Picking up a microwavable meal is tempting after a long day, but how unhealthy is this time-saving habit? With newly proposed guidelines for sugar consumption, we wanted to see how easy it was to max out the limit.
The World Health Organisation’s draft guidelines suggest keeping our added sugar consumption to 25 grams per day. That measures out to just five teaspoons – not much wiggle room for the odd treat. I found out it’s quickly used up with my Dairy Milk fix – there’s 25.5 grams of sugar in a standard 45g bar.
But, while I think of ready meals as high in salt, I was surprised that some contained as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Sugar-filled supermarket meals
Sifting through supermarket shelves and websites, we soon found the worst meals for high sugar content were sweet and sour dishes. I’d expected these to be sweet, but didn’t think they’d contain up to 50.7g of sugar in a single serving – which is what you get from Sainsbury’s Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice.
That’s equivalent to 10 teaspoons of sugar per pack – almost double that of a standard-sized Dairy Milk, and three teaspoons more than a can of Coca-Cola. Personally, I’d choose the chocolate.
It’s not all in the name
Of ready meals that were widely available at Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, we found the second worst for sugar content was Tesco Everyday Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice, which has 48.4g of sugar per serving.
But one surprise was Tesco Thai Chicken Pad Thai with Rice Noodles, which to me sounds like a healthy option. However, it contains 37.8g of sugar per serving. This is another example of how useful it is to have clear nutritional labelling.
Clear targets for calorie reduction
Part of the Government’s responsibility deal asked manufacturers to cut calories, but with these meals there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Our nutritionist and food expert, Shefalee Loth, says:
‘Added sugar is the third or fourth ingredient in all of these meals and the main source of sugar. We want the Government to give clear targets for calorie reduction in all foods as a priority.’
Have you found any other foods that are more sugary than you’d expected? How often do you check the sugar content on packaging?