‘Healthy’ snack alternatives to crisps may contain more salt, sugar and fat than you think

‘Healthy’ snack alternatives to crisps may contain more salt, sugar and fat than you think (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Analysis of food products which are marketed as being healthy found that many are high in fat, salt or sugar.

Experts are calling for “honest” labelling, after they analysed 119 snacks and found that more than half contained high levels of salt, fat and/or sugar.

What kind of snacks were analysed?

The snack analyses by campaign group Action on Salt include pulse-based snacks like lentil curls and chickpea chips. Despite being marketed as healthy alternatives to traditional crisps, the experts’ analysis found some of the snacks contained more salt than seawater.

Action on Salt criticised many of the products for not displaying colour coded nutritional information on the front of their packaging, and instead using “nutrition claims” like “less fat”, or “no added sugar”.

Campaigners say this creates a misleading “health halo” effect, which leads consumers to believe the products are particularly healthy.

The saltiest product analysed was Eat Real hummus, chilli and lemon flavoured chips, which contain more salt than two small bags of McDonald’s fries.

Dried pulse snacks like Love Corn’s salt and vinegar and habanero chilli flavours were also found to be particularly high in salt.

‘Unnecessary amounts of salt’

Campaign manager at Action on Salt, Sonia Pombo, said: “We should all be eating more beans and pulses, but there are better ways of doing it, and eating processed snacks high in salt is not one of them.

“This important survey has put a spotlight on the unnecessary amounts of salt in ‘healthy’ snacks, and the use of nutrition claims on HFSS [high fat, salt and/or sugar] foods need to be questioned.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Last year Public Health England published new voluntary salt reduction targets to encourage businesses to further reduce salt levels in foods that contribute most to salt intakes.

“We are banning adverts for foods high in fat, salt and sugar being shown on TV before 9pm and have consulted on a total advertising restriction online of these products.”