6 Healthier Bacon Alternatives That Taste As Good As The Real Thing

You don't have to enjoy these bacon alternatives in moderation—have at it!

September 8, 2017
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Duck bacon
Photograph courtesy of dartagnan.com

Bacon, oh bacon: The classic breakfast staple dates back to the Roman Empire, yet somehow it still manages to get trendier by the minute. Not only does it draw adoring crowds to bacon festivals and bacon-themed restaurants, but it's now featured in just about every type of product, including bacon gum! 

Bacon doesn’t receive the same fanfare from health experts, though. It’s less popular than ever with nutritionists since the World Health Association deemed processed meat—any type of meat that’s been treated in some way (like salting, curing, or fermentation) for preservation—as a carcinogen, AKA something that causes cancer, in 2015.

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In fact, when 22 experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies, they found that eating 50 grams of processed meat daily (about four strips of bacon) increases the risk of colon cancer by 18%. Even more, red meat in general may increase risk of colorectal, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. (Here are 10 things cancer experts do to avoid getting the disease.)

Instead, try one of these six bacon alternatives—and keep the rest of your body just as happy as your taste buds.

Tempeh bacon
1/6 Sheridan Stancliff/Getty Images
Tempeh bacon

This meatless alternative is made from thinly cut strips of tempeh that are marinated in a sweet and savory sauce, then cooked on the stovetop like regular bacon. A cousin of tofu, tempeh is a fermented food made with whole soybeans, which provide a good dose of fiber, vitamins (like B6, a nervous system protector), and bone-strengthening magnesium. (Here's why you're probably not getting enough magnesium, and how to fix that.) It’s also a good source of complete protein with all eight essential amino acids—those that cannot be made by the body.

Try it: You can find tempeh bacon in the produce or dairy aisle at your supermarket (one brand to look for: Lightlife Organic Fakin' Bacon Tempeh Strips), or slice and marinate your own with this irresistible recipe from Simple Vegan Blog. Eat it with your morning eggs or tuck it into a better-for-you BLT sandwich.

Related: 7 Must-Buy Groceries If You're Trying To Eat Less Meat

Turkey bacon
2/6 Brian Yarvin/Getty Images
Turkey bacon

Take note: This option isn’t quite as healthy as the more veggie-driven bacon alternatives on this list because it’s still processed meat. However, turkey bacon is at least a better choice than the regular kind because it’s a white meat, not a red meat, and is lower in calories and fat (turkey bacon has 4 g saturated fat per serving compared to pork bacon’s 8 g).

Try it: There are plenty of turkey bacon options at grocery stores, but we especially like Greensbury's organic kind ($10, greensbury.com), which is Certified Humane and Non-GMO Project certified. Pair your turkey bacon with a big serving of veggies, like leafy greens, and try to limit the number of strips you eat. This recipe for Spinach and Mushrooms with Turkey Bacon fits the bill!

Eggplant bacon
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Eggplant bacon

What if eating your veggies was just as easy as eating bacon? With eggplant bacon, it can be. Eggplant is a rich source of antioxidants, fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and phytonutrients, all of which can help protect heart health. It also contains a chemical called nasunin, which may increase blood flow to the brain.

Try it: Though you won't find this one in stores yet, it's easy to make. Simply roast sliced eggplant in a savory-sweet sauce (think smoked paprika, maple syrup, and Worcestershire) at 225 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes, or until crispy. For a full recipe, check out Minimalist Baker’s take on this smoky, crispy snack.

Related: 6 Ways To Add Smoky, Meaty Flavor To Your Meals Without Using Bacon

Duck bacon
4/6 Photograph courtesy of dartagnan.com
Duck bacon

Okay, so maybe duck isn’t the first thing you think of when you imagine everyday morning grub. But like turkey, it can provide a non-red-meat alternative to pork bacon with less fat and a unique twist. Just keep in mind, like turkey bacon, it’s still technically processed meat—so you’ll want to munch in moderation.

Try it: Made from smoked duck breasts, duck bacon doesn’t get very crispy, so wrap it around asparagus, Brussels sprouts, shrimp, or other hors d’Oeuvres to elevate your party food game. One kind to try: D'Artagnan Uncured Smoked Duck Bacon ($15, dartagnan.com).

Mushroom bacon
5/6 boblin/Getty Images
Mushroom bacon

Just like eggplant, mushrooms can be roasted to crispy perfection. Even more, mushrooms provide the savory “umami” flavor that bacon does, without all the unwanted saturated fat. Plus, they’re a great source of metabolism-boosting B-complex vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Research has found certain compounds in the shiitake mushroom may even have anticancer effects.

Try it: Simply marinate fresh shiitake mushrooms in soy sauce and cook on the stovetop or in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until crispy. Check out this shiitake bacon how-to from The Delicious Life, then sub your creation into one of these eight bacon recipes for weight loss.

Tofu bacon
6/6 by [D.Jiang]/Getty Images
Tofu bacon

Although it is more processed than tempeh, tofu can still be a healthy alternative to traditional bacon. It’s rich in protein with all eight essential amino acids, and a good source of calcium and iron to boot. (Here are the 20 highest protein veggies and other plant-based foods you can eat.)

Try it: You’ll need a steady hand to cut very, very thin slices of tofu—otherwise, it won’t get crunchy like bacon. Marinate slices in a blend of Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, soy sauce, and just a touch of maple syrup for flavor before cooking in a skillet. Check out Eat Within Your Means for a full recipe.

The article 6 Healthier Bacon Alternatives You Need To Try originally appeared on Prevention.

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We hope you enjoy the products we're recommending as much as we do! Just so you know, Organic Life may get a share of sales from the links on this page.
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