Can BBQ food ever really be good for you? We review the latest products that seem healthier

As we make the most of the last of the summer warmth, BBQs are on the menu — and the supermarkets are filled with plenty of healthy takes on the traditional offerings. 

We asked Ruth Kander, a dietitian at the Fleet Street Clinic in London, to assess a selection; we then also rated them for taste.

As we make the most of the last of the summer warmth, BBQs are on the menu — and the supermarkets are filled with plenty of healthy takes on the traditional offerings

High in Omega-3 

Waitrose 4 Asian-inspired Salmon Burgers, 360g, £4.25,

Per 100g: calories, 209; saturated fat, 1.9g; protein, 19.1g; sugar, 0.5g; salt, 0.53g

Claim: ‘High in omega-3.’

Expert verdict: These simple burgers are 81 per cent salmon. Pea flakes are used instead of breadcrumbs to give the burgers structure. There are also herbs and spices including coriander, ginger and lemongrass, plus lime juice — and nothing else.

Fish is a healthy barbecue choice as it’s lower in saturated fat than red meat. Oily fish such as 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 portions of fish a week — one of which should be oily. Two of these small burgers will count as a generous portion of oily fish and provide a significant 31.6g protein — about the same as you’d get in a chicken breast — which should keep you feeling full.

The pea flakes, made from dried peas, are a source of fibre (around a tenth of your daily needs in two burgers) and protective antioxidants and minerals. 


Taste test: Powerful lemongrass, ginger and chilli flavours. 7/10

Waitrose 4 Asian-inspired Salmon Burgers

Waitrose 4 Asian-inspired Salmon Burgers

Flexitarian choice 

Heck 60/40 Chicken, Mushroom & Wild Rice Chipolatas, 340g, £3, in selected Tesco stores

Per 100g: calories, 124; saturated fat, 1.3g; protein, 16g; sugar, 1.2g; salt, 1.8g

Claim: ‘Made with 60 per cent meat and 40 per cent veg. High in protein and gluten-free.’

Expert verdict: ‘Flexitarian’ products such as these, where a substantial proportion of the meat content has been replaced with plant foods, are a good idea.

Chicken and plant proteins are useful substitutes for red meat as they are low in saturated fat.

There’s also a good helping of fibre-rich wild rice here, mushrooms, pea flour (a source of protein and fibre) and a little cheese.

Although these don’t contain lots of ultra-processed ingredients, like most sausages these do contain preservatives — and have a high salt content. Three of these sausages provide around 21 per cent 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,

Per 100g: cal ories, 236; saturated fat, 1.5g; protein, 22g; sugar, 7g; salt, 0.35g

Claim: ‘Packed with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. More protein than most beef burgers.’

Tiba Tempeh Smoky Bbq Burgers

Tiba Tempeh Smoky Bbq Burgers

Expert verdict: These burgers are made with tempeh — fermented, cooked soya beans that have been marinated in a simple barbecue sauce.

Soya is one of the few complete vegetable proteins, which means that — like meat — it contains all nine essential amino acids needed for healthy bones and muscles. It also has 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; similar to the quantity in a standard beef burger — so you feel fuller for longer.

Tempeh is a good source of prebiotic fibre, which can help nurture the healthy bacteria in your gut.

There’s a simple list of ingredients, too. The only downside is each burger contains one-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar, some of it added sugar in the sauce. 


Taste test: Good, smoky barbecue sauce flavour. 8/10

High in protein 

Richmond Meat-free Sausages, 336g, £2.70,

Per 100g: calories, 145; saturated fat, 4g; protein, 8.8g; sugar, 0.7g; salt, 1.8g

Claim: ‘High in protein.’

Expert verdict: A diet that is high in processed red meat such as pork sausages and beef burgers, has been linked to a higher incidence of bowel cancer — so these meat-free sausages made with textured soya protein are a good idea. 

Although the maker claims they are high in protein, they have the lowest protein content per 100g of the products here — so are not likely to be as filling.

The first ingredient on the list is water, and there are quite a few processed ingredients. Salt content is high, too. Two sausages have 1.4g — a fifth of your daily limit. 


Taste test: Well-seasoned. 7/10

Reduced fat

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Skinny Beef Burgers, 227g, £2.75,

Per 100g: calories, 150; saturated fat, 1g; protein, 27.1g; sugar, 1g; salt, 0.85g

Claim: ‘Less than 3 per cent fat.’

Expert verdict: These are 33 per cent smaller than a regular Taste the Difference burger. Made with 85 per cent lean beef, gram per gram they also have around 80 per cent less saturated fat.

A burger provides 30.5g of filling protein, substantially more than most other products here. The lower fat content and smaller portion size mean these have half the calories of the regular version, too.

