Years ago, some furious online detractor of low carb diets threw at me the accusation that I ate “pork rind cake.” This is not true. I have never eaten a cake made from pork rinds, and had never heard of such a thing till the accusation was made. And though she subsequently posted a link to a recipe, that is the only time I have ever heard of pork rind cake in my near-decade on a low carb diet.
However, the discussion illustrated one thing: Pork rinds are near-symbolic of a low carb diet to many people. Many people also dismiss pork rinds as the worst possible junk food, and therefore cite the fact that low carb diets allow pork rinds as evidence that this is a freakishly unhealthy way to eat.
But are pork rinds so unhealthy? And how do they compare to other options?
It’s no surprise that 1 ounce of plain pork rinds has no carbohydrate. But you may be surprised to learn that pork rinds have almost twice as much protein as they do fat. You’ll get 8.8 grams of fat, and 17 grams of protein, almost as much as three eggs! 155 calories. All of this makes pork rinds quite satisfying – a 1 ounce bag should keep you full for hours.
More surprising, over half the fat in pork rinds is monounsaturated – 4.1 grams of the fat in pork rinds are monounsaturated, 3.3 grams are saturated fat, and just one gram is polyunsaturated. Since we have learned that many polyunsaturated oils are pro-inflammatory, this is good news.
By comparison, 1 ounce of potato chips has almost the same calorie count – 152 calories – with 15 grams of high-impact carbohydrate. They have 9.8 grams of fat — a gram more than the pork rinds – and just 1.98 grams of protein. All this adds up to a predictable blood sugar roller-coaster – and the hunger that comes with it.
Potato chips have less monounsaturated fat than pork rinds – just 2.7 grams. The saturated fat content is nearly the same, at 3.1 grams. Chances are good, as well, that they’ve been fried in pro-inflammatory vegetable oil. All of this adds up to pork rinds being a healthier and far more filling snack choice than potato chips.
How about other snacks? Corn puffs have 15.3 grams of carb, with only 2.15 grams of protein. They contain 9.8 grams of fat, and 157 calories. You knew these weren’t a healthy snack, right? Pretzels have been touted as a healthier alternative, because they’re low fat – but they have 22.5 grams of carb in one ounce, all of it from refined white flour. Only 2.6 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat; you’ll be hungry again very soon.
Nuts and seeds make good low carb snacks, with plenty of healthy fats, protein, and minerals, and fiber that pork rinds lack. But if you’re keeping your carbs to “induction” levels – 20 grams a day or less – pork rinds are a better choice.
So despite their reputation, pork rinds are a perfectly respectable food, offering more in the way of nutritional value and hunger satisfaction than most things that come in cellophane bags.
That being said, plain pork rinds are not one of my favorite things. You can find barbecue flavored rinds, but read the label, some are carby. You can also flavor rinds yourself. Add cheddar cheese powder (you can order this through Amazon.com) and shake up the bag for “Chee-fauxs.” And if you miss sweet, cinnamon-y, crunchy things like cinnamon graham crackers, try this: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon with 1/4 cup of granular Splenda, add to a bag of pork rinds, and shake. These are remarkably good.
Aside from their value as a filling and reasonably nutritious low carb snack, pork rinds serve another purpose in low carb cuisine: They make great crumbs. Dump a bag of pork rinds in your food processor with the S-blade in place and run it for a few seconds, and you’ll have pork rind crumbs to use in place of bread crumbs for coating foods, or use in meat balls and meat loaves. Keep them in the fridge! Both plain and barbecue flavored pork rind crumbs come in handy.
When I originally wrote this article several years ago, I included a meat loaf recipe, but it called for Carb Countdown, now Calorie Countdown, and not generally available. However, I have a new pork rind recipe, and it’s wonderful. You’re not going to believe this: Pork rind cookies.
The first time I tried this idea, the whole time I was I was thinking “Have I gone right out of my mind?” But they were not just good, they were delicious, and they’re super-quick and easy and way low carb to boot. You have got to try these!
- 1 package Nevada Manna Sugar Free Chocolate Chips, or 8 ounces sugar-free semi-sweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
- 5 ounce bag plain pork rinds
Put your chocolate and peanut butter in a microwaveable bowl, and stick ’em in your microwave. Nuke for a minute on high.
In the meanwhile, coat a 9×13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray, or line it with wax paper (my preference.)
When the microwave beeps, stir up the chocolate and peanut butter, and stick them back in for another minute on high.
Poke a hole in your bag of rinds to let the air out, and smash ’em all over with your fists. You want to break them up into small chunks. Dump your smashed rinds into a big mixing bowl.
Your microwave beeped again! Pull out your chocolate and peanut butter, make sure they’re melted and thoroughly stirred together, then dump the mixture over your smashed rinds, using a rubber scraper to make sure you get all the chocolate/peanut mixture. Stir the whole thing up till your rinds are coated evenly, dump the mixture in your prepared pan, and press it out into an even layer. Stick the whole thing in the fridge, and chill for an hour or two. Then cut into bars.
You can transfer these to a cookie tin if you like, or just leave them in the pan in the fridge. Either way, keep them refrigerated, unless your house is a lot cooler than mine!
I cut mine in 24 bars; each has: 113 Calories; 7g Fat; 5g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 1 g usable carb.
© 2010 by Dana Carpender. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.