Sausage is a beloved breakfast food, and many of us have fond memories of enjoying sausage links or breakfast sausage patties. However, in the last few decades, consumers have been focusing more on the healthiest types of sausage.
Traditional pork sausage is loaded with fat and flavor enhancers, which is largely why sausage tastes so good. Also, some of the ingredients that are used to make traditional sausage contain cancer-causing nitrates.
These nitrates have been linked to several different types of cancer. Is there a way to enjoy sausage without wrecking your health?
A more health-conscious society has demanded healthier foods, and the meat industry has responded. Now, you can find healthy sausage types and brands that are just as delicious as traditional sausage but with less fat, sodium, and harmful additives (not to mention all the vegan sausage options).
How to Choose Healthier Sausage
Dietician Sarah Mirkin suggests that if you enjoy sausage, consider sausage as a treat rather than a dietary staple. Mirkin recommends having sausage once every couple of weeks at most.
When looking for a healthy sausage type, choose the ones that are low in sodium and minimally processed.
One way to do this is to make your own homemade sausage, but you can also do some research to find the healthiest types of sausage in the grocery store.
Here are some things to look for when shopping for healthier types of sausage:
- Short ingredients list: Healthier sausage should contain only a few ingredients that include vegetables, high meat content, and natural casing.
- Lower sodium content: Because sodium is linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular risks, choosing sausage with a lower sodium content can help you stay within the recommended range of less than 2,000 milligrams per day.
- Reduced saturated fat content: Healthy sausage should have less than 5 grams of sodium per serving.
Also, you can find sausage that is compliant with various diets, including Whole30, keto, paleo, sugar-free, and gluten-free. As with any processed food, it’s all about reading the labels. The fewer ingredients listed, the healthier the sausage.
Healthy Types of Sausage
These are the healthiest types of sausage, ranked in order of how healthy they are.
1. Chicken and Turkey Sausage
There are several brands of chicken and turkey sausage on the market, and you can safely add this sausage to your diet without sabotaging your healthy eating plan. The key is to look for turkey sausage or chicken sausage that doesn’t contain nitrates.
A serving of pork sausage has between 23 and 38 grams of fat. In terms of calories, you can add 290-455 calories to your daily intake with a serving of pork sausage. That’s a huge chunk of your daily eating. And that’s not even taking into account how much sodium pork sausage has.
With turkey sausage and chicken sausage, you’re getting a delicious meaty treat with a fraction of the fat and calories that come with pork sausage.
According to nutritionist Robin Miller from Healthy Eats, a serving of turkey or chicken sausage has between 7-10 fat grams and 140-160 calories.
Turkey and chicken sausage also typically have much less sodium than pork sausage, but keep in mind that even the healthiest sausage types have a lot of sodium. That’s why it’s best to enjoy sausage as an occasional treat instead of an everyday food.
You can use turkey or chicken sausage in soups, casseroles, stews, and even stir-fries. Also, consider adding ground chicken or turkey sausage to meatloaf and spaghetti sauces to add more flavor to your recipes.
2. Blood Sausage
To Americans, the term “blood sausage” sounds unpalatable at best. However, this type of sausage is actually considered to be a superfood that’s right up there with broccoli, kale, and spinach.
According to the BBC, the reason blood sausage is considered a superfood is that it’s rich in minerals such as iron and zinc.
Also called black pudding, blood sausage is filled with cooked or dried animal blood that’s mixed with fillers such as oatmeal and barley to create a thick meat mixture. Once it’s cooled, this mixture becomes sausage.
Although blood sausage is rich in nutrients and protein, it still has a lot of sodium, so it’s not a good choice for eating every day.
You can also find vegan or vegetarian blood sausage, but you’ll have to look pretty hard to find it.
Kielbasa is a Polish sausage, and it’s usually made with a combination of pork and beef, or just pork.
Even when made with beef and pork, three ounces of kielbasa has about the same calorie count as chicken sausage.
However, it does have about 15 grams of fat, which is almost twice the amount of fat in chicken sausage.
4. Hot Dog
Believe it or not, the good old American hot dog made our list of the healthiest types of sausage. While not exactly a healthy choice, you can enjoy some brands of hot dogs without destroying your healthy eating routine.
Keep in mind that unless you’re choosing a super healthy hot dog or corn dog brand, you still need to read the labels carefully and consider chicken or turkey hot dogs.
Most hot dogs have about 150 calories and the same sodium amount as kielbasa. However, one hot dog has about 3 more grams of fat than a kielbasa and not nearly as much protein.
Sausage Types to Avoid
If you’re eating a healthy diet, there are some sausage types to avoid (except as a very rare treat). The good news is that you can find healthier versions of these three popular sausages.
Look for chorizo, bratwurst, and Italian sausage made with turkey or chicken.
A popular ingredient in Mexican food recipes, chorizo is loaded with fat, with 38 fat grams per serving.
Bratwurst is made with veal and pork, so they’re similar to pork sausages. With bratwurst, you’re getting 35 grams of fat and 400 calories for every serving. Even worse, a serving of bratwurst has a whopping 1,000 grams of sodium.
Italian Pork Sausage
The nutrition facts for Italian sausage are similar to bratwurst. While a serving of Italian pork sausage has 16 grams of protein, it is also loaded with fat and calories.
Gluten-Free Sausage Brands
If you’re following a gluten-free diet, you can find several different sausage brands that will accommodate your lifestyle.
All of the companies on this list have gluten-free certified products. Moreover, these companies also closely monitor gluten cross-contamination.
- Al Fresco
- Aidells Sausage Company
- Banquet Brown ‘N Serve
- Bass Farm
- Hebrew National
- Niman Ranch
- Jones Dairy Farm
- Wellshire Farms
FAQs about the Healthiest Types of Sausage
Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the healthiest types of sausage.
Is there a healthy type of sausage?
We recommend turkey sausage or chicken sausage as a healthier alternative to pork or beef sausage.
While no sausage can be considered a health food, you can enjoy sausage as an occasional treat as long as you choose a brand (or make your own homemade version) that is lower in fat, calories, and sodium.
Also, be sure to find sausage that is nitrate-free because nitrates are linked to cancer.
What is the best kind of sausage to eat?
If you want to add sausage to your diet and favorite recipes, use chicken sausage or turkey sausage that is free of nitrates and lower in fat and sodium.
Is chicken sausage healthier than pork sausage?
Chicken sausage is much healthier than pork sausage because it has about half the calories and nearly a third of the fat. In terms of sodium, chicken sausage is high in sodium (like all sausage), but it typically has less sodium than pork sausage.
Is there a heart healthy sausage?
Most red meats have a higher concentration of saturated fat, which increases your risk of heart disease. For a heart healthy sausage, consider a plant-based sausage or sausage made from pork loin, chicken, or turkey.
Which sausage has the least fat?
For a sausage that is lower in fat, choose chicken sausage or turkey sausage. Plant-based sausage is also an excellent low-fat option.