04/08/2011 07:29 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2011

How Many Slices of Bacon Does Your Dinner Equal? 3 Restaurant Shockers

By Hilary Meyer, EatingWell Associate Food Editor

The last hotel I stayed in had an awesome breakfast buffet. Yogurt, fruit, granola, eggs, bacon... you name it, they had it. And like a consciously healthy eater, I loaded my plate with fruit and yogurt and daintily added 2 strips of bacon.
Even though I work as an associate food editor at EatingWell Magazine, and spend a great deal of time in our test kitchen developing healthy recipes, I can't deny my love for bacon. But seeing the white juicy veins of fat running between the layers of "meat" and curling up around the ends of each glorious strip tells me that bacon is something to enjoy in moderation. That's why when we develop recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen that use bacon, we use it sparingly.

I've got bacon's nutritional profile memorized: 1 medium strip of bacon has 43 calories and 1.1 grams of saturated fat. I also am aware that the American Heart Association recommends limiting intake of saturated fats to less than 7 percent of daily calories. (That's 16 grams, if you're consuming 2,000 calories.) That's because saturated fats raise levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol in the blood, damaging the heart and arteries, triggering inflammation that may eventually leading to a heart attack or stroke. Hmmm. That bacon's not looking so good after all.

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Fast-forward a couple of hours and I'm starving. My husband and I ended up at Chili's and he suggested splitting an order of the Shiner Bock BBQ Ribs. Not that I thought ribs are a health food, but I was shocked to learn that a full order of those succulent ribs has 1,750 calories and 29 grams of saturated fat. So, if I were to order and eat that dish by myself, it would have the same amount of saturated fat as 26 strips of bacon. I could have cleared out the entire tray of bacon at breakfast for what I would have gotten from those ribs. (By the way, I ended up ordering salmon.)

That got me thinking how funny it was that I would never consider having more than 2 strips of bacon on my plate at breakfast, but I would certainly (unknowingly) entertain the thought of eating a dish that had the saturated fat equivalent of 15, 20, even 30 strips of that smoky goodness. So like some people carry around tip calculators, I'm carrying around my own mental bacon calculator--that is, I'll be figuring out how many strips of bacon fit into the meal I want to order and if the answer results in a giant heap, I think I'll pass and look for something better. Or better yet, make it healthier at home.

Here are some menu items at a few popular restaurants and how much bacon you'd have to eat to get the same amount of saturated fat, plus some healthier alternatives and recipes you can make at home.

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How Many Slices of Bacon Does Your Dinner Equal? 3 Restaurant Shockers

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By Hilary Meyer, EatingWell Associate Food Editor 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.