How healthy is Tesco’s healthy living range?

Leeds Beckett Journalism students investigated the calorific value and saturated fat content of food products sold by Tesco supermarkets.

Tesco, the biggest supermarket in the UK.

Tesco, the biggest supermarket in the UK. Photo can be found at Wikimedia Commons.

The findings show that buying healthy living products is not necessarily a guarantee of the healthiest diet. Sometimes, the cheapest option can be the best for your waistline and your wallet.

Dietitians and doctors agree that too many calories and saturated fats can lead to obesity and a multiplicity of health complications. It’s important to keep a count of your dietary intake but you cannot simply rely on how products are advertised. Green packaging doesn’t always indicate fresh produce.

We examined lots of commonly used food products to find out whether losing pounds from your pocket results in pounds lost on the scales.

While we could have looked at any of the UK’s supermarkets we chose Tesco, which recorded more than double the sales of its nearest competitor in 2016. We compared their Everyday Value and Healthy Living ranges with a branded equivalent.

Magnified nutritional food label.

Nutritional labeling has become mandatory for most prepackaged foods in the EU. Photo credit James Palinsad on Flickr.

Calorie content

Calories are in almost everything that we consume. According to the NHS if too many are consumed in one day, our bodies can store the excess as body fat which could lead to weight gain. With obesity on the rise and gobbling more than its fair share of the NHS budget monitoring your calorie intake is a civic responsibility.

The calorie content of shop bought food should be presented in a nutrition table on the back of its packaging.

As our table below shows, the branded products on average had a higher calorific value. Coleslaw and mayonnaise were the two worst offenders with over double the calories of their respective competitors. The Heinz products we analysed broke the pattern, specifically regarding their tomato soup and baked beans, which had fewer calories than the everyday value and healthy living ranges.

Half of the healthy products that we analysed showed more calories than branded products, suggesting that you could be better off buying a branded product than a healthy living one.

Calories (kcal) per 100g

Food Healthy Living Everyday Value Branded Equivalent (Name)
Sausages 126 216 254 (Richmond)
Beans 82 87 78 (Heinz)
Coleslaw 127 84 255 (Tesco Finest)
Cheese and Bacon Quiche 161 225 319 (Tesco Finest)
Tomato Soup 62 96 51 (Heinz)
Mince 175 295 165 (Tesco Finest)
Chocolate Mousse 120 141 159 (Aero)
Mayonnaise 14 41 101 (Hellmanns)
Lasagna Ready Meal 377 140 143 (Royal)
Sweet and Sour Cooking Sauce 39 59 85 (Uncle Ben’s)

(To find more about calories visit the NHS choices website)

Saturated Fat content

Fat is an essential component of our diet as it provides our bodies with energy and essential fatty acids.

Saturated fats are often referred to as ‘bad’ fats because, if consumed in large quantities, they can increase certain types of cholesterol in the body which leads to coronary heart disease. This has led the NHS to encourage people to monitor their intake.

Our research shows  that the majority of branded products were significantly higher in saturated fats than both the healthy living and everyday value products. This revelation may displease consumers paying more for luxury products without knowing the real health implications.

As you can see in the table below, many of the branded products had up to eight times the amount of saturated fats than the other ranges. The branded cheese and bacon quiche had almost double the saturated fat content of the everyday value quiche and nearly three times the amount of the healthy living one. But the healthy living coleslaw contained more saturated fat than its everyday value equivalent.

The healthy living range boasts that its “good healthy food with nutritional benefits” whereas everyday value is a budget range. In at least four other products the everyday value and healthy living items differed only marginally in saturated fat content. This result challenges whether the healthy living and upmarket ranges are truly good for you.

Saturated Fats (g) per 100g

Food Healthy Living Everyday Value Branded Equivalent (Name)
Sausages 1.0 3.6 8.1 (Richmond)
Beans 0.2 0.3 Trace (Heinz)
Coleslaw 1.3 0.5 1.9 (Tesco Finest)
Cheese and Bacon Quiche 3.2 5.3 10.2 (Tesco Finest)
Tomato Soup 0.1 0.3 0.4 (Heinz)
Mince 4.3 8.6 4.1 (Tesco Finest)
Chocolate Mousse 1.6 3.4 3.0 (Aero)
Mayonnaise 0.1 0.3 0.9 (Hellmanns)
Lasanga Ready Meal 0.9 3.3 3.6 (Royal)
Sweet and Sour Cooking Sauce 0.1 0.1 0.0 (Uncle Ben’s)

(To find more about saturated fats visit the Flora ProActiv website)

Out of the ten products we examined only four (sausages, quiche, mousse and mayonnaise) had the fewest calories and saturated fats in its Healthy Living range.

The other products varied in terms of the healthiest option. In fact, the everyday value coleslaw proved to be healthier in both calorific value and saturated fat content than the healthy living and branded product equivalents.

Considering that the prices of the basics range is on average considerably lower than equivalent products. We should ask: “are we getting value for our money where we’re choosing to try and be a little healthier?”

We advise that consumers be informed and do not just take a product on face value. Spending an extra few seconds checking statistics, which by law have to be there for your benefit, can save you a few pounds at the till and the scales. After all, every little helps.


About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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