Study Reveals Salads With More Calories Than Fast Food

Posted on: 25 June 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Many people grab a prepared salad from the shops at lunchtime, thinking it’s a healthy choice. But just how healthy is it?

Pre-packed salads are often not the healthier option, with some supermarket items higher in calories and fat than a Big Mac and fries, a report warns.

Researchers from Which? magazine looked at 20 salads from the major outlets and found many contained a large proportion of the recommended daily intake of fat.

At least two had higher quantities than a standard McDonald's meal. Others had misleading labels, Which? said. Retailers said they offered a range of clearly labelled salads.

Recommended Daily Intake

  • Men - calories: 2500, fat: 95g
  • Women - calories: 2000, fat: 70g

Smedleys Atlantic Prawn Marie Rose Salad, sold at Morrisons, was highlighted by the magazine as one of the key offenders on the fat and calories front. Which? said it contained 855 calories and 66.3g of fat - nearly half of a woman's recommended daily energy intake of calories and nearly all of the fat.

In comparison, a Big Mac and medium fries contains 820 calories and 40g of fat - although this meal does contain twice as much saturated fat as the prawn salad.

Marks and Spencer's Pasta with Tomato & Basil Chicken, which came in a slightly larger portion, contained 760 calories and 46g of fat - nearly 70% of a woman's daily intake of fat and half of a man's.

Others were accused of misleading labelling. Sainsbury's Tomato & Basil Chicken, Which? claimed, specified it had no mayonnaise but the ingredients list revealed it contained egg yolk, oil and white wine vinegar - the same ingredients as the dressing.

Tesco Tuna Layered Salad at a glance appeared to contain 275 calories and 20.5g of fat, but this was for half the pack, Which? said.

The report also highlighted how what was ostensibly the same salad could vary dramatically from shop to shop. A tomato and basil pasta salad contained 15g of fat in one outlet, and 30g in one down the road.

"This latest research backs up what we've been saying for ages - a clear, consistent labelling scheme is important to help people spot how much fat, sugar and salt is in the food they're buying," says Martyn Hocking, Which? magazine's editor.

Marks and Spencer said its Pasta with Tomato & Basil British Chicken "was not a salad and is not labelled as a salad, so we are confused as to why Which? have included it in their salads report.

Salad Statistics

  • Smedleys Atlantic Prawn Marie Rose Salad (300g) - calories: 855, fat: 66.3g
  • M&S Pasta with Tomato & Basil British Chicken (380g) - calories: 760, fat: 46g
  • Tesco Tuna Layered Salad (350g) - calories: 550, fat: 41g
  • Boots Delicious Tomato & Basil Chicken Pasta (331g) - calories: 425 calories, fat: 15g
  • Sainsbury's Thai Chicken Noodle (260g) - calories: 379 fat: 6g

"We have very open and clear labelling on all our products - with front of pack traffic lights and GDA percentages on our whole range, so it's really easy for our customers to make an informed choice."

Smedleys Salads says it "manufactures a range of branded and private label products for the UK's retail and foodservice markets", including "premium salads as well as healthier, lower fat, lower calorie options across a wide range of cost points.

"The nutritional contents of all Smedleys' products are clearly displayed so that consumers can make informed decisions about their purchases."

A Sainsbury's spokesperson said, "We offer a range of salads to cater for a broad spectrum of customers, who might be looking to cut down on calories and fat, or could be seeking out something a bit more indulgent.

"Our front-of-pack traffic light labelling system means customers are immediately aware of the nutritional content of any product so they can decide what is right for them."

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