Unhealthiest ready meals REVEALED: Worst offenders can be saltier than 10 portions of McDonald’s fries, packed with nearly twice as much sugar as a can of Coca Cola and have three-times more calories than a Mars bar
- EXCLUSIVE: MailOnline looked at the nutritional content of 1,400 ready meals
- The saltiest option contains a whopping 6.14g — more than an adult’s daily intake
Ready meals sold in Britain can be saltier than 10 portions of McDonald’s fries, a damning MailOnline audit has revealed.
MailOnline looked at the nutritional content of around 1,400 ready meals sold at seven supermarkets, including Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.
Results showed that the saltiest option contains a whopping 6.14g — more than an adult’s entire daily recommended intake and equal to 10 servings of chips at the fast-food chain.
Meanwhile, the most sugar-packed option had around twice the maximum amount that should be consumed per day and nearly as much as two cans of Coca-Cola.
The ‘shocking’ data shows that the meals contain ‘dangerous’ levels of sugar and salt — and regularly eating them may increase the risk of obesity, heart attacks and strokes.
MailOnline looked at the nutritional content of around 1,500 ready meals sold at the likes of Sainsbury’s, M&S and Aldi to reveal the saltiest and most sugar-packed options. Wasabi’s Sweet Chilli Chicken Yakisoba, made with lightly battered chicken on a bead of vegetables and wheat noodles, contained the most salt
Hungry Joe’s BBQ Chicken Melt — sold at Morrisons and Asda — is the worst offender for sugar content. It contains a whopping 66g, which is equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar and more than double the recommended allowance (30g). Eating too much sugar over time can lead to weight gain and tooth decay
This website examined the nutritional content of 1,413 ready meals sold at shops, such as Morrisons, Aldi, Waitrose and M&S.
Our analysis shows that Wasabi’s Sweet Chilli Chicken Yakisoba, made with lightly battered chicken on a bead of vegetables and wheat noodles, contained the most salt.
The meal, which is stocked at Sainsburys and Tesco, has a colossal 6.14g of salt per serving, along with 31.5g of sugar.
This not only has more salt than the daily recommended limit of 6g, but it is also saltier than 10 small portions of McDonald’s fries (0.44g) and nearly the amount of sugar as a can of Coca-Cola (39g).
Three other Wasabi meals topped the charts for salt content.
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The chain’s Vegetable Gyoza Yakisoba, which are sold at Tesco and Sainsburys, has 5.9g of salt and 24g of sugar.
This has more than double the salt content of a McDonald’s Double Sausage & Egg McMuffin (2.5g) and has three times more sugar than a McDonald’s Millionaire’s Donut (8g).
A similar option available at the same two stores— Wasabi’s Chicken Katsu Yakisoba — has 5.4g of salt and 18g of sugar.
The nutritional content is similar to a Zinger stacker Box Meal from KFC, which has 5.7g of salt and 14g of sugar.
Gino D’Acampo My Mamma’s Lasagne (5.25g), available at Asda, and Island Delight Spicy Jerk Chicken With Rice (4.8g), sold at Morrisons, were also among the saltiest.
Meanwhile, Hungry Joe’s BBQ Chicken Melt — sold at Morrisons and Asda — is the worst offender for sugar content.
It contains a whopping 66g — equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar and more than double the recommended daily allowance of added sugar (30g). However, the 66g total may contain some natural sugar, which the health chiefs do not set a cap on.
Eating too much sugar over time can lead to weight gain and tooth decay.
The convenience meal also contains 776 calories.
This means it accounts for around 39 per cent of a woman’s recommended 2,000 calories per day and 31 per cent of a man’s 2,500 calories.
Sainsbury’s Sweet & Sour Chicken with Egg Fried Rice (36.8g), Morrisons Tex Mex BBQ Chicken With Paprika & Roasted Potatoes (34.3g) and Sainsbury’s Duck In Plum Sauce With Egg Fried Rice (33.9g) were also among the most sugar-laden.
The most calorific ready meal is sold by Aldi.
Its specially selected Gastro Rich & Creamy Ham Hough Macaroni Cheese contains a monstrous 845 calories. This is nearly three times the number of calories in a McDonald’s Cheeseburger (298 calories).
