Millions of 'healthy' Brits have a 'blind spot' over hidden sugars and calories in sauces, condiments and snacks, research reveals.
A study carried out among 2,000 adults, found that while calorie counting and 'five a day' are a focus of their daily food plan, over two thirds (69 percent) admit that they often forget to consider the calories, sugar and fat content of sauces, condiments and toppings.
It emerged that many adults are consuming 'invisible calories and sugar' on top of their usual daily intake, with syrup and sugar on breakfasts among the biggest culprits. Most adults admit to being unwilling to eat porridge (83 percent) or pancakes (92 percent) without extras because they think they are 'dull', 'dry' or 'tasteless' without them.
Spokesman, Andrés Armstrong General Director of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, which commissioned the report said:
"You may think you are being healthy, but as soon as you add sugar or syrup to porridge or pancakes, or put a dressing on your salad, you are instantly adding extra sugar and calories. Just one tablespoon of honey has 64 calories and 17g of sugar.
"By ignoring the calories, fat and sugar in sauces people often make an otherwise nutritious meal quite the opposite."
"There are ways of making food more flavoursome without adding on unnecessary sugars and calories. Opting for fresh seasonal fruit such as Chilean blueberries as a topping for breakfasts or salads can help to add some sweetness and flavour to your meal without lots of sugar."
Researchers found 84 percent of Brits try to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables regularly and two thirds count the calories, fat and sugar content in most of their meals. A further 71 percent are careful to eat meals that are low in sugar.
But seven in 10 people admit they rarely take into account the nutritional value of toppings, sauces and condiments which they pour all over their meals, and as such, make a seemingly healthy meal unhealthy.
In fact, over half of people (52 percent) believe they are consuming just under 2,000 calories a day, when in reality they may be adding a further 200 calories and 20 grams of fat when pouring Caesar dressing over their salad, or consuming around 12 grams of sugar for every tablespoon of maple syrup they put on their porridge or pancakes.
Just under half (43 percent) of those polled admit their evening meals rarely go without a serving of tomato ketchup, which contains 19 calories per tablespoon, while a third (29 percent) can't resist adding mayonnaise (94 calories per tablespoon), to everything they eat. Simple salads are livened up with mayonnaise, French vinaigrettes and Caesar dressings, while toast is always served with a decent portion of butter.
But it's porridge and pancakes that are the worst culprits with the majority of Brits admitting they are always served with three or four teaspoons of sugar, a good glug of syrup or honey, or even chocolate spread – only 27 percent would consider eating them plain.
A third (29 percent) of Brits admit they never calorie count alcohol, while 42 percent don't think about the fat or calorie content of the milk they are adding to their cereals and hot beverages. Sauces, condiments and spreads also escape the notice of the most health conscious people.
A fifth (18 percent) of people admit they don't even worry about the fat, sugar and calorie content of the snacks they eat regularly – which are most commonly crisps, biscuits, nuts, and toast.
Food psychologist, Dr Christy Fergusson from Channel 4's Secret Eaters, said:
"More and more people are becoming sugar savvy and want to make healthier food choices.
"However, this research suggests that many people are falling into the trap of consuming more sugar than they realise.
"Most people aren't considering the impact of hidden sugars in store-bought sauces, dressings and ready meals. The good news is looking closer at the ingredients in the foods we eat and making a few simple swaps can make a considerable difference."
Dr Christy Fergusson provides tips on how to cut extra sugar and fat:
1. Eat berries for breakfast in a warming bowl of porridge or delicious pancakes: One tablespoon (three teaspoons) of sugar sprinkled over your pancakes or porridge will add 14 grams of sugar and an additional 49 calories to your breakfast. A delicious alternative would be to switch this for a low-sugar fruit like blueberries. Two whole cups (16 tablespoons) of berries gives you the same sugar hit!
Top tip: Get creative by stewing the blueberries in a little water and make blueberry compote or mash them into the pancake mix before placing cooking on the skillet.
2. Make a quick and easy salad dressing: If you are opting for a healthy salad for lunch in a bid to save on the calories, your dressing could add more than 150 calories. Swap the rich, creamy Caesar dressing for a little olive oil, seasoning, squeeze of lime, fresh herbs and vinaigrette. This way you know exactly what is going into your salad, and you save on the calories. It's a win-win!
3. Whiz up a healthy tomato sauce in minutes: Store bought sauces contain added sugar and salt. Instead of buying a jar of tomato sauce make your own using some fresh tomatoes, garlic and herbs such as oregano, basil and seasoning.
4. Refresh and energise by making your own soft drink: Instead of drinking cans of fizzy juice containing sugars and artificial sweeteners, make your own by diluting fresh fruit juice with sparkling water poured over ice. Bliss!
5. Snack smart: Swap crisps, chocolate and biscuits for healthier options such as hummus and oatcakes, a bowl of blueberries or a chopped apple with nuts. If you feel like something sweet, what about cashew and almond butter stuffed into Medjool dates?