Are Sausages Healthy?
Are Sausages Healthy?
This week I launched our brand new slow cooker mix additions and one of these is devilled sausages. An old school comfort food meal. I got quite a few questions on sausages which are all valid.
Like so many aspects of nutrition it is never a straight forward or clear cut answer. This is because when we look at a meal or food we are not just assessing it purely based on its nutritional composition alone. One of the key, repeated messages through nutrition research is the need for sustainable practices. What is sustainable needs to take into account more than just simple nutrients - it includes cost, preparation, practicality of eating (this is paramount with babies and toddler right!) and also enjoyment, among other variables.
Short Cut Answer
My simple takeaway answer here (for those tired parents) is that I feed my boys sausages, I eat them myself and have included sausage recipes in my books, along with now creating a 'specific-sausage' inspired slow cooker mix. I select the highest quality sausages I can (more below) and would have them on average once a week or every two weeks in among other protein sources.
For a more detailed answer....read on.
What is A Sausage?
Understanding exactly what a food is and what it normally is made up of can help. A sausage is a meat product made using ground meat, encased in a skin and will typically also include herbs, spices, salt, a filler or binder (such as wheat, rice or flout) and possibly preservative.
Sausages will range in meat volume between approximately 60-90%. The ground meat used can be beef, chicken, pork or venison. In vegetarian sausages soy is often used as a non-meat alternative. The higher quality the sausage is normally based on how much ground meat is used compared to the fillers and/or preservatives. We want to aim for a high meat percentage ideally around 75-80%.
A food which is around 70-80% ground meat, it is fairly nutritious. It is obviously not the same as eating meat in its whole form, such as steak, for example. However this still means it provides important nutrients such as protein, iron (especially those using ground red meat), B12 and fat. In both my books The Nourished Baby and The Nourished Toddler I talk about the benefits of fat including saturated fat. There is considerable debate at the moment around the volume of meat we should be having - this is probably a blog in itself in order to do the topic justice. What I will say is that I see all too often woman getting nowhere near their protein requirements, and that toddlers can also struggle a lot with meat and high iron foods. In my critical assessment of this debate, I believe there are a lot of individual factors that need to be taken into account and the blanket 'low recommend amounts of meat' is potentially doing more damage to vulnerable populations like toddlers and women who need, and are at risk of low intake of, adequate protein and iron.
This is an important consideration with sausages especially in terms of a meal that is sustainable for families:
- Sausages tend to be budget-friendly. I can get 1.5kgs of high quality venison sausages from Gilmores for around $22.00. That is about $1/sausage and the boys will eat two-three. Sometimes I will also go to our local butcher or get more quality ones from the supermarket.
- They are simple to prepare and eat. Cooking for a family is an unrelenting task. It also requires us to actually cook. I know for many cooking for their children is often the first time they really start to cook properly and are learning on the job (like so many aspects of parenting!).
- Toddlers will often be more inclined to eat meat in this form. It is also soft and most will be able to feed themselves. As a side note I made the devilled sausages one day after school recently (it's a fast slow cooker option) and it turned out to be life saving when Ray who is dropping his last nap literally fell asleep at the bench - being hand-free to gently cuddle him back awake and have dinner all good to go saved the night!
Sausages are a nutrient dense protein option for the family as part of a weekly meal plan with other high iron sources. Where possible aim for high quality ones that ideally have around 75-85% meat or higher. Watch for fillers and additives, especially if there are certain dietary requirements for the family. In terms of sodium intake, it is our ultra-processed foods we really want to watch for such as two-minute noodles which contain more sodium in one packet than a grown adult should have at the upper limit in one day.
Do check out my new slow cooker mixes - these are all for meals that are high in iron, fat and vegetables.
For more help on baby and toddler feeding do check out my events schedule as well for upcoming virtual events and food shows happening!
x Dr Julie