Beef is an excellent source of iron. NHS guidelines suggest no more than 70g of red meat a day — one of these is just over that. The ingredients list is short, but there are a couple of preservatives and you get 13 per cent of your daily salt limit in a serving. 


Taste test: Nice and peppery but a little dry. 6/10

Source of fibre

Heura Chorizo Burgers, 220g, £3.50,

Per 100g: calories, 162; saturated fat, 3.3g; protein, 15g; sugar, 0.9g; salt, 1.1g

Claim: ‘100 per cent plant-based. High in protein, iron and vitamin B12. Source of fibre.’

Expert verdict: These vegan burgers are a mix of soy protein, olive oil, vegetable fibre, flavours and colouring. You’ll get a moderate amount of filling protein — 16.5g — in a one burger. Iron and vitamin B12 have been added, which is good, as these nutrients — vital for healthy red blood cells and energy — can be harder to come by if you don’t eat animal products.

There’s 7.48mg iron per burger — 85 per cent of the recommended daily amount for a man and about half a woman’s — plus almost all your vitamin B12 daily needs.

There’s 5.5g fibre, over a sixth of your daily needs, from the added vegetable fibre. But there’s also about a sixth of your salt limit and a few processed ingredients. 6/10

Taste test: ‘Meaty’ texture but needs more seasoning. 7/10

‘Virtuous meat’

Highland Game Venison Burgers, 227g, £2.80,

Per 100g: calories, 132; saturated fat 1.8g; protein, 18g; sugar, 0.9g; salt, 0.74g

Claim: ‘Lean, gluten-free.’

Expert verdict: These are 66 per cent venison, plus 11 per cent pork, pea and rice flour, seasoning and preservatives. Venison is a lean red meat, with about a sixth of the saturated fat found in beef, a 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 adds saturated fat, but these have a fairly simple ingredients list, a moderate fat content and lower salt and calories than some of the other products. 


Taste test: Robust meaty flavour, with lots of black pepper. 6/10

…And the healthier condiments you can truly relish 

Dietitian Ruth Kander selects five BBQ condiments. We then tasted them.

Hunter & Gather Sriracha Egg-free Mayo 

250g, £4.05,

Per 100g: calories, 656; saturated fat, 10.9g; protein, 0.1g; sugar, 0.5g; salt, 0.83g

Made with 73 per cent olive oil — a heart-healthy fat — and no added sugar or preservatives, this is also free of the top 14 allergens, including gluten. Like most mayos, it’s high in calories from the oil.

Taste: Smooth with a gentle chilli kick.

Sauce Shop Unsweetened Tomato Ketchup 

260g, £2.99,

Per 100g: calories, 61; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 2.69g; sugar, 8.23g; salt, 1.56g

Unlike regular tomato ketchup and burger sauces, this doesn’t contain added sugar. I like the simple ingredients: 87 per cent tomatoes, onion, white grape vinegar, garlic, sea salt and spices — and nothing else. It is quite high in salt, but the amount per tablespoon serving is small.

Taste: Naturally sweet tomato flavour, with a mild spicy tang.

Bay’s Kitchen BBQ Sauce with Smoked Paprika 

275g, £3.95,

Per 100g: calories, 123; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 1.6g; sugar, 24g; salt, 2.1g

This is low in the carbohydrates (known as FODMAPs) that some people with IBS find difficult to digest. The main ingredient, tomato passata, is a good source of the antioxidant lycopene, which protects cells from damage, and this has almost a third less sugar than some BBQ sauces.

Taste: Delicious spicy sauce, packed with smoky paprika flavour.

Bath Culture House Kimchi Ketchup 

Bath Culture House Kimchi Ketchup

Bath Culture House Kimchi Ketchup

250g. £4.59,

Per 100g: calories, 28; saturated fat, 0.1g; protein, 1.5g; sugar, 2g; salt, 1.8g

This is made with raw chopped Chinese cabbage and other vegetables that are fermented, so may be beneficial for gut bacteria (which, in turn, have been linked to a healthier immune system and other benefits). The salt content (the same as regular ketchup) shouldn’t be problematic if portions are kept small. There’s no added sugar.

Taste: Tangy, with ginger and chilli heat.

The Bay Tree Beetroot and Horseradish Relish 

300g, £3.75,

Per 100g: calories, 87; saturated fat, 0g; protein, 0.9g; sugar, 19g; salt, 0.01g

Made with 46 per cent beetroot, this relish is high in nitrites, which may be beneficial for blood pressure. There’s about a third less sugar than in some supermarket relishes and no added salt.

Taste: Deliciously sweet with a hit of horseradish.