When I saw the advertisement for Jack in the Box’s Bacon Shake, I had to know what was really inside. Do they actually blend up bacon and ice cream?  As with the 21 ingredients in McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, I’m finding a trend with fast food menus. They give you a simple description of what’s in the product, but don’t actually tell you the ingredient list without some serious digging. Case in point. When you look up the Bacon Shake, here is what you see:

Bacon Shake
Made with real vanilla ice cream, bacon flavored syrup, whipped topping and a maraschino cherry.

While the descriptions sounds fairly simple and straight forward, there are some early warning signs. First, is the “bacon flavored” bit. If it really contained bacon, it would tell you so. Second is the “whipped topping.”  This is not to be confused with whipped cream as they are entirely two different things. Third, we’re all aware that no cherry is that candy-red in nature, so be assured you’re about to consume some red dye.

Here is the full ingredient list for the Jack in the Box Bacon Shake…all 48 of them:

Ice Cream Shake Mix Milk – Cream, Sucrose, Skim Milk, Corn Syrup, Whey, Stabilizer (Sodium Caseinate, Cellulose Gum, Mono-and Di-glycerides, Disodium Phosphate, Non-Fat Dry Milk, Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Sodium Citrate, Polysorbate 65, and Dextrose), Artificial and Natural Vanilla, Annatto Extract.
Milk, Cream, Sucrose, Skim Milk, Corn Syrup, Whey, Stabilizer (Sodium Caseinate, Cellulose Gum, Mono- and Di-glycerides, Disodium Phosphate, Soy Protein Concentrate, Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Sodium Citrate, Polysorbate 65, and Dextrose), Natural and Artificial Vanilla, Annatto Extract.

First off, it is interesting to note that they have two formulas for their ice cream shake mix. They are mostly the same other than a few swaps with the milk/cream and non-fat dry milk/soy protein concentrate ingredients. Both are loaded with stabilizers, gums and thickening agents, making the “real” vanilla ice cream claim pretty much a farce in my book. I guess the real part is the the fact that milk or cream is the first ingredient?

Bacon Syrup - Pure Cane Sugar, Water, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Salt, Sodium Benzoate And Potassium Sorbate

Where’s the bacon? I suppose the bacon essence is coming from either the natural or artificial flavors. Just in case you were worried about the imitation bacon juice going bad, it has two preservatives to keep it nice and fresh. No crumbled bacon on this baby.

Maraschino Cherry – Cherries, Water, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, FD&C Red #40, Sulfur Dioxide.

Good ole’ maraschino cherries. What would a milkshake be without one? Well for one thing, you’d skip the added corn syrup, sugar, petroleum-derived red dye, and three different types of preservatives. Oh wait, that was 6 things.

Whipped Topping WaterPartially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Sugar, Contains less than 1% : Sodium Caseinate, Polysorbate 60, Mono and Diglycerides, Artificial Flavor, Sorbitan Monostearate, Disodium Phosphate, Hexaglyceryl Distearate, Carrageenan, Beta Carotene (color), Propellant: Nitrous Oxide.

What happened to old fashioned whipped cream? You know, the stuff made from just cream? To compare, real whipped cream contains heavy cream and perhaps a bit of sugar. Whipped topping on the other hand, has 12 ingredients, the first being partially hydrogenated oil (aka – trans fats). Additionally, it only contains only one ingredient, Sodium Caseinate, that is even derived from milk, at less than 1% mind you.

If this massive ingredient list wasn’t enough, the regular 16oz Bacon Shake will set you back 773 calories (about a third of what you should have in a day), packs in a whopping 75 grams of sugar (way more than anyone needs in a day), and a lovely 2 grams of trans fats (always avoid all trans fat from processed foods). Don’t even think about the 24oz version…those numbers are just plain obscene.

Apparently, Jack in the Box was not the inventor of the bacon-y desert as Denny’s has their own Bacon Maple Sundae (is this seriously a trend?). If you just have to have a bacon shake, blend up premium REAL vanilla ice cream (the type that has less than 5 ingredients) and some uncured bacon (which is generally free from added sodium nitrates, but always check the ingredient list for sodium nitrate, MSG, coloring, and sweeteners), preferably from a local farm .  You can even top it off with real whipped cream (bonus points if it is raw cream). Yes, this is still loaded with sugar and is by no means “healthy,” but at least it’s a less-processed dessert free from unwanted additives and chemicals.


Image: theimpulsivebuy via Flickr. Screenshot  from the Jack-in-the-Box website. All nutrition and ingredient information sourced from the Allergen & Ingredients pages from the Jack in the Box website.