Kebabs have a widespread but somewhat unfair reputation as being unhealthy because of their meat and fat content, and because they are often known as a late-night food.
But while some of those concerns are understandable, it’s worth noting there is a distinctive factor that sets kebabs apart from other fast foods: it always comes with a large salad.
Although a meat-based dish, doner kebabs are synonymous with vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage.
Serving kebab in Britain with pitta bread makes kebab much healthier than fried fast food such as chicken and fish, and some kebab varieties such as shish are even recommended by the NHS.
This makes kebabs slightly healthier than other fast food dishes in the eyes of government policies that encourage vegetable consumption in the UK. Interestingly, some experts argue that kebabs encourage the consumption of otherwise obscure choices like red cabbage.
Kebab’s origins in Mediterranean cuisine mean that grilled kebab varieties such as meat and chicken skewers have been attracting more attention with the increasing popularity of the Mediterranean diet, which has become synonymous with healthy nutrition in recent years.
Indeed, kebab and its varieties are so widely seen among Mediterranean countries like Turkey and Greece that there a debate about its origin.
Not recommended vegetable consumption in the UK
According to the charity The Food Foundation, British people have been eating more vegetables in recent years, but still have a long way to go before becoming a truly veg-eating nation.
The charity’s report Veg Facts 2021m which looks at how much the UK is eating, shows that only 33% of adults and just 12% of 11–18-year-olds currently achieve the recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption target.
Public Health England’s (PHE) recommended quantity, as indicated in the Eatwell Guide, is actually closer to 7-a-day (554 g).
Others suggest we should be eating even more, with the EAT Lancet commission suggesting up to 11-a-day, with between 2.5 and 7.5 portions of that coming from veg.
The report also suggests that salad, tomatoes, carrots and peas remain the most commonly eaten vegetables in the UK.
Other vegetables including homemade dishes are the greatest contributor to vegetable intake for both adults and children, although this may simply be because the group includes such a large number of different items, from boiled and stir-fried veg to homemade meals where vegetables are the main component.
There are nearly 1.3 million portions of doner kebabs being sold by static and mobile vendors every day, meaning that hundreds of thousands of Britons consume a significant amount of vegetables every day along with their kebab.
And the kebab has adapted to British sensibilities too: a salad contains not just traditional vegetables such as tomatoes and lettuce, but red cabbage and in some places even potato.