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While we make the most of the last summer heat, barbecues are on the menu – and the supermarkets are stocked with plenty of healthy versions of the traditional offerings.
We asked Ruth Kander, a dietitian at the Fleet Street Clinic in London, to review a selection; we also judged them on taste.
While we make the most of the last of the summer heat, barbecues are on the menu – and the supermarkets are stocked with plenty of healthy snacks (pictured) from the traditional offerings
High in Omega-3
Waitrose 4 Asian Inspired Salmon Burgers, 360g, £4.25, waitrose.com
Per 100 g: calories, 209; saturated fat, 1.9 g; protein, 19.1 g; sugar, 0.5 g; salt, 0.53g
Claim: “High in omega-3.”
Expert verdict: These humble burgers are 81 percent salmon. Pea flakes are used instead of breadcrumbs to give structure to the burgers. There are also herbs and spices like coriander, ginger and lemongrass, plus lime juice – and nothing else.
Fish is a healthy barbecue choice because it contains less saturated fat than red meat. Fatty fish like salmon has the bonus of being rich in omega-3 fats, linked to a reduction in heart and inflammatory diseases and some cancers.
The NHS recommendation is that we eat at least two 140g servings of fish per week, one of which should be fatty. Two of these little burgers count as a generous serving of fatty fish and provide a substantial 31.6g of protein – about the same as in a chicken breast – which should leave you feeling full.
The pea flakes, made from dried peas, are a source of fiber (about a tenth of your daily requirement in two burgers) and protective antioxidants and minerals.
Taste test: Powerful flavors of lemongrass, ginger and chili. 7/10
Waitrose 4 Asian-Inspired Salmon Burgers
Heck 60/40 Chicken, Mushroom & Wild Rice Chipolatas, 340g, £3, in select Tesco stores
Per 100 g: calories, 124; saturated fat, 1.3 g; protein, 16 g; sugar, 1.2 g; salt, 1.8g
Claim: ‘Made with 60 percent meat and 40 percent vegetables. High-protein and gluten-free.’
Expert verdict: ‘Flexitarian’ products like these, where a significant portion of the meat has been replaced by plant-based foods, are a good idea.
Chicken and vegetable proteins are useful substitutes for red meat because they are low in saturated fat.
There is also a generous portion of fiber-rich wild rice, mushrooms, pea flour (a source of protein and fiber) and a little cheese.
While these don’t contain many ultra-processed ingredients, like most sausages, these do contain preservatives — and are high in salt. Three of these sausages provide about 21 percent of your daily salt limit.
Taste test: Delicate chicken and garlic flavour. 7/10
Gut bacteria boost
Tiba Tempeh Smoky Bbq Burgers, 200g, £3.49, planetorganic.com
Per 100 g: calories, 236; saturated fat, 1.5 g; protein, 22 g; sugar, 7 g; salt, 0.35 g
Claim: ‘Packed with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. More protein than most beef burgers.’
Tiba Tempeh Smoky BBQ Burgers
Expert verdict: These burgers are made with tempeh — fermented, cooked soybeans marinated in a simple barbecue sauce.
Soy is one of the few complete plant-based proteins, which means that – just like meat – it contains all nine essential amino acids needed for healthy bones and muscles. It also contains useful amounts of vitamin B12 (for red blood cell formation), which can be hard to find if you don’t eat animal products. It’s also a source of protein – 22g in one burger; comparable to the amount in a standard beef burger – so you feel full for longer.
Tempeh is a good source of prebiotic fiber, which can help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.
There is also a simple list of ingredients. The only downside is that each burger contains one and a half teaspoons of sugar, some of which has sugar in the sauce.
Taste test: Good, smoky taste of barbecue sauce. 8/10
High in protein
Richmond Meat Free Sausages, 336g, £2.70, tesco.com
Per 100 g: calories, 145; saturated fat, 4g; protein, 8.8 g; sugar, 0.7 g; salt, 1.8g
Claim: “High in protein.”
Expert verdict: A diet rich in processed red meat, such as pork sausages and beef burgers, has been linked to a higher incidence of colon cancer — so these meat-free sausages made with textured soy proteins are a no-brainer.
While the maker claims they’re high in protein, they have the lowest protein content per 100g of the products here – so they’re not likely to be that filling.
The first ingredient on the list is water, and there are quite a few processed ingredients. The salt content is also high. Two sausages have 1.4 g — one-fifth of your daily limit.
Taste test: Well seasoned. 7/10
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Skinny Beef Burgers, 227g, £2.75, sainsburys.co.uk
Per 100 g: calories, 150; saturated fat, 1g; protein, 27.1 g; sugar, 1g; salt, 0.85g
Claim: “Less than 3 percent fat.”
Expert verdict: these are 33 percent smaller than a regular Taste the Difference burger. Made with 85 percent lean beef, gram per gram they also have about 80 percent less saturated fat.
