The Great British Sandwich Scandal

The Great British Sandwich Scandal

18th May 2022

Minute read

The idea that pre-packed supermarket sandwiches are bad for our health is nothing new. Popular fillings include supposedly carcinogenic bacon and ham and saturated fat loaded cheeses, usually accompanied by lashings of mayonnaise or buttery spreads. 

Of course if we make sandwiches at home we might use the same ingredients, but we can control the quantities we use them in. Unfortunately that’s not always practical. Pre-packed sandwiches are popular because they’re convenient. We don’t always have the time or means to make a sandwich from scratch, so it’s understandable that we might choose to grab one from a supermarket fridge and go. 

That said, choosing the convenient option doesn’t have to mean making bad choices. We’ve analysed the contents of 10 of the most popular sandwiches from five of the UK’s biggest supermarkets to identify the best and worst choices from each retailer, as well as the best and worst supermarkets to buy your sandwich from overall.

We analysed the contents of 10 popular sandwiches: 

  • Prawn Mayonnaise 
  • Ham & Mustard 
  • Egg & Cress 
  • Chicken, Bacon & Mayo 
  • Chicken & Stuffing 
  • Tuna & Cucumber 
  • Cheese & Onion 
  • Chicken Salad 
  • Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato 
  • Ploughman’s 

The worst sandwich was the Sainsbury’s Ploughman’s, with 518 calories, 1.83 grams of salt, 10.6 grams of sugar and 26.4 grams of fat (of which 15.4 grams are saturated fats). That’s more saturated fat and sugar than a Big Mac (and over ¾ of your recommended daily intake)! 

The best sandwich was Boots' Tuna & Cucumber, with 0.7 grams of salt, 1.4 grams of sugar, just 4.1 grams of fat (of which 0.4 grams are saturates) and only 181 calories.

Tesco was the worst offender overall, taking the crown for unhealthiest sandwich in 5 of the 10 we analysed (although none of its offerings matched up to the nutritional density of the Sainsbury’s Ploughman’s).

The healthiest place to shop for pre-packed sandwiches was Boots (who coincidently took the crown for healthiest sandwich overall) taking the crown for healthiest sandwich in 5 of the 10 we analysed.

Interestingly, although some sandwiches proved to be fairly unhealthy wherever they came from (including that Ploughman’s again!) others showed huge variance – 129 calories between the best and worst Chicken Salad sandwich, to be precise. Head to Boots for the healthiest option (with 311 calories) and avoid M&S if you’re watching your waistline (440 calories).

In conclusion…

If you have the choice, Boots is, on average, healthiest for most filling options, followed by Waitrose. Sainsbury’s and Tesco however score poorly on practically every sandwich. That said wherever you are making a healthy choice means staying away from sandwiches that are high in saturated fats, sugars and salts, so ease up on the Ploughman’s and stick to something healthier like Tuna & Cucumber or Egg & Cress.

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