Many loving couples will choose to celebrate St Valentine’s Day with a romantic meal at home tonight.
Restaurants will be crowded or too expensive and the cold drizzle forecast across most of Britain offers little encouragement to venture out on a weekday evening.
But there’s a price to pay if you indulge in a Valentine’s Day ‘dine in’ meal deal from one of the high street chains.
Analysis by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has found that they are very high in salt, calories, fat and sugar
Health campaigners have revealed that some contain as much salt as six Big Mac burgers or eight portions of fries. Some burst through the daily sugar allowance in just one meal.
High street giants including M&S and Waitrose are offering couples three-course ready meals plus wine or prosecco for just £20. But analysis by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has found that they are very high in salt, calories, fat and sugar.
For example, M&S offers as a three-course meal an Italian Antipasto Delicatessen Selection, Gastropub Gammon Shanks plus Truffled Cauliflower Cheese, then Dutch Apple Tarts.
It all adds up 7.16g of salt per person — more than the 6g daily recommended limit and on a par with six Big Macs at 1.2g each. It contains 1,129 calories per person – more than half the daily 2,000 calories recommended for women. With 23.9g of saturated fat per person it is also well over the female recommendation of 20g per day.
Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, warned: ‘We know that too much salt in our diets on a regular basis can lead to high blood pressure, which can increase your risk of a heart attack and stroke. It shouldn’t be your meal deal that’s raising your blood pressure on Valentine’s Day.’
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH, said: ‘Salt is the forgotten killer, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary strokes, heart failure and heart attacks every year.’
However, one three-course meal deal from Waitrose was found to contain more salt than eight servings of McDonald’s medium fries at 0.62g each.
Marks and Spencers’ Duck A L’Orange meal for two had 54 grams of fat in the full meal – which works out at 27g per person
Scottish Cooked Mussels in Bisque Sauce followed by Easy to Cook Coq au Vin, Cauliflower Cheese and Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart has 5.49g of salt, 998 calories, eight teaspoons of sugar (adults are meant to eat no more than six per day) and 23.5g of saturated fat.
CASH nutritionist Sarah Alderton said: ‘Valentine’s is a special occasion and therefore it is no surprise that the meals offered in these ‘dine-in’ deals are of a more indulgent nature.
‘However, our survey has shown that you could easily reach your daily calorie intake and consume way over the maximum recommended daily amount of salt, saturates and sugar in just one meal, so choose wisely. Healthier combinations are available. It pays to read the label and compare the options.’
The average UK adult currently eats 8g of salt a day against the 6g limit recommended by health experts. Prof MacGregor, an expert in cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, says: ‘The UK was leading the world in reducing salt intake – however, the current government has done little so far to continue to reduce salt.’
M&S said: ‘Valentine’s Day is all about enjoying a treat with your loved one. Our Dine In deal is delicious, hugely popular with our customers. We clearly label the nutrition content of all our food on the front of pack.’
Waitrose said: ‘Our meal deal includes options like tuna steaks, roasting vegetables, asparagus tips, babyleaf salad and a berry and pomegranate fruit pack, so customers have a wide range of choice on Valentine’s Day.’