The “Healthiest Fast Food” – Really?
I quite like Sumo Salad, but they can be a bit unpredictable, and I have had a bit of a bad run lately. I don’t think it is a franchise issue – the franchises I have been buying from are consistent – I think there is a problem with the recipes. For example, the falafel wrap I bought from a Sumo Salad at lunchtime recently had a revoltingly sweet dressing on it.
The great thing about Sumo is that they publish nutritional information on their meals, so I went looking in the nutritional information to see why. According to the nutritional information, the Falafel and Hummus Wrap with Sweet Tomato Chili Dressing contains no sugars. I just don’t believe that.
It made me start wondering how truthful the nutritional information really was.
Sumo Salad promotes the idea that plates at both lunch and dinner should consist of 25% lean protein, 25% low GI carbs and the other 50% should be veggies or salad. Nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t explain though whether that percentage is by calorific value, weight, or volume.
But we can test the 25-25-50 rule. Or can we?
Asparagus and pea risotto with parmesan cheese, per 100g, contains 1.2g protein, 2.2g fat, 6g carbohydrate (of which 1g is sugar), salt 680mg. and zero fibre. So what is the other 90g? Water? Cardboard?
Perhaps the 25-50-50 only means relative proportions. So if there is 1.2g protein, there should be 1.2g of carbohydrate, and no fat. Well that’s a fail.
Grilled Tasmanian Salmon Fast Leafy Salad per 100g – 3.9g protein, 7.4g fat, 2.5g carbohydrates (of which 2.3g sugar), >1.6g fibre and 154.5 salt. Again, way off the 25-25-50 rule on weight.
The trouble is, Sumo Salad don’t tell you how much of each dish is vegetables, doesn’t tell you what proportion of the carbohydrates are low GI or make any recommendations on fat, or on sugar.
They do class anything with a fat content of less than around 8% as “low fat”. They also say that “Our products that are 97% FAT FREE contain less than 3g of saturated fat if it’s a meal or less than 1 gram of saturated fat if it’s a snack item.”. That’s theoretically kind of true as long as serving sizes are <100g for a meal or <30g for a snack. Bt you can’t really directly compare a percentage value to a value by weight. That’s just bad maths.
The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code requires that for a product to be labelled as “low fat”, it must contain less than 3 per cent fat for solid foods (1.5 per cent for liquid foods). None of the 9 leafy salads marked as “low fat” in the nutritional information met that target. None passed the US FDA requirement of <3g of fat per serving either. In fact, some of the salads are extremely high in fat. The Pesto Chicken and Avocado with Pesto Dressing and Walnuts has >20% fat. That’s more than feta cheese. The only things on the menu that can actually be called low-fat are the risottos. Totally counter-intuitive.
Sumo Salad says that “Our products are Low Sugar as they contain less than 10g of sugar per serve if it’s a meal and less than 5g of sugar per serve if it is a snack.” That’s not what the FSANZ says they’re allowed to say. The FSANZ definition for low sugar is no more than 5%. The good news is that most of the leafy salads can legitimately be described as low sugar. However many of the lowest sugar items are unacceptably high in fat and/or sodium. My opinion as a consumer? Some people want low-fat and low-sugar. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Good-quality fresh produce has plenty of taste already.
And the takeaway? (ha ha)
None of what Sumo Salads sells really ticks all the boxes, and their position on low fat is positively misleading. But they are disclosing, and trying to push the bar with fast food. They have to get points for that. The risottos aren’t bad (even if they fail the 25-25-50 rule), and the chicken & avocado with honey, lime & coriander dressing and the super greens sumo bowl are pretty close to good. Just watch out for the garden salad with light lemon mayo – 11.6% fat.