Gino D’Acampo’s My Mamma’s Lasagne, from Asda, is the next-most calorie-packed option. It has 803 calories, 25.7g of sugar and 5.3g of salt.
Wasabi’s Vegetable Gyoza Yakisoba, which are sold at Tesco and Sainsbury’s, has 5.9g of salt and 24g of sugar. This has more than double the salt content of a McDonald’s Double Sausage & Egg McMuffin (2.5g)
Hungry Joe’s BBQ Chicken Melt — sold at Morrisons and Asda — is the worst offender for sugar content. It contains a whopping 66g of sugar, which is equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar and nearly double the amount of sugar as a can of Coca-Cola (39g)
Aldi’s specially selected Gastro Rich & Creamy Ham Hough Macaroni Cheese, which is the most calorific option, contains a monstrous 845 calories – this is more than triple the calories of a Mars bar (228)
The findings have alarmed experts.
Nichola Ludlam-Raine, a registered dietician in Leeds, said some of the ready meals made available to Brits are so bad for health that their consequences could be ‘fatal’.
She told MailOnline: ‘Many of us are still regularly consuming over the recommended daily amount of salt, which is one of the main contributors of high blood pressure.
‘Having high blood pressure causes excess strain and damage to the heart, increasing the risk of heart disease, strokes and heart attacks which can be fatal and cause deaths that could have been prevented.
‘I was quite alarmed to see the amounts of sugar contained in some of these popular ready meals.
‘You usually associated biscuits, cakes and sweets with sugar, but not savoury meals.’
Ms Ludlam-Raine warned those who regularly eat such meals could have ‘unwanted weight gain’ because of the surprisingly high calorie content.
Dr Semiya Aziz, a London-based GP working in NHS and private practices, told MailOnline that while additives may prolong shelf life and improve taste, they can be dangerous if people eat them regularly.
She added: ‘If several of these meals are consumed daily on a regular basis, we are essentially consuming dangerous levels of sugar.
‘These meals contain unhealthy fats, including trans fats and saturated fats, which may also contribute to obesity, elevated cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease.
‘Excess salt added to these meals may lead to medical conditions such as increased blood pressure, heart disease, fluid retention and oedema (swelling) or kidney problems.
‘People with hypertension, kidney problems or other health conditions often require a low-sodium diet and should be particularly cautious if regularly consuming ready-meals.’
Sonia Pombo, nutritionist and campaign lead at Action on Salt, said the data results are ‘shocking’ and ‘unnecessarily high’.
Ms Pombo said food companies can very easily make these meals with less salt and sugar in order to protect the nation’s health.
An Aldi spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to helping our customers eat more healthily and have made good progress with reducing our sugar and salt content across our ranges.
‘All of our products also have clear nutritional information to help customers make informed choices.’
A spokesperson for Hungry Joe’s said: We offer a wide range of delicious products across a variety of meal occasions to provide choice to shoppers.
‘All our meals have a Reference Intake (RI) label on the front of pack to help consumers make informed choices about the food they buy. We know the importance of a balanced and varied diet and are committed to investing in the future of our products.
‘Since 2017 we have been actively reducing fats, calories, sugar and salt across frozen ready meals, removing 54 tonnes of salt and 18 tonnes of sugar in the process.’
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We offer a variety of branded and own brand ready meals in our stores to offer our customers choice.
‘Other examples include by Sainsbury’s Chicken Chow Mein with 5.2g of sugar, by Sainsbury’s Green Thai Style Chicken Curry with Sticky Rice with 5.9g of sugar and Taste the Difference Chicken Jalfrezi with 9.4g of sugar.”
A Wasabi spokesperson said: “At Wasab we are regularly reviewing our in-store menu, as well as our supermarket ready meals, so that our customers can have a wide choice of dishes to cater for their specific needs.
‘Across the Wasabi range, we have a large number of low salt, low sugar and low fat dishes, freshly prepared in Wasabi stores every day.
‘Our nutrition team is constantly exploring ways to reduce salt and saturated fat content in certain dishes without affecting the flavour that our customers love.”
MailOnline has contacted Gino D’Acampo, Island Delight, ASDA, M&S and Tesco for a comment.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
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