‘Health halo’ hides a sugar mountain in vegan drinks
DRINKS containing alternative milks may be less healthy than those made with cow’s milk, health experts have warned, as they urged shoppers not to be fooled by “health halo” vegan foods.
A study of seasonal hot drinks by Action on Sugar found many coffee shops did not adequately label drinks containing alternative milks to show just how much sugar they contained.
Starbuck’s oat milk venti latte has more than seven teaspoons of sugar (29.5g) and 350 calories while the same drink made with semi-skimmed milk, has just five teaspoons and fewer than half the calories (168).
The chain’s signature caramel hot chocolate with whipped cream using oat milk, had more than 23 teaspoons of sugar, the equivalent of consuming four white chocolate and strawberry muffins or three cans of Coca-cola.
Similarly, Pret’s regular hot chocolate with rice-coconut milk contains 10 teaspoons of sugar compared with Leon’s whole milk version, at just four.
Action on Sugar warned that consumers wanting an alternative to cow’s milk were unknowingly consuming excessive sugar due to lack of labelling and the “health halo” of vegan options.
Switching from oat milk to almond milk could cut the sugar content of drinks by nearly one third.
Katharine Jenner, the Action on Sugar campaign director, based at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Customers looking for dairy alternatives could be shocked to learn that many coffee shops and cafés use pre-sweetened alternative milks as the nutrition information is often very difficult to find – with information only available on websites or not at all.”
The group has called for the sugary drinks tax to be extended to milky drinks and those with added syrups.
It warned that many high-street coffee chains were failing to reduce the sugar in their drinks, and even ramping up the content for Christmas.
All the largest size products surveyed would receive a red traffic light for sugar, more than 13.5g per serving, with the exceptions being Costa’s gingerbread lattes and Pret’s soya pumpkin spice latte, which would be amber.
Starbucks’ gingerbread latte with oat milk has 14 teaspoons of sugar (56.6g) and 523 calories – the equivalent of eating 17 custard creams. A regular latte contains just 29.5g of sugar.
Caffè Nero’s salted caramel hot chocolate (grande) with skimmed milk has nearly 15 teaspoons of sugar (59.6g) and 503 calories. A normal hot chocolate has nearly two teaspoons less sugar.
Some stores have even increased their sugar content since the last survey was done three years ago. In 2016, a regular KFC vanilla latte had 19g of sugar, but now has 26g.