Is there such a thing as a healthy sausage? Brooke Longfield separates the links for a closer look.
Got a soft spot for snags? It’s hard to dislike the friendly fellas who help us fundraise at sizzles and fill kids’ bellies at the barbie. Still, we can’t deny that sausages can be the bad boys of the menu. We love their flavour, but our bodies don’t love their fat and salt. So is it a health sin to eat sausages? Not if you follow our guide!
Under the skin
You hear countless alarming stories about what’s squeezed into a sausage skin, but many of them are myths. Traditional sausages are made from pork or beef mince and an edible filler or binder, which can be anything from breadcrumbs, potato starch or flaked rice to wheat flour, rice flour or gluten-free flour. Various kinds of herbs, spices and other flavourings are then added, along with preservatives.
The sausage skin itself comes in two types. Natural casings are made from the lining of sheep, cow or pig intestines, but cheaper sausages usually have collagen casings made from the processed hides of pigs or cattle.
Less is more
The nutritional profile of every sausage is different, because every banger is a mixed bag. (In fact, some people even call them ‘mystery bags’!) As a general rule, those with the fewest ingredients are your healthiest options, so check ingredients lists carefully so you can choose wisely.
Take your lead from Australian Dietary Guidelines, which recommend that we view sausages and other highly processed meats, such as ham and salami, as ‘sometimes’ foods and to eat them only in small amounts. (High intakes of processed meats are linked to colorectal cancer.)
Trim the fat
The leanest sausages are less than 5 per cent fat. Many varieties are around 15 to 18 per cent fat, but some traditional sausages from your local butcher can be as high as 20 to 30 per cent fat. The problem with fatty sausages is that up to half of that fat can be the saturated kind that can raise your risk of high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.
Look for flavour-rich lean and reduced-fat varieties. Brands that fit the healthy-snag bill include Woolworths Macro Wholefoods Market, Coles Simply Less and Peppercorn Food Company.
Shake the salt
Sausages that are high in fat also tend to be high in salt, delivering a double whammy to your health. Always check the labels’ nutrition information panel, which you’ll find on any sausage packet at the supermarket. Look for the Heart Foundation Tick, too, or find a brand with less than 600mg of sodium per 100g serve.
Happily, delis, supermarkets and butchers now stock a swag of healthier sausages, such as lean, extra-lean, gluten-free, soy-free and even vegetarian snags. Here are your best bets:
Though traditional beef and pork remain the most popular sausage meats, you can also find lamb, chicken, turkey, venison and even kangaroo versions. The higher a sausage’s percentage of meat, the better its quality, so choose those with more than 70 per cent.
Beef, pork or lamb-flavoured sausages
If you spot a sausage sporting a label that says beef flavoured, it’s likely to have less meat than you’d find in a traditional sausage. This label can also mean it contains a blend of meats, such as beef, lamb and pork. This kind of snag is often much cheaper (think 2kg bulk-buy packets!), but leave it in the fridge in favour of a quality sausage.
Gluten-free options are plentiful. Peppercorn Food Company offers a wide range of extra-lean varieties that are also free of gluten. If you prefer to buy from your butcher, ask whether he makes gluten-free sausages in a specially reserved area to avoid contamination.
Looking for a delicious meat-free alternative? You can now choose from several soy-based bangers, such as Sanitarium Vegie Delights and Bean Supreme Vegetarian Sausages. Thanks to Quorn, you can even find soy-free snags, so you’ll have more than enough options for a vego sausage sizzle!
Both butchers and supermarkets have caught on to the demand for gourmet sausages. Forgo fatty types, such as chorizo, in favour of healthier takes on the traditional sausage, such as low-fat Kanga Bangas. They’re the perfect snags for a healthy Aussie barbie!