Who doesn’t love a barbecue? It’s a sign that summer has arrived, the days are getting longer and the evenings warmer.
Wherever we are in the world, barbecue season is a special time of year – in the US Memorial Day often kicks things off, in Europe the grills tend to start firing up in June, while in the UK, there’s a national barbecue week at the start of July. And of course, down under in Australia, any time is barbie time.
It’s one of the fun traditions we all look forward to. The sun is out and supermarkets are packed with products that fly off the shelves, from seasoning rubs and sauces to snacks and refreshing drinks.
A barbecue would not be complete without some of the mouth-watering classics – hot dogs or sausages smothered in ketchup, mustard and relish, burgers topped with melted cheese, potato salad made with creamy mayo, and ribs dripping in barbecue sauce.
While few would disagree that these are the ingredients for a perfect barbecue, there’s a catch. They might well be totally delicious, but they may also contain hidden health dangers.
Could your barbecue be a salt bomb?
Let’s take a close look at the four favourites mentioned above that make a typical summer cookout special, starting with that rack of ribs dripping with barbecue sauce.
While the ribs themselves are low in sodium, the sauce that we like to smother them with increases the sodium content significantly. An ounce of barbecue sauce contains about 265 milligrams of sodium, which soon adds up if you brush on several layers of barbecue sauce as your ribs cook.
Then there are barbecue sausages and hot dogs. Many shop-bought hot dogs contain 500 milligrams or more of sodium, which is nearly a quarter of the daily maximum. And that’s before we’ve added our favourite condiments and a roll to hold it all. And then, we all know how hard it is to stop at just one.
And what about burgers? A barbecue simply isn’t a barbecue without them, especially when they’re grilled to perfection and covered in gooey melted cheese. Although beef is relatively low in sodium, processed cheese slices can contain up to 400 milligrams of salt per ounce. And remember – most burger recipes call for added salt – as much as 920 milligrams for a 4 oz patty.
Once we grab our chosen burger or hot dog, the sodium keeps coming in the form of those delicious sauces. Ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard remain the most popular condiments, and chances are your ideal BBQ lunch just wouldn’t be complete without at least one of them. While recipes vary, ketchup is the saltiest of the three, will about 160 milligrams of sodium in each tablespoon.
With high levels of sodium in many processed meat products, some health-conscious consumers may reach for a plant-based alternative. Unfortunately, plant-based products can contain even more sodium.
Potato salad is another barbecue staple and, again, this carries a surprisingly high amount of sodium. Just a cup of it has an astonishing 1322 milligrams – considerably more than half the daily maximum.
And that summer favourite, Greek salad with tasty feta. Seems like a fresher healthy option. The fact is, though, feta cheese contains an extremely high level of sodium, and that’s before the salad dressing is added.
Similarly to those high-sodium plant-based alternatives, you’re likely to get just as much salt when you swap the potato chips for one of those “healthy” snacks. Many of the popular alternatives to crispy potato snacks are made with colourful root vegetables, chickpeas, or lentils. Unfortunately, many ‘healthy’ snacks contain more sodium that standard potato chips.
Sodium. It all adds up.
Let’s look at a few examples of what this means in practice.
In a typical cookout, your plate could easily look something like this: two barbecue sausages, with ketchup and mustard. Plus a small serving of potato salad. Total Sodium Content Approx. = 2532mg
Another plate might well hold the following selections: a serving of pork ribs with a seasoning rub and barbecue sauce, a small serving of potato salad and a handful of potato chips with some dip. Total Sodium Approx. = 3052mg
And here’s a classic plate containing a couple favourites: a hamburger, with cheese, ketchup, mayo, a hamburger bun, a small serving of feta salad and a portion of potato chips. Total Sodium Content Approx. = 3242mg
As mentioned earlier, plant-based burger patties can contain higher sodium concentrations than meat. But what about that popular vegetarian option, grilled halloumi? If you choose a halloumi burger on a brioche bun, with ketchup and mayo and a potato salad side, you may be surprised at the amount of sodium ingested, approx. = 3072mg
In most cases at a BBQ, each person’s plate contains more sodium than the total daily limits set by the WHO, Public Health England and the American Heart Association. The much-loved barbecue is a real salt bomb.
So how can you help your consumers to have a healthier barbecue without ruining the flavour experience? By using natural ingredients with less sodium, but with exactly the same taste they’ve come to expect.
A healthier barbecue
Manufacturers of Barbecue essentials, such as sauces, seasonings, marinades, rubs, coatings, condiments, chips, dips and processed meats (including of course plant-based BBQ meats) and are now recognising the need to reduce sodium in their barbeque lines, and other products. Some work proactively with sodium reduction already, but many do not.
The challenge they face is to achieve salt and sodium reduction without affecting flavours or function of their products. Consumers know what they like and react unfavourably to any change in the taste of a brand they’re loyal to.
Simply dosing less salt isn’t a viable option because consumers make their feelings known and sales suffer. So, what’s needed is something healthier to replace it with.
The smart and simple clean label salt reduction solution, and one which in terms of flavour and function, is impossible to differentiate from salt, is Saltwell. Saltwell contains 35% less sodium compared to traditional salt used processed food. And functions just the same.
Saltwell is an all-natural form of sea salt, sourced from an underground sea below the Atacama Desert. When the mineral-rich water evaporates, a unique grain is formed, offering all the function and sensory advantages of salt with none of the high sodium drawbacks.
A simple 1:1 replacement using Saltwell provides the same taste but with significantly less sodium. It’s natural, smart and efficient. And when used in BBQ food lines is guaranteed to make everyone’s plate much healthier, without having to compensate on taste or function.
For those actively involved in reducing sodium and improving foods, whether it be R&D, NPD, Sales, Marketing or just a curious food technologist, they can get samples of Saltwell.