Coffee chains fuelling obesity crisis via ‘little nudges’ to buy sweet treats, nutritionist claims

Having a muffin alongside your morning coffee could add 400 calories

Olivia Petter
Monday 17 September 2018 12:56 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Coffee shops have come under fire for encouraging customers to add sweet treats to their drink orders, which health officials warn is fuelling the country’s obesity crisis.

Speaking at Public Health England’s annual conference at Warwick University, nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said that chains such as Costa, Pret A Manger and Caffé Nero are giving customers “little nudges” towards snacks like muffins and croissants, which can add an additional 400 calories to their order.

“If the muffin has got a lovely name that implies it’s healthy, you don’t think about it in the same way you necessarily think about a burger,” she said.

“It’s part of the problem. All those little nudges are encouraging you to buy a little bit more every time.

“Major coffee chains have committed publicly to reducing sugar and now is the time for all to raise their game. More action is needed to help tackle obesity.”

Nearly five million people are expected to be diagnosed with morbid obesity in Great Britain over the next two decades, recent figures have revealed.

Tedstone argues that coffee shops have an important part to play when it comes to battling the rising levels of obesity in this country, adding that they “have got a long way to go”.

The NHS advises adults consume no more than 30g sugar a day, however, many of the indulgent offerings on menus at UK coffee chains match this amount in a single serving.

Pret A Manger’s pecan slice contains 29.8g of sugars while Costa Coffee’s layered carrot cake contains 45.2g per portion.

However, it’s not just the snacks that contain high amounts of sugar, as the drinks themselves can also be very high in calories due to the addition of sugary syrups and indulgent toppings.

For example, a venti oat vanilla latte at Starbucks contains 438 calories and 52.2g of sugar.

Meanwhile, a bonfire spice hot chocolate at Costa Coffee boasts 311 calories and 36.9g of sugar.

Tedstone is calling for clearer labelling in order to make people aware of the calorie contents of these foods prior to purchasing them.

“Having a pastry or a muffin with a coffee is adding hidden extra calories to our diet as many coffee shops do not have good nutrition labelling,” she said.

“When they ask ‘Would you like a muffin with that?’, you’re actually purchasing 400 additional calories.”

Eating too much sugar has been linked to increasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Public Health England has called on coffee chains and restaurants to reduce the levels of sugar in their products by 20 per cent by 2020.

Watch this sugar-free space.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in