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Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine - Barts and The London

Dips to Pick (and skip!) – New Survey Exposes ‘Healthy’ Dips as Being Salt and Fat Traps

  • NEW research exposes many shop bought dips as being huge salt and fat traps loaded with excess calories 
  • A staggering 74% of houmous products have a red front of pack label for fat
  • A serving of ASDA’s taramasalata contains as much salt as 13 Ritz crackers
  • CASH is urgently calling for the government’s to stop dragging their feet and produce a strong and robust Obesity Strategy that will include reducing salt and fat in the nation’s diet

Widely regarded as a healthy option and a guilt-free alternative to snacks such as crisps and chocolate, a NEW survey by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), based at Queen Mary University of London, has revealed many dips are potential salt and fat traps – with some containing as much salt as 4 packets of ready salted crisps.
The national survey looked at 210 chilled dips across all major supermarket chains including houmous, guacamole, salsa and taramasalata.
The most commonly sold dip is houmous (108 out of 210), yet it is far from the healthiest, with a staggering 74% (80 out of 108) having a red front of pack label for fat and not one single product providing a green front of pack label for salt. The dip, made predominantly from chickpeas, also contains on average 280 calories per 100g – more than 10% of the recommended daily intake for women.
One of the saltiest houmous dips was Marks & Spencer’s Caramelised Onion Houmous containing more salt per 100g (1.53g) than 4 packets of ready salted crisps and over a quarter of the daily maximum recommended intake for salt.
Of all the dips surveyed, taramasalata was the saltiest with an average salt content of 1.25g per 100g compared to salsa which was the least salty (average 0.49g per 100g). A serving of ASDA’s taramasalata (0.62g per ¼ pot) for example contains the same amount of salt as 13 Ritz crackers.
There was also a large variation in salt content within the same dip category. For example the salt content in houmous dips ranged from 0.43g per 100g (Lidl Red Pepper Houmous) to 1.6g per 100g (Tesco Caramelised Onion Houmous) – that’s saltier in comparison to 100g of KP original salted peanuts. Similarly within sour-cream based dips, the salt content ranged from 0.25g per 100g (Essential Waitrose Reduced Fat Sour Cream & Chive) to 0.75g per 100g (Asda 30% Less Fat Sour Cream & Chive Dip).

Examples of products with high levels of salt per 100g include:

  • Tesco Caramelised Onion Houmous - 1.6g
  • Sabra Baba Ganoush - 1.6g
  • Marks and Spencer Caramelised Onion Houmous - 1.53g
  • Marks and Spencer Taramasalata - 1.5g
  • Moorish Baba ghanoush-ish Aubergine Smoked dip – 1.4g

Examples of products with lower levels of salt per 100g:

  • Essential Waitrose Reduced Fat Sour Cream & Chive Dip - 0.25g
  • The Co-operative Salsa - 0.3g
  • Tesco Tzatziki - 0.4g
  • Waitrose Creamy & Refreshing Guacamole - 0.4g
  • Lidl Red Pepper Houmous - 0.43g

When considering the saturated fat content of most dips surveyed, worryingly over one fifth (23%) had a red front of pack label for saturates. Those with the highest amounts per 100g were Essential Waitrose Sour Cream and Chive dip (10.2g) and Chovi Allioli Creamy Garlic Dip (10g). Based on a standard 50g portion size, both would provide over a quarter of an adult’s Reference Intake for saturates.
What’s more, a portion of Waitrose Cheese and Chive dip contains more total fat than a Big Mac!

Sonia Pombo, Nutritionist and Campaign Manager for CASH says: “Food companies need to take action and reduce both the salt and fat content in dips. The variation of different products revealed in our survey shows it can be achieved, which is why it’s equally important that we as individuals read the label carefully and opt for healthier brands. Also, remember to swap unhealthy sides with vegetables e.g. carrots, peppers and tomatoes, for added bonus.”

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH says: “Once again we demonstrate the unnecessary amounts of salt and fat being added by the food industry to what could be a healthy product. A diet high in salt leads to strokes and heart disease, the commonest cause of death in the UK. Reducing salt is the most cost effective measure to reduce the number of people suffering, which is why it is imperative the government announce a new robust plan for reducing salt in our diet.“

Top tips for choosing healthier dips:

  1. Be label savvy and don’t be fooled by products branded as low/reduced fat – whilst the fat content may be lower the salt content may still be high! Take an extra moment to check the label and compare a few different ones before making your selection. Use our app ‘Foodswitch’ to help you swap to a healthier choice!
  2. Choose dips with less fat and salt, like salsa, or a vegetable-based dip, rather than sour-cream or cheese-based dips which are higher in fat and saturates.
  3. Be wary of portion sizes – eating straight out of the container will most likely lead to overconsumption, so spoon some out on your plate instead and fill it with healthier treats e.g. salad and fruit. Individual single-serve pots can be a good way to control portions.
  4. Eat dips with vegetables rather than salty and high fat foods like crisps or cheese.
  5. Get creative and make your own – that way you can control what you put in! Some plain low-fat yogurt, cucumber and a sprig of mint can make for a tasty homemade tzatziki, or why not make your own chunky salsa with some tomatoes, onion, chilli and fresh herbs?

Please follow this link to see our Dips Survey 2016 - Full Data [PDF 433KB]