This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.
The following is part of an Organic Journey Guest Post Series, written by Amy a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.
First off, I have to take back every nasty thing I ever said about warehouse clubs. We have been members of Costco for less than a month now, and I have to say, I have been blown away. Are they perfect or perfectly healthy? No, of course not, but they have so many healthier options at just base line good prices. One thing that I am finding as I move towards more of a whole foods menu for the family is that my shopping patterns are changing. I am far more aware of what the price per pound of pears are than I have ever been (they are in season now), and I am finding myself going to stores that have quality produce at the best price since that is the bulk of my grocery shopping. So yeah, I’m a Costco fan. Just had to get that off of my chest. Now, time to talk turkey.
If I am standing in the meat section and see turkey bacon or pork bacon, I automatically think, “The turkey is healthier, but the pork probably tastes better.” The more I journey though, the more I am seeing that appearances can be deceiving. Want to evaluate turkey bacon, sausage, hot dogs and pepperoni with me? Here we go.
As I started researching and reading dozens of ingredients listed in both pork and turkey products, I realized that many of the issues that plague pork products also plague turkey versions of those goodies. Turkey bacon still has nitrites (whether chemically added or found in natural additives like celery powder). Both types can have tons of chemicals added to them to create their flavor or can be found with real food ingredients. You can get sausage with soy fillers and BHT, regardless of whether it is turkey or pork, and you can get it without. The big deal about turkey versus pork comes down to sodium and saturated fat.
Now, I’m not going to dive fully into the whole fats controversy right now. That’s a topic for another day. Here’s the brief version. Normally, turkey renderings of a pork product will have less saturated fat than the pork version. Here are some opposing viewpoints to ponder. My dad, who just had quadruple bypass surgery and goes to one of the leading cardiology groups in Atlanta was told to limit his daily saturated fat intake to prevent his arteries from clogging up again. The flipside, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition did a study with over 300,000 participants on saturated fat and heart disease and determined that, “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) or CVD (cardiovascular disease).” (italics are added by me) So yes, when I tackle fats we will look more into that; but if you are looking to limit your saturated fat intake, go with the turkey.
If you are looking to lower your salt intake you should read the labels! I read in several places that typically, but not always, pork products have less salt than their turkey counterparts. This is another time when label reading is essential because everywhere I looked, I found the opposite to be true. Applegate’s turkey bacon has 200 mg of sodium for 28 g of bacon whereas, their pork bacon has 580 mg of sodium for 28 g of bacon. Their reduced sodium pork bacon has 400 g of sodium for 28 g. When you look at their sausage though, there is less salt in the pork than the turkey. Good grief! Could it be any less clear?
I have yet to see a healthy pepperoni in my stores, but for those of you with a food dehydrator, I’ve got a great recipe for a yummy pepperoni replacement. (And believe me, it is yummy. There are many healthy alternatives that I give to my family that I find personally disgusting, but this one even passed my picky eater tastes.) I got this recipe from a Bread Beckers’ class. You are going to thinly and evenly (for dehydration purposes) slice 2-3 zucchinis. Marinate these overnight in a light, but thorough coating of some olive oil, a little bit of salt and about a tablespoon of ground Roasted Red the Pepper Spread. Please make sure to grind the spread, or it won’t turn out well. Don’t ask me how I know. After these have marinated, dehydrate them. When you are ready to make some pizza, just put the pepperoni zucchini directly on the pizza. The zucchini will rehydrate while the pizza is cooking, and it really is a good substitute for pepperoni!
I also learned from Bread Beckers that you can make your own sausage too by just seasoning ground beef. I made sausage balls this way at Christmas, and we were pleasantly surprised. No funky stuff to worry about at all!! We have options to get the flavor we are craving and still make it healthy.
My Takeaways about Eating Processed Meats (like bacon, ham, deli meats, sausage, etc.)
1. Eat it in moderation. Surprisingly, everybody is saying this from Oscar Mayer to Applegate. When I called Applegate about nitrites in processed meats, they sent me an email response that included this, “At Applegate, we maintain a commonsense approach to food. Our philosophy is: ‘Eat Less Meat, But Better Meat.’ Naturally cured meats enjoyed in moderation can be part of a healthy diet.”
2. You’ve got to read your labels. Shocking, I know. And believe me, I get it. I’m shopping with three munchkins most days (one who is a squirmy, loud, two year old boy, need I say more?) and getting through the store with my groceries and sanity intact feels like a major accomplishment. We’ve got to take time to stop and read. If you can’t carve out time to stop and compare ingredients when you are in the store, Google is your friend. You can google whatever brand name and type of product plus the word ingredients, and you will get a list of sites that can help you figure out what is in what you are buying.
3. For those of us who have yet to find a local pig farmer and still want to eat some bacon now and then, let me recommend checking out these two brands: Jones Dairy Farm and Applegate. These might be good baby step options for you. If your store doesn’t carry them, check to see what kinds of options you do have. If you don’t like what you see, kindly ask your store manager if they have ever considered the brands you are looking for. Where there is demand, supply normally rises to the challenge.
From all I have learned about pork which also translates to all processed meats, my baby step is to read more labels and start limiting our processed meat intake.
What brand of sausage, bacon, hot dogs or pepperoni have you found that works for your family and what do you love about it? Or, what is a quick and healthy protein that you serve your family for lunch? I could use your help with ideas!