/ Food & Drink, Health

Think you’re food smart? Change4Life wants you to think again

Change4life image from Food Smart advertisement

Many of us are not sure how much salt, fat and sugar is in the food we eat. Change4Life’s new Food Smart campaign aims to give us all the information we need to make healthier food choices.

Here at Which? we’ve been campaigning for healthy eating for all and we want to see reductions in the levels of salt, fat and sugar in food and drinks. From our report on pizzas to analysing breakfast cereals, our product comparisons have often shown that you and your kids could easily be eating more than the guideline daily amounts without even realising.

Just a spoonful of sugar…

When we looked at breakfast cereals last February we found that 32 out of the 50 varieties we reviewed were high in sugar, such as Frosties at 37%. Many of those were aimed at children.

Our sandwiches report in May 2012 also found that you could be eating three times as much fat and saturated fat depending on the sandwich you buy.

Change4Life, the healthy living initiative from the NHS, recently ran a survey that found almost four out of five people don’t realise that a supermarket ham and cheese sandwich contains more salt than a packet of ready salted crisps. The results came from a food IQ test designed to see how savvy we all are when it comes to calories and nutrition.

I expected to get a fairly high score in the test. I’m aware of the products that are likely to contain lots of salt and which ones have oodles of saturated fat. When I’m out shopping, I check the labels of products and make decisions based on what I see.

Deep fat pizza – no thanks

Turns out, I’m not as sugar savvy as I thought. Nor am I fabulous at deciding which meals contain the most fat. I scored a measly 50% in the food IQ test and the only area I scored highly on was salt awareness.

It seems as though I could benefit from more education. Change4Life’s new Food Smart campaign could help – it’s all about making sure we know how much salt, fat and sugar is lurking in our meals. We’re then more likely to eat a balanced diet.

Rather than vilifying particular foods, the campaign suggests healthier alternatives and ways to cut back on fat and swap out sugary snacks.

If I’m going to have pizza for dinner on Wednesday, a veggie or seafood topping is going to have less fat than a meat feast. If I want to cut down on sugar, switching my breakfast cereal would be a good place to start.

Although, pizza’s unlikely to be on my menu until I can get one of Change4Life’s examples out of my mind: the fat from the average deep pan pizza could fill a wine glass. Bleurgh.

Are you food savvy? Can you beat my score in the food IQ test? How do you make sure you eat a balanced diet?


I’m not impressed by the quiz, which lacks information about some of the portion sizes. I scored 75%, though some of that was pure guesswork.

I’m one of those who has a reasonably balanced diet, but unfortunately eats too much of it. 🙂

The quiz is well done – well presented and revealing. But I didn’t know it existed until I saw this post, so how many others would see it? I only scored 67% though.
It did reinforce my view that it’s good to eat a balanced home cooked diet. I am not the best, though, at doing that – my treat after Christmas, when we have ribs of beef, is the dripping on toast (with a little salt) for breakfast for a few days. That used to be a regular start to the day when I was young and you got proper meat (i.e. with fat). I am taking statins as a fat offset (!)

We’re test brothers – I got 67% as well.

I also completed the quiz-score 50% however it was pure speculation. I tend not to eat the examples given as I am aware that they are shall we say “dodgy”. I tend to eat fresh fruit and vegetables little red meat but I eat poultry fish and a fair sprinkling of vegetarian foods. No teabags but fresh tea brewed in a very handy fusion tea pot. Freshly ground coffee decafe and I like the odd glass of decent wine. Oh yes and I am now into the very nice artisan breads becoming more widely available. I also do admit to the sin of the occasional delicious desert perhaps to much sugar there? However so far I feel ok and shall we say I am no spring chicken. Still informed information on these matters is most welcome.

Having nearly finished reading Escape the Diet Trap by Dr John Briffa, I am really concerned about dietary advice. I would love to get feedback on what others think about the contents. At present I am really impressed with what he recommends and feel the public should be made more aware of the information contained in it, and other up-to-date research results. I am strongly in favour of more information, honesty and clarity being simply made available to us all. We need a government brave enough to stand up to manufacturers and retailers who put profit before the life and health of their fellow man.

