While we all know that ready meals are not necessarily the healthiest choice, you might expect to get a more nutritious option for your money if you opt for a premium product.
However, Secrets of Your Supermarket Food has investigated the amount of fat and salt packed in supermarkets’ own-brand ready meals and found that the more expensive options are the worst when it comes to fat, salt and sugar content.
The consumer show, airing tonight at 8pm on Channel 5 compared the pricier premium options marketed by the likes of Tesco, Saimsbury’s and Waitrose compared to their classic ready meals.
In the consumer show, airing tonight at 8pm on Channel 5, Sian Williams presents the Hext family, from Somerset with a selection of five best-selling classic ready meals from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Asda and Morrison’s.
She asks them to compare the cheaper meals to the premium options, sold by the same supermarket, to see which pack the most saturated fat and sold per quantity.
The Hexts, said they would expect the premium options to have better quality ingredients and to to be lower in salt and fat than the cheaper choices, which they assumed contain more salt to bring out the flavours.
However, some of the premium version had more than double the amount of saturated fat.
|Ready meal||Weight||Price||Saturated Fat||Salt|
|Waitrose no1 Fish Pie||400g||£4.00||6.8g||2.19g|
|Waitrose classic Fish Pie||360g||£2.75||15.7g||2.1g|
|Tesco Finest Cumberland Sausages and Mash||500g||£3.50||20.1g||2.6g|
|Tesco’classic Bangers and Mash||450g||£2.50||7.9g||2.6g|
|Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Cottage Pie||400g||£3.50||11.6g||2.25g|
|Sainsbury’s Classic Cottage Pie||400g||£2.00||5.7g||1.4g|
|Morrison’s Lancashire Hot Pot||400g||£3.50||5.4g||1.9g|
|Morrison’s Lamb Hot Pot||400g||£2.75||3.7g||2.3g|
|Morrison’s Extra Special Chicken Tikka Masala||400g||£3.50||10g||1.5g|
|Morrison’s classic Chicken Tikka Masala||400g||£2.50||5.7g||2.2g|
For instance, Tesco’s Finest’s 400g Cumberland Sausages and Creamy Mash ready meal, which costs £1 more than their classic ‘Bangers and Mash’ meal, slightly less salt, with 2.6g for 500g instead of 2.6g for 450g, but packed a whopping 20.1g of saturated fat.
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This dish, which serves one, has more than the recommended daily amount of 20g of saturated fat for the average British woman.
In comparison, the cheaper version had 7.9g of saturated fat.
The Waitrose No.1 Fish pie, which is £1.25 more expensive than its classic Fish Pie, had more than double the amount of saturated fat, with 15.5g versus 6.8g.
Mother of two Lee Hext says the experiment totally ‘flipped’ what she used to think about premium meal deals, saying: ‘I totally believed that if you pay a little bit more money, you get better ingredients so that it’d be ultimately healthier for you.’
But retail consultant Phil Dorrel explains the premium options are about good marketing rather than healthy living.
‘I think supermarkets are always looking to see how they can market their products to as broader a range as possible,’ he says.
‘And they’ll use specific key-words to entice people to believe these products are as good for them as they possibly can be or as premium as they possibly can be,’ he adds.
‘Catchphrases that may not have as much legal definition but are indicative to a customer of:’ “Ouh that’ a bit special”,’ he adds.
‘The more you pay for something doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better for you. It just means that it may have ingredients which are more premium.
Secrets of Your Supermarket Food airs tonight at 8pm on Channel 5.