Page last updated at 23:40 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 00:40 UK

Salads 'rival Big Macs for fat'

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Your salad may look healthy, but how many calories does it contain?

Pre-packed salads are often not the healthier option, with some supermarket items higher in calories and fat than a Big Mac and fries, a report warns.

Researchers from Which? magazine looked at 20 salads from the major outlets and found many contained a large proportion of the recommended daily intake of fat.

At least two had higher quantities than a standard McDonald's meal. Others had misleading labels, Which? said.

Retailers said they offered a range of clearly labelled salads.

Smedleys Atlantic Prawn Marie Rose Salad, sold at Morrisons, was highlighted by the magazine as one of the key offenders on the fat and calories front.

Which? said it contained 855 calories and 66.3g of fat - nearly half of a woman's recommended daily energy intake of calories and nearly all of the fat.

Men - calories: 2500, fat: 95g
Women - calories: 2000, fat: 70g

In comparison, a Big Mac and medium fries contains 820 calories and 40g of fat - although this meal does contain twice as much saturated fat as the prawn salad.

Marks and Spencer's Pasta with Tomato & Basil Chicken, which came in a slightly larger portion, contained 760 calories and 46g of fat - nearly 70% of a woman's daily intake of fat and half of a man's.

Others were accused of misleading labelling.

Sainsbury's Tomato & Basil Chicken, Which? claimed, specified it had no mayonnaise but the ingredients list revealed it contained egg yolk, oil and white wine vinegar - the same ingredients as the dressing.

Tesco Tuna Layered Salad at a glance appeared to contain 275 calories and 20.5g of fat, but this was for half the pack, Which? said.

'Spot the difference'

The report also highlighted how what was ostensibly the same salad could vary dramatically from shop to shop.

A tomato and basil pasta salad contained 15g of fat in one outlet, and 30g in one down the road.

Smedleys Atlantic Prawn Marie Rose Salad (300g) - calories: 855, fat: 66.3g
M&S Pasta with Tomato & Basil British Chicken (380g) - calories: 760, fat: 46g
Tesco Tuna Layered Salad (350g) - calories: 550, fat: 41g
Boots Delicious Tomato & Basil Chicken Pasta (331g) - calories: 425 calories, fat: 15g
Sainsbury's Thai Chicken Noodle (260g) - calories: 379 fat: 6g
Source: Which? magazine

"This latest research backs up what we've been saying for ages - a clear, consistent labelling scheme is important to help people spot how much fat, sugar and salt is in the food they're buying," said Martyn Hocking, Which? magazine's editor.

Marks and Spencer said its Pasta with Tomato & Basil British Chicken "was not a salad and is not labelled as a salad, so we are confused as to why Which? have included it in their salads report.

"We have very open and clear labelling on all our products - with front of pack traffic lights and GDA percentages on our whole range, so it's really easy for our customers to make an informed choice."

Smedleys Salads said it "manufactures a range of branded and private label products for the UK's retail and foodservice markets", including "premium salads as well as healthier, lower fat, lower calorie options across a wide range of cost points.

"The nutritional contents of all Smedleys' products are clearly displayed so that consumers can make informed decisions about their purchases."

A Sainsbury's spokesperson said: "We offer a range of salads to cater for a broad spectrum of customers, who might be looking to cut down on calories and fat, or could be seeking out something a bit more indulgent.

"Our front-of-pack traffic light labelling system means customers are immediately aware of the nutritional content of any product so they can decide what is right for them."

'Make your own'

Nathalie Winn, nutritionist for World Cancer Research Fund, said: "Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables probably reduces risk of several types of cancer, but if you are regularly eating salads that are packed with calories then you are more likely to put on weight.

"This is a cause for concern because scientists now say that, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention.

"It is a good idea to try making salads yourself because this is the best way of knowing exactly what is in them."

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