Sugar in ready meals: More than in Coke

MANY people never even think about the amount of sugar in ready meals. So a study just out will shock them – because it found that some supermarket ready meals contain almost twice as much sugar as a can of Coca-Cola. I’ve been saying for years that the hidden sugar in everyday food, especially pre-prepared process food, is one of the major causes of the world’s weight problems.

So congratulations to The Telegraph newspaper and the campaign group Action on Sugar for bringing this massive issue of sugar in ready meals to a wider audience.

They found that a sweet and sour chicken dish sold by Sainsbury’s contained 61g of sugar – that’s equivalent to almost 13 teaspoons of sugar.

I’ve looked at the packaging and it says that Sainsbury’s Crispy Sweet & Sour Chicken weighs 400g, so he astonishing fact is that almost one sixth of its weight is nothing more than sugar.

Which as I want everyone to understand is that sugar is a totally unnecessary carbohydrate with no nutritional value. So sugar in ready meals could easily be reduced with ho harm done.

Other supermarkets in the Telegraph/Action On Sugar study fare no better.

A Waitrose lemon chicken in batter contained 42g – again that’s more than a can of Coke;

Tesco’s pad Thai with noodles contained 37g;

a Marks and Spencer chilli chicken dish had 48g of sugar;

and a Sainsbury’s duck in plum sauce contained 52g of sugar.

Can you imagine what that amount of sugar in ready meals that you consume regularly is doing to your metabolism?

How it’s throwing your hormones into an unhealthy imbalance?

How it’s increasing your waistline and rotting your tooth enamel?

I’ve long suspected that supermarkets know exactly what they’re doing to their customers with the sugar in ready meals. Sugar and sweeteners like fructose have an addictive effect by playing havoc with the hormones that promote and suppress appetite.

So the sweeter they make things, the more you eat – and the more you buy.

The supermarkets’ defence is that they have a “traffic light” system in which the amount of sugar in ready meals is labelled green, amber or red (obviously red is the highest).

But the levels vary depending on whether the amount of sugar is calculated by total pack size or by portion size. When they do that it makes it so much harder for shoppers to compare like with like.

Even more confusingly, the Telegraph/Action On Sugar study discovered that products vary within a supermarket.

So a Tesco sweet and sour chicken dish weighing 400g contained 32g of sugar while a Tesco takeaway sweet and sour Chicken weighing 385g contained 49g of sugar.

Supermarkets also like to push their “healthy” ranges at us, because you’d expect sugar in ready meals marked “healthy” to be low. Think again!

Marks and Spencer’s “Four cheese ravioli in tomato sauce” in its supposedly healthy Count on Us range contained 16g of sugar in a total pack weight of 345g – that’s almost four teaspoons of sugar.

Marks and Spencer say the dish contains naturally occurring sugars in the tomatoes as well as added “free” sugar but that the total on the label didn’t differentiate between the two. Well it should!

Action on Sugar say the findings show an urgent need for the food industry to be regulated and ordered to set targets for maximum levels of sugar and to introduce average levels across whole ready meal ranges.

I couldn’t agree more. However, I don’t agree that proposal to tax food and drink with high sugar content will do much to deter consumption. It will just push prices up.

But taxing manufacturers who add sugar to their products would soon put a stop to this harmful practice. They wouldn’t want their profits to be hit.

Graham MacGregor, Action on Sugar’s chairman and a professor of cardiovascular medicine, said: “Fifty grams of sugar in ready meals is far too much. The amount they are stuffing in is ridiculous. You wonder who on earth has the gall to put so much sugar in.”

Jennifer Rosborough, Action on Sugar’s campaign manager and nutritionist, says labelling is confusing for shoppers because some products gave sugar levels per portion size while others printed sugar levels according to the total size of the pack.

“It is vital to check the amount of sugar in products, particularly in processed, ready meals,” says Ms Rosborough. “As a nation, our current average intakes of free sugars are at least twice the maximum recommendation of five per cent of our daily energy intake.”

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About Sandra
Founder of Thinking Slimmer
Food addiction expert
Member of All-Party Parliamentary Obesity Group
Huffington Post contributor
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