/ Food & Drink, Health

How light is your lunch? You might be surprised…

How healthy is your sandwich? We’ve found the answer could depend on where you shop. We want to take your views to the government so it can encourage shops to be clearer about what’s in our food.

Whether your favourite sarnie is a BLT, a chicken salad or something completely different you may be able to get a healthier version of your preferred lunchtime snack if you shop around.

Research we released today found you could be eating three times as much fat and double the amount of salt as you’d have in the same sandwich bought elsewhere.

So how do you know what you’re eating? Well that’s just it – unless all the places where you buy your sandwiches use the same traffic light labelling scheme it could be very difficult to tell.

Double the fat for the same sandwich?

Although I’m a vegetarian, I was shocked to find out that Morrisons chicken salad sandwich contains almost double the amount of fat (11.7g) than the same sandwich from Waitrose (6.0g).

Waitrose uses traffic lights but Morrisons doesn’t, so how could you tell that the Morrisons sandwich is the less healthy option? It would take quite a bit of planning, calculating and note writing to work it out. As much as I always prefer to go for the healthy option, I just don’t have the spare time for that.

We’ve discussed the use of traffic light labels before on Which? Convo. Andy told us that:

‘I religiously now examine saturated fat and salt content but would love a traffic light system so I wouldnt waste time examining the labels of foods with big red blobs on them.’

Stevie B pointed out that colour-coded things would be easier for those who have problems reading the very small print:

‘The traffic light method is good for me, as reading small print is tough without glasses these days. Easy to read labels allows a more informed choice and the easier the better for me.’

Help us lobby for better labelling

image of traffic light labelling for food

At Which? we’d like to see clear, consistent labelling right on the front of food packaging.

Do you think a system of traffic lights, like the one on the left, would help you make healthier choices?

The Department of Health wants to know – it released a consultation on Monday to help decide on the best scheme. We’ll be responding and would like to include your views as well – it’s important that consumers have their say on food labelling.

  • Would a traffic light scheme that was the same across all packaging help you make healthier choices?
  • What products would you like to see traffic lights on?
  • Would you find it useful to see ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ on the traffic lights as well as the colours?

We’ll be talking to the Department of Health so that it can take your feedback on board. Together we can help the government work out how food labelling can work best for those buying the sandwiches.


Please help us get rid of mayonnaise from sandwiches, Rachel. Some do want this slimy, ghastly grease but others hate it with a passion. Mayonnaise and coleslaw (mayo plus cabbage) contribute to the fat content of many sandwiches.

John Symons says:
17 May 2012

Buy your sandwiches from Sainsburys and you always know where you are. Mayo free ones are clearly marked No Mayo. I wish, though, that they would not assume that certain fillings only go with wholemeal bread, others only with oatmeal bread and still others only with white bread. More choice, please. That reminds me, what about a percentage of fibre on food labels? Different people’s systems react to fibre in different ways


Hi Wavechange. It’s true that Mayonnaise can be high in fat but it’s not always the case. Some of the sandwiches we tested contained mayonnaise but were not high in fat. If sandwiches had traffic lights you would easily be able to see if the ones that contained mayonnaise were also high in fat. If you want to know a bit more about the fat content of the sandwiches we tested, you can see our more detailed report here: http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/sandwiches-unwrapped-which-briefing-286242.pdf.


Thanks. I fully support better and more consistent labelling. I appreciate that low fat mayo is available, but the high fat content of most sandwiches suggests that the full fat version is commonly used.

It would be good to see more use of wholemeal bread in supermarket sandwiches, less salt and anything else that can make them a more healthy option.

vanessa says:
31 May 2012

but if is low fat mayanaise they put in more sugar so either way its not the healthest option

David says:
17 May 2012

Yes, please help us get rid of mayonnaise from sandwiches. Apart from the obvious potential for high fat content, I’m allergic to egg, and as such at times it can be very difficult for me even finding a sandwich I can eat.


I f you have a serious egg allergy I suggest you make your own sandwiches. So many sandwiches do contain mayonnaise that contamination is likely, even if egg is not listed on the packaging.


I also have a mild allergy to eggs, and cannot abide mayonnaise. There must be many other types of filling that could be used as an alternative. I understand that historically, goose/duck fat would be mixed with lemon juice and parsley to be used as a filling. Most of the people who have arrived on these shores throughout history have left their mark on our cuisine. Perhaps as consumers we should lobby the supermarkets to use new recipes or old ones that are still popular with some people. Thw supermarkets could hold a competition for the best sandwich recipes.


I love mayo in sandwiches, although we’ve debated this before on Which? Convo and it seems like a lot of people hate having it: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/say-no-to-mayonnaise-sandwiches/

I think one of the benefits of having traffic light labels is that it will really show people what’s in their sandwiches. Although I like mayo, I’d rather have a low-fat option, and I suspect that if shops have to have really prominent red, amber and green lights on packaging they’ll start thinking more about what goes into the sandwiches – full fat mayo, salt, etc.

What do you guys think about labelling? Is there anything else that you think could benefit from having clearer fat/sugar/salt marked? I’d like to see more of it on ready meals (which I do eat quite a bit). OK, you can pick a ‘light’ option, but how light exactly *is* it? I’d really like to be told this.