KFC, plant-based myths and an egg made of cheese

While KFC trials meat-free in one Dutch outlet, research reveals the 'shocking truth' about the salt content behind 290 plant-based meals as M&S says consumers prefer savoury over sweet.

It’s been a crazy week all round as far as news headlines are concerned. On Monday we learned that in a corner of the Netherlands one branch of KFC has upped the vegan ante by replacing all its chicken with Quorn products for a week.

KFC’s Rotterdam location is ditching meat as part of the Netherland’s annual national meat-free week and is cooking up ‘chickenless chicken crispy tenders and burgers’.

While we’re not quite sure what Colonel Sanders would make of it all, the move is part of a wider trend to offer plant-based alternatives that already sees the home of the Zinger Tower Meal serving up vegan burgers coated in the Colonel’s ‘secret blend’ of 11 herbs and spices.

Survey: plant-based meals 'drowning' in salt

However, this was also the week we learnt that many plant-based meals are literally drowning in salt, with some containing more than 8 McDonald’s Hamburgers. Yes, you read that right.

While most of us seem to take it as read that vegan and plant-based options are healthier than equivalent non-vegan products, Action on Salt blew up that myth when it revealed that four out of five ‘healthy sounding’ plant-based meals served in major UK restaurant chains would get a red traffic light for high levels of salt based on the system used for packaged food in supermarkets.

To make matters worse, three out of five plant-based restaurant meals studied contained more than 3g or more of salt, with a further 19 dishes providing more than 6g, the adult daily limit, in just the one helping.

Believed to be the largest of its kind, the survey took in some 290 plant-based and vegan meals collected from a total of 45 restaurant, takeaway, fast food and coffee chains across the UK.

Papa John's and Loch Fyne worst offenders

The results were really quite shocking. Top of the pile was Papa John’s Vegan American Hot Medium Pizza with a whopping 9.28g salt. That’s more than 7 McDonald’s Hamburgers and appears to shatter the idea that they’re healthier than their plant-based counterparts.

Perhaps more surprising though is the inclusion of Loch Fyne’s Spiced Roasted Cauliflower & Squash Goan Curry at number two in the list. You’d be very surprised to learn that your vegan option is in fact saltier than 19 of those opinion dividing anchovies.

Depending on your choice of pizza toppings that’s either very very good, or just plain terrible. To give that some context, 24% of pizza eaters say they love anchovies, while 76% want nothing to do with them, according to Slice

However, it’s not all bad news and the variation in salt content of similar meals served at different restaurants offers up some surprises to remind us that salt isn’t always necessary for flavour. For those of you that like Wagamamas, you’re in luck. Its Yasai Nikko curry with white rice has seven times less salt (1.13g) than Loch Fyne’s offering.

Orrani examples of similar restaurant dishes from different cuisines with varying levels of salt

Worrying levels of saturated fat  

The research also revealed that over half of all restaurant meals surveyed contained worrying levels of saturated fat, with one in five dishes providing more than half of an adult’s maximum daily intake. So, if you’re looking for 54.2g of saturated fat in a meal, then look no further. Harvester’s 'The Purist Burger' served with triple cooked chips exceeds a woman’s maximum daily intake by up to nearly three times.

Orrani examples of similar fast food and coffee chain dishes demonstrating varying levels of salt

Consumers prefer savoury over sweet  

With all this talk of salt and saturated fat, it perhaps comes as no surprise that more of us prefer savoury over sweet. At least that’s the finding of new research from M&S Food which found that 55% of UK adults prefer savoury snacks over sweet ones, while four in 10 (41%) prefer eating cheese over chocolate.

Why are we telling you this? Today, M&S revealed that it would be launching cheese Easter eggs in a nod to those with a savoury tooth who can sometimes feel left out at Easter.

About the size of a small hens egg, the solid cheese ‘eggs’ have 'white' made with Barber’s Farmhouse Cheddar and a vintage 18-month matured Red Leicester ‘yolk’ from Belton Farm before they’re hand-dipped in blue wax ‘shells’.

But don’t worry, those of you crying foul at this revelation can still eat up to one real egg per day without worrying, according to a new 30-year study published in the BMJ.