North Colchester Healthcare Centre
North Colchester Healthcare Centre

Just thirty spoonfuls of sugar help lunch go down

November 6 2017

A worrying new survey from scientists based at Queen Mary University London has revealed the extraordinary levels of sugar lurking in lunchtime meal deals from high street chains.

The report, published as part of Sugar Awareness Week, shows that while some high sugar combos are easy to spot, some are less obvious for people seeking a reasonable lunchtime meal.

The combination containing the highest sugar of those surveyed was from W H Smith and included a sandwich plus the option of a Mountain Dew Citrus Blast 500ml drink and a bag of Skittles Crazy Sours. This combination contains a staggering 30 teaspoons of sugar – the same amount as 79 chocolate fingers, according to the group Action on Sugar.

What may be more surprising is the combination of Tesco Smokehouse Pulled Chicken with Mesquite Style Sauce, a Monster Energy drink and Mars Duo, which also contains 30 teaspoons of sugar, while the almost-healthy sounding Co-op Meal Pot of Blackbean Pulled Beef & Noodle, with a Rockstar Blueberry Pomegranate Acai drink and Rocky Road Bar, comes in at 28 teaspoons of sugar (and 855 calories).

Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of meal deal drinks sold at Morrisons were high in sugar compared to 38 per cent at Marks & Spencer, which offers the lowest percentage of high sugar drinks. Many of the drinks sold as part of meal deals were 500ml – twice of an average single serving.

Action on Sugar says we eat too much of what are called ‘free sugars’. These are mainly sugars which have been added and provide excess calories with limited nutritional value. Nutritious foods and drinks, such as fruit and milk, contain naturally occurring sugars: these should not be confused with the free sugars as they are surrounded by nutrient-packed food such as cheese, plain yoghurt and the natural sugars in cereal, grains, nuts and seeds.

Tips from Action on Sugar for choosing healthier meal deals:

  • Using the Food Switch UK app to find healthier choices. By scanning the barcode of an item you will receive colour-coded nutrition information and see a list of healthier alternatives. There is also a SugarSwitch filter to find products lower in sugar.
  • Choosing products with front-of-pack traffic light colours. Pick products that are amber or green for sugar, salt and saturated fat.
  • Choosing fruit or vegetables for the snack option.
  • Choosing water or sugar-free drinks, or smaller portions of fruit juice or smoothie, for the drink option.