It’s been a big month for vegan fast food, with the latest edition of Veganuary spurring the UK’s top brands into action. Everyone from Greggs to Subway has released something plant based to mark the turn of the decade, with a fair few companies making their first steps into the vegan realm.
But while it has been something of a momentous month in terms of vegan fast food, a new study from content agency JBH reveals startling amounts of sugar and salt in the respective vegan options compared to their meaty equivalents.
With perceived wellness benefits one of the main selling points of eating plant-based, with red meat particularly under the cosh of late in terms of health issues, the stats are pretty damning, with all but one of the plant-based versions arriving on the scene this month containing more sugar than the original.
In what was perhaps the biggest release of Veganuary to date, McDonald’s launched their first-ever vegan meal, featuring veggie dippers, which are made from a combination of red pepper, rice, sun-dried tomato pesto and split peas, surrounded by light and crispy breadcrumbs.
One portion (or six) of these veggie dippers contains 2.3g of sugar, almost four times the amount found in a portion of McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
Attitudes towards sugar have downwardly spiralled over the last five years, with a recent poll by Swiss sweetener brand Hermesetas revealing that two out of three UK adults worry about their sugar intake.
In the report, Subway are one of the worst brands with using sugar in their vegan option, with their meatless meatball marinara clocking in with 19.3g of sugar (five teaspoons), with the meaty meatball sub containing 13.5g (three teaspoons).
Pret a Manger, however, take the unwanted top spot with their Very Berry Croissant (which was released earlier this week). Their first ever vegan croissant has a whopping 21.9g of sugar (five teaspoons) compared to their classic croissant which has 4.5g (only one teaspoon of sugar).
The only chain to emerge with a vegan option with less sugar is Costa, who offer a vegan ham and ‘cheeze’ toastie containing 3g less sugar than the meat version.
It’s a similar rogues’ gallery for salt content.
Subway, with their meatless meatball marinera, also top the charts in terms of salt. Compared to their meat version (1.9g), the plant-based option has almost double the amount (3.6g).
KFC, Burger King, Costa, Greggs and McDonald’s vegan releases also all contain more salt than the meat originals, with Pret the only company to buck the trend.
To put this into context, the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation suggest a salt maximum of 3g per day for a healthy diet, while a recent study published in the British Medical Journal recommends 3-5g.
Just yesterday, campaign group Action on Salt revealed how much salt is in bacon, while the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said this week that a number of meat alternatives on the market not only have high salt levels but are highly processed and often contain the same number of calories and saturated fat as beef burgers.