New research reveals the hidden baddies in your Christmas hamper
It’s the time of year when everyone indulges. But new research from The George Institute for Global Health has revealed huge variations in the sugar, fat, salt and energy content of your favourite Christmas hamper items.
The study examined Australia’s top treats, including chocolate nuts, fruit cakes, truffles, cranberry sauce and mince pies. One make of shortbread contained 62 times more sodium salt than a rival product, whilst all of the water crackers surveyed had more salt than Smith's Barbecue Flavoured Crinkle Cut Potato Chips. See the full findings (PDF 52KB)
Kylie Howes, FoodSwitch Database Administrator at The George Institute for Global Health, said the results showed consumers should shop around and check the labels before buying: “We are not trying to be the Christmas Scrooge because we know people love to eat these naughty items in the festive season. But, some of these treats contain far higher amounts of saturated fat, salt and sugar than others.
“It’s the time of year when people generally don’t think about their waistlines but what we have shown is that some treats are going to be much kinder to your health than others.”
The researchers analysed 10 common Christmas hamper items available at Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, Harris Farm, Thomas Dux and IGA and measured energy, total sugars, salt, carbs, total fat and saturated fat content per 100 grams.
- Woolworths Gold Indulgent Roasted Almond Shortbread has 62 times less sodium than Coles Shortbread Fingers.
- Hillier's Milk Chocolate Coated Salted Caramel Peanuts contains five times more salt than Woolworths Select Peanuts Chocolate Coated.
- Coles Rich Fruit Cake has the lowest energy content of any cake surveyed, and three times less saturated fat than Schultze Christstollen.
- Lindt’s Gourmet Truffles have almost twice the saturated fat of Oliviero Almond Chocolate Truffles.
- Emmalines' Country Kitchen Christmas Pudding contain 580 more kJ/100g and five times more saturated fat than Coles Simply Gluten Free Christmas Pudding.
- All of the water crackers analysed have more salt than Smith’s BBQ Flavoured Chips with Coles Original Water Crackers topping the salt content.
- Mackay’s Cranberry Sauce has about 40 per cent more sugar and energy than Ocean Spray’s Whole Cranberry Sauce.
Ms Howes, from the George Institute, said: “We would encourage everyone out shopping to have a think about what they are buying, and to really look at the labels. Most supermarkets have a range of these very popular items so just take a moment. If you choose the less energy dense options the New Year might be a bit easier on your waistline.
“And consider using FoodSwitch, an app that scans barcodes and provides you with all the nutritional info at a glance. As well as suggesting a healthier option for whatever you have scanned. It could be as easy as picking the item right next to it.”
To help people make healthier packaged food choices The George Institute for Global Health developed ‘FoodSwitch’ – an innovative mobile health app, which gives instant easy to understand nutrition information for packaged food products, and suggests healthier alternatives.
Tips for a healthier Christmas
- If you do indulge and have some packaged treats on Christmas day, opt for the pre-sliced or pre-portioned products to help you control how much you eat. For example having one 30g mini fruit mince pie instead of a regular 60g fruit mince pie can save you a whopping 450 kJ of energy.
- Instead of nibbling on those chocolate coated nuts, keep a bowl of raw or roasted unsalted mixed nuts on the table. And try to stick to the smaller 30g serve size. Nuts are full of fibre and protein and help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
- Try creating your own sauces out of fresh or frozen fruit such as mixed berries, cranberries, cherries and apples. This way you can keep added sugar down.
- If you must have that slice of Christmas cake or pudding, instead of adding custard, ice cream or cream, try some natural low-fat yoghurt and fresh fruit.
The George Institute FoodSwitch Database was used for the analyses. This data is collected once a year from supermarkets across Australia. Products were chosen based on items commonly found in your Christmas hamper and eaten over the Christmas holidays and Christmas day. Product information was collected from Coles, Woolworths, IGA, Aldi, Thomas Dux and Harris Farm and are currently available in store. Products have been ranked according to kilojoule content (kJ)/100g) only. Please note that products vary in serving size and therefore nutrition content per serve. Comparison of products has been conducted based on 5-10 products in each category. Salt values were calculated from sodium (salt (g) = sodium (mg) x2.5/1000). According to the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), sodium is mandatory on nutrition information panel. Salt is made up of sodium and chloride and it is the sodium which can be detrimental for your health if over consumed.