United Kingdom

Why healthy snacks may actually be bad for you

August 2017


So-called healthy workplace snacks may not be as healthy as they otherwise appear if a recent study carried out by a nutritionist is anything to go by.

At a time when more workplace eateries and canteens are starting to sell alternative, 'healthier' food options in place of the usual crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks, staff - as consumers - are also becoming more nutrient and calorie savvy. Gone are the days when consumers would mindlessly grab their favourite chocolate bar or crisps brand. Many are much more aware of their choices and will either consciously limit their sugar and fat intake or opt for alternative, perceived 'healthier' options instead.

But as registered nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed found out in her Behind the Label study for Wrens Kitchens, all is not what it seems. She tested some of the most popular workplace snacks and found that many of them aren't all that guilt-free at all.

Tyrells Mixed Root Vegetable Crisps (40g) were compared against 40g packets of Walkers Quavers, Pringles, a 51g Mars Bar and a 52g Original Glazed Krispy Kreme Doughnut. The results were surprising - the so-called healthier root vegetable crisp option had the highest level of fat of all - 14.3g, with Pringles original just below at 13.2g whilst the Mars bar and the Krispy Kreme doughnut had the lowest fat level at 8.6 g and 8.3g respectively.

Meanwhile, a Starbucks grab-and-go half-fat 240g Berry Breakfast Pot was found to have 30.7g of sugar compared to a 100g serving of plain, Greek yoghurt which has 3.8g of sugar, whilst a 50g of wine gum had 28.5g of sugar.

"People often perceive these products as healthy options...but they actually contain a lot of sugar," Stirling-Reed explains. She warns there is also a psychological danger from believing in guilt-free food as many will consume higher quantities than they otherwise would in the belief they are making healthier choices.

Clearly, relying on food brands which have been marketed as healthier options is not the answer - staff should get into the habit of reading the food labels before making their choices, especially because as Sterling-Reed points out, these daily choices can influence overall health.

But according to Rachel Western, principal at Aon Employee Benefits, the issue lies deeper than just eating healthily. Urging employers not to use a 'sticky plaster approach' to health and wellbeing, she says: "providing so-called 'guilt free' foods as a way of encouraging healthier lifestyles is actually of limited benefit. Instead, access to education around nutritional requirements and reading labels is essential in providing fully rounded support."

In particular, Western recommends the use of health apps, offered as part of wider employee benefits package. "These types of interventions are becoming increasingly popular with employers," she explains. "However, the strength and relevance of the content and advice is key to the scheme's success."



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