A burger provides 30.5g of filling protein, significantly more than most of the other products here. Due to the lower fat content and smaller portion size, these also contain half the calories of the regular version.
Beef is an excellent source of iron. NHS guidelines suggest no more than 70g of red meat a day – one of which is slightly more than that. The ingredient list is short, but there are a few preservatives, and you’ll get 13 percent of your daily salt limit in one serving.
Taste test: Nice and peppery but a bit dry. 6/10
Source of fibers
Heura Chorizo Burgers, 220g, £3.50, ocado.com
Per 100 g: calories, 162; saturated fat, 3.3 g; protein, 15 g; sugar, 0.9 g; salt, 1.1g
Claim: ‘100 percent plant-based. Rich in protein, iron and vitamin B12. Source of fibers.’
Expert verdict: These vegan burgers are a mix of soy protein, olive oil, vegetable fibres, flavors and colorings. You get a moderate amount of filling protein — 16.5 g — in a burger. Iron and vitamin B12 have been added, which is good because these nutrients — essential for healthy red blood cells and energy — are harder to come by if you don’t eat animal products.
There’s 7.48 mg of iron per burger — 85 percent of the recommended daily intake for a man and about half a woman — plus almost all of your daily vitamin B12 needs.
There’s 5.5g of fiber, more than a sixth of your daily requirement, from the added vegetable fiber. But there’s also about one-sixth of your salt limit and a few processed ingredients. 6/10
Taste test: ‘Messy’ texture but needs more seasoning. 7/10
Highland Game Deer Burgers, 227g, £2.80, tesco.com
Per 100 g: calories, 132; saturated fat 1.8 g; protein, 18 g; sugar, 0.9 g; salt, 0.74 g
Claim: “Lean, gluten-free.”
Expert verdict: This is 66 percent venison, plus 11 percent pork, pea and rice flour, spices, and preservatives. Venison is lean red meat, with about one-sixth the saturated fat in beef, one-third fewer calories and slightly more protein than other red meats. Venison is also rich in heart-friendly conjugated linoleic acid, iron and B vitamins.
The pork does add saturated fat, but these have a fairly simple ingredient list, moderate fat content, and less salt and calories than some other products.
Taste test: Robust meat taste, with lots of black pepper. 6/10
…And the healthier spices you can really enjoy
Dietitian Ruth Kander selects five BBQ spices. Then we tasted it.
Hunter & Gather Sriracha Egg Free Mayo
250g, £4.05, hunterandgatherfoods.com
Per 100 g: calories, 656; saturated fat, 10.9 g; protein, 0.1 g; sugar, 0.5 g; salt, 0.83 g
Made with 73 percent olive oil — a heart-healthy fat — and no added sugars or preservatives, this is also free of the top 14 allergens, including gluten. Like most mayos, it contains a lot of calories from the oil.
Taste: Smooth with a mild chili kick.
Sauce Shop Unsweetened Tomato Ketchup
260g, £2.99, sauceshop.co
Per 100g: calories, 61; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 2.69 g; sugar, 8.23 g; salt, 1.56g
Unlike regular tomato ketchup and burger sauces, this one contains no added sugars. I like the simple ingredients: 87 percent tomatoes, onion, white grape vinegar, garlic, sea salt, and spices — and nothing else. It contains quite a lot of salt, but the amount per tablespoon is small.
Taste: Naturally sweet tomato taste, with a slightly spicy touch.
Bay’s Kitchen BBQ Sauce with Smoked Paprika
275g, £3.95, hollandandbarrett.com
Per 100 g: calories, 123; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 1.6 g; sugar, 24 g; salt, 2.1g
This is low in the carbohydrates (known as FODMAPs) that some people with IBS have difficulty digesting. Its main ingredient, tomato passata, is a good source of the antioxidant lycopene, which protects cells from damage, and has nearly a third less sugar than some barbecue sauces.
Taste: Delicious spicy sauce, full of smoky paprika flavour.
Bath Culture House Kimchi Ketchup
Bath Culture House Kimchi Ketchup
250 grams. £4.59, bathculturehouse.co.uk
Per 100 g: calories, 28; saturated fat, 0.1 g; protein, 1.5 g; sugar, 2g; salt, 1.8g
This is made with raw chopped Chinese cabbage and other vegetables that have been fermented, so it may be beneficial for gut bacteria (which in turn has been linked to a healthier immune system and other benefits). The salt content (same as regular ketchup) shouldn’t be a problem if the portions are kept small. There is no added sugar.
Taste: Spicy, with ginger and chili heat.
The Bay Laurel and Horseradish Relish
300g, £3.75, thebaytree.co.uk
Per 100 g: calories, 87; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 0.9 g; sugar, 19g; salt, 0.01g
This flavor, made with 46 percent beetroot, is high in nitrites, which can be beneficial for blood pressure. There’s about a third less sugar than some grocery store treats and no added salt.
Taste: Deliciously sweet with a hint of horseradish.