George says:
11 January 2013

I would applaud this initiative if I thought it was sincere, however this is the same Government who recently allowed Academy schools to opt out of the nutritional standards for school meals, as established by Jamie Oliver’s school meals campaign. I cannot think of any logical reason for doing this, other than financial ones? I personally follow the dietary guidelines supplied by the Cardiac dietician following my heart attack and that is to try NOT to exceed the following nutritional values per 100g table they supplied which is; Sugar 2g; Fat 3g (total) of which Saturates 1g or less; Sodium/Salt 0.1g/0.25g. It’s not easy to find these values all in one commodity, but reading the labels becomes second nature very quickly and it works for me.

Public establishments where we must eat – especially Hospitals – should provide nutritious healthy food. However, for general eating we should take responsibility for our own food habits, supported by appropriate education and honest information. Don’t try and make the State responsible for what you should be doing for yourself.

I thought I knew a thing or two about healthy eating after doing a year of ‘Weight Watchers’ – but I only scored 42% on this test. Oops!

In my personal opinion, I think we have a fundamental, widespread problem that people don’t know what is good for them due to so much conflicting advice. Yes, we all know that vegetables and fruit are good for you, but then an article will tell you that avocados are high in fat and fruit is high in sugar. Many people think that bread and pasta isn’t bad for you because it’s low in fat, but of course it’s high in carbs. Portion sizes should be smaller, but HOW small? It can seem like everything is bad for you if you read the right (or wrong) advice, depending how you look at it.

Frankly, I can’t blame people for struggling to eat a balanced diet. With the myriad of diet advice being thrust at us from every direction, much of it conflicting, it can feel like the answer to a healthy diet is as clear as mud.

unknow says:
14 January 2013

just make the law like alcohol with food to limit how much a person eats a day varies on there weigh also what kind of physical active then bit by bit our society will slim down and not cost the nhs lod’s of money

wendy Roberts says:
23 January 2013

as far as i’m concerned its the processed foods that cause ill health. I cook all my meals from scratch, inever use stock cubes but make my own stock the old fashioned way and I make my own bread. By the way I work full time as a staff nurse, I have 2 children and find time to practice yoga almost daily so the population has no excuse for their obesity they just need to cook instaead of using the microwave. Several programmes have highlighted the dangers of processed foods and have shown alternatives that are far healthier, Hugh Whittingstall at River Cottage springs to mind.

My comment is from the perspective of a Type 2, but not overweight!, diabetic. In many ways the list of three i.e. Sugar, Fat & Salt should have Carb substituted for Sugar. Sugar is just another high-GI Carb. Most of the Carbs we buy are high GI e.g. White bread, pasta and so on and are as bad as sugar. Any campaign should be targeted at high-GI Carbs as much as Fat. High-GI carbs cause glucose spikes which are not only bad for diabetics but cause carb cravings in everyone due to the spiking. The NHS diet old mantra which is only slowly being updated is to ‘eat carbs with every meal’ and to ‘eat from the Eat well Plate’. Not only is the former based on bad science, the NHS Choices Eat well Plate has a Carb portion % which is too high and the recommended gm/day intake is too high. This bad advice adds to obesity and makes Type 2 diabetics worse; not very helpful. So I would like to see the Change4Life Campaign based on good, modern science not bad science.

The Eatwell Plate is accompanied by the advice to choose wholegrain varieties of carbohydrates where possible, which is eminently sensible. Everyone needs to be made aware that refined carbohydrates can be metabolised rapidly to glucose, so apart from not rotting the teeth, there is not much difference from eating a lot of sugar. But we certainly don’t want to go back to the old days when diabetics were advised to eat a high fat diet. That might help avoid the complications of diabetes but will increase risk of heart problems.

There is a good case for promoting foods that represent good choices and are affordable. With people eating out more, we really need to address the problem of huge portion sizes.