One of the most popular street foods in Europe, the traditional doner kebab is made by marinating cubes of meat overnight before slow-roasting them on a vertical skewer. The calories in a kebab vary depending on the type of meat used, but is it really healthy?
Most modern takeaways opt for the cheaper minced version, the “elephant foot”, which typically includes meat with fatty trimmings, processed oils, and fillers such as flours. That is why this dish can be high in calories.
What is a kebab?
Although Döner Kebabs are famous throughout Europe, their origins go back to Turkey. It is a traditional Turkish dish, and they are normally consumed in a common way. In addition, they have influenced the gyros of Greece and the shawarmas of Lebanon.
The kebabs are marinated with spices (yogurt is sometimes used to tenderize the meat) and slowly cooked on a rotating vertical spit, over a period of time. Lamb, fish, beef and chicken are meats that are often used to make kebabs; however, vegetarian versions using mushrooms or tofu are also available.
Baked or grilled and served on skewers, kebabs are a hearty, high-protein meal. They can also be served alongside bulgur, a popular Middle Eastern whole grain that is rich in minerals and low in fat and calories.
The nutritional statistics are shocking. An average kebab contains around 2,000 calories , 80% of the recommended daily intake, and almost double the salt needed. Kebabs contain cooking fat equivalent to a glass of wine, which is one of the reasons a kebab provides 130% of your daily allowance for artificial trans fat, even before we’ve added the sauces.
However, calories vary depending on the type of kebab we have chosen. The most famous versions are: chicken, lamb or vegetarian.
A 100-gram serving of chicken kebab contains 79 calories and 14.57 grams of protein. Calories in homemade chicken kebab will differ depending on which part of the chicken is used.
Chicken kebabs are low in fiber, fat, and carbohydrates, with a 100-gram serving having just 0.99 grams of fat, 0.7 grams of fiber, and 1.99 grams of carbohydrates. They also contain minerals such as iron and sodium, and trace elements such as vitamin C and vitamin A.
In a lamb kebab we can find up to 223 calories per 100-gram portion. These are higher in fat, providing 14 percent of the RDA for fat and 36 percent of the RDA for cholesterol. Compared to chicken kebabs, lamb kebabs offer more protein: a 100-gram serving has 33.7 grams, or 67% of the daily dose, which is more than double the amount of protein in a chicken kebab .
Additionally, lamb skewers are a good source of zinc, a mineral required by the body for blood coagulation and protein synthesis. It is also high in vitamin B12, which contributes more than 114 percent of the RDA of this essential vitamin for producing red blood cells and ensuring the proper function of the body’s nervous system.
Vegetarian kebabs have the fewest calories, with a 100-gram serving made with mushrooms, onions, zucchini, and bell peppers containing just 24 calories . Vegetable kebabs are also low in protein and fat content. However, they are good sources of minerals like potassium.
How to make it healthier?
Kebabs can be high in fat. For a healthier option, we will opt for a shish kebab, which is a skewer with whole cuts of meat or fish and is usually grilled.
Many think they are a healthier fast food option because they are not fried and include bread and salad. However, meat does contain fat and the amount will vary depending on the meat used. The best quality ones use lamb fillet, which has around 10-15% fat. Kebabs made from minced lamb often have a higher fat content, closer to 20-25% fat. The chicken ones use thighs and breast with skin. The best way to find out what’s in the kebab you’re going to order is to ask what meat they use.
When we choose kebabs, we will ask for a salad, we will choose the dressings carefully, since they can increase the amount of fat and kilojoules, and we will ask for chicken meat instead of minced meat.
It is recommended to follow some recommendations for an increase in calories. In this case, it doesn’t matter how damaged we are by alcohol after a night out. It is convenient to choose healthy versions to recover:
- Empty: we can change a kebab for chicken shish. This is an option with more protein, less fat, and fewer dodgy extras.
- More salad: Stringy vegetables will help fill us up and provide us with additional nutrients. With any luck, we’ll be too full to eat the remaining pita bread.
- Avoid the garlic sauce : The traditional yogurt-based version is getting rarer these days; most of the time it is replaced with cheap mayonnaise which is high in calories and bad fats.
- Healthier Options : Shish kebab with pita bread and salad, and no cheese or mayonnaise.
- Small size : it is advisable to choose a size according to hunger and the amount of food we need. If the kebab is the last meal of the day and we are not very active, a small size is recommended. We will enjoy the flavor, but without exceeding the calories.