30 2 1 640
Yorkshire Farms Turkey Polska Kielbasa# (1/6) 60 45 3 2 390
  Louis Rich Turkey Polska Kielbasa or Turkey Smoked Sausage╣# (1/4) 90 50 5 2 490
  Mr Turkey (Polish Kielbasa or Smoked Sausage)╣# (1/4) 90 50 5 3 600
  Butterball Lean (Polska Kielbasa or Smoked Sausage)╣ (1/4) 100 57 6 2 570
  Louis Rich Turkey Sausage▓# (1/5 pkg.) 120 60 8 3 430
  Eckrich Lite Smok-Y Links (2 links—2 oz.) 100 63 7 3 530
  Hillshire Farm Lite Smoked Sausage (1/8) 110 65 8 4 530
  Eckrich Lite (Polska Kielbasa or Smoked Sausage)╣ (1/4) 120 68 9 3 570
  Eckrich Lite Country Sausage (1/4 pkg.—3 oz.) 170 69 13 5 430
  Single-Serve Dinner Sausages
(weight of 1 link)
Calories Fat
(% of cals.)
Fat (grams) Saturated Fat Sodium
Bilinski’s Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato# (2 oz.) 90 40 4 2 340
Shady Brook Farms Italian Turkey # (3 oz.) 110 41 5 2 480
Yorkshire Farms Turkey Andouille or Dinner Links╣# (2 oz.) 70 45 4 0 360
Bilinski’s Chicken with Spinach# (2 oz.) 80 45 4 1 320
Bilinski’s Chicken Italian Style with Peppers & Onions▓# (2 oz.) 90 45 4 1 330
Wampler Foods Hot Italian Turkey# (3 oz.) 120 45 6 2 480
  Wampler Foods Italian Turkey# (3 oz.) 120 45 6 2 520
Hans Spicy Italian Chicken# (3 oz.) 140 45 7 2 480
Hans Turkey with Bacon, Cheese & Mushrooms (3 oz.) 140 45 7 3 440
  Perdue Italian Sausage▓# (3 oz.) 110 49 6 2 500
  Bilinski’s Chicken with Jalape˝o# (2 oz.) 90 50 5 2 330
  Hans Chicken or Turkey Sausage▓ (except Bacon, Cheese & Mushrooms, and Spicy Italian) (3 oz.) 140 51 8 2 430
  The Turkey Store Lean▓ (3 oz.) 140 53 8 2 610
  Hillshire Farm Gourmet Chicken & Turkey Sausage▓# (3 oz.) 170 55 10 4 560
  Aidells Chicken or Turkey Sausage▓ (4 oz.) 210 67 15 5 700
  Ball Park SmartCreations Sausage▓ (2 oz.) 130 69 10 2 580
  Sausage, pork, Italian, typical (3 oz.) 310 81 29 10 670
  Shelton’s Turkey Italian Sausage# (2 oz.) 160 90 16 5 310

Best Bite. # 100% poultry.
╣ average of the products listed. ▓ average of the entire line.
Products and numbers in italics are for uncooked meat.

Source: Manufacturers and USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

The use of information from this article for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without written permission from CSPI.

Nutrition Action Healthletter