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The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Reading Between The Labels With Nutritionist Paula Mee

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

- Lunchbox Meats

This week Paula will be analyzing the nutritional value of lunch box meats and whether they are the right or wrong type of meat to be giving your child in their school lunch.

This week the most important nutrient health wise to look out for is Protein, however as we can't measure protein e.g. in test tubes, Paula will be talking about how bad these meats really are for you. Paula will clarify what the protein content of each of these meats is.

Nutritionist Paula Mee:
BSc., Dip Dietetics., MSc in Health Sciences., Dip Allergy, M.I.N.D.I.

From Galway, Paula graduated from University College Galway with a BSc in Biochemistry. She then completed her postgraduate qualifications in Dietetics and a Masters in Health Science in Leeds Metropolitan University.

Paula has recently been awarded a Diploma in Allergy from Southampton University. She has also completed the British Dietetic Association's Sports Dietitian course. She is a current member and a past president of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute.

Paula Mee, Nutrition Consulting was set up in 2004 and offers organisations an extensive range of services in nutrition, product development, and marketing communications.

As part of her working week she also operates a dietetic and weight management clinic.

Paula is currently on the board of Consumer Foods in Bord Bia. Paula was one of the presenters of RTE TV's Health Squad programme which ran from 2002 to 2006. Paula is the author of Good Food, Great Life 2008 and a co-author of the Health Squad Guide to Health and Fitness 2005. Her website is www.paulamee.com

What is 'processed meat'?
Processed meat is defined as meat - usually red meat - that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding other chemical preservatives. It includes ham and popular sandwich fillings such as salami, corned beef and pepperoni.


These types of meats have been around for years but are they good for us?
Unfortunately these types of meats when they are processed contain a few added ingredients that really take from their goodness, many of them contain added water, colourings and other additives, sodium or salt and sometimes they contain large amounts of added fat.

In November 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) published an expert report. The report was compiled by an Expert Panel which reviewed all available evidence on diet, physical activity and weight management in relation to cancer risk. As a result, the WCRF produced 10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention. If we all followed these recommendations, experts estimate that about a third of cancers could be prevented.

One of the recommendations was: "Avoid processed meats."

Why is it recommended that we avoid processed meats?
Processed meat increases the risk of developing bowel cancer - one of the most preventable, but also one of the most common cancers in Ireland. Processing can produce several cancer-causing substances, including N-nitroso compounds, which are the product of nitrates - a common preservative in processed meat.

What should we watch out for on processed meat packet labels?
We must watch out for additives, the two main real additives to avoid are preservatives sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite - these are added to prevent the growth of toxic micro-organisms in the meat which can kill. But with this new evidence from the WCRF, we now need to develop new and healthier ways of preserving processed meats.

Sodium Nitrite (E251)
Sodium nitrite is not naturally occurring; it is derived from sodium nitrate by chemical or bacterial action. It is used as a food preservative, mainly to inhibit the growth of clostridium botulinum, the bacterium responsible for botulism. It is also used as a curing salt, imparting a red colour to meat.

Sodium Nitrate (E251)
Sodium nitrate is a naturally occurring mineral. It is used in food as a preservative, a curing salt and a colour fixative. Nitrates are capable of being converted to nitrites either when food spoils or by bacteria in the stomach. Nitrites can cause deoxygenation of the blood or form minute amounts of nitrosoamines which are hazardous poisons and potentially carcinogenic.

Why are they added?
Without nitrates and nitrites, there would be many deaths from the growth of toxic micro-organisms in meats.

Other Additives, what are they and are they bad?

1.Shaws Ham
Protein 19.3g
Fat 2.2g
Salt 2.2g
Calories:102

What's Good about this type of ham?
Low in calories, good source of protein, second lowest in fat and saturates.
Not so good - very high in salt - 2 slices of this ham gives a child (5-10year) nearly one third of their daily salt quota. This ham also contains additives in the form of emulsifiers and antioxidants
Additives
Emulsifiers - sodium phosphate
Antioxidant - ascorbic acid = Vitamin C

2. Denny Luncheon Roll
Protein 15.9g
Fat 8.15g
Salt 1.7g
Calories 157

Paula's Opinion:
Less goodness here. More calories, less protein, 4 times more fat than the ham.
Pretty high in salt too, also contains additives in the form of emulsifiers and colour and flavorings.

Additives
Emulsifiers - sodium diphosphate, sodium triphosphate, carrageenan (seaweed - good!)
Colour - caramine - spelling mistake on label. Should be Carmine or Cochineal extract (red colour that comes from crushed bugs)
Flavouring unknown and legally they don't have to tell us what flavouring they use.
Preservative - sodium nitrite, the baddie!

3.Tom and Gerry cured turkey and pork sausage
Protein 12.2g
Fat 12.6g
Salt 1.7g
Calories 189

Paula's Opinion:
Less goodness again. Calories creeping up, less protein, over 12 times the fat than turkey slices have. Very high in salt too and contains the following additives.

Additives
Potassium Chloride
Stabiliser - disodium diphosphate
Antioxidant - sodium ascorbate
Preservative - sodium nitrite, the baddie!

4.Bally Free Deli Roast Turkey Breast
Protein 21g
Fat 0.9g
Salt 1.2g
Calories 101

Paula's Opinion:
Low in calories, best source of protein, lowest in fat especially the bad fats - saturates. Also it the lowest in salt of all the processed meats being discussed.
Additives below include stabilisers, Sodium triphosphate, sodium polyphosphate E450

Paula says, These are pretty harmless and are similar in function to emulsifiers and thickeners - they allow the manufacturer to add water to the turkey, without it being obvious. Water is the second ingredient on the label. Show viewers.


WATER: Explain why water is added?
Water is added to keep the meat moist in the packet, it can also be added for weight purposes meaning there is less meat per pound, which can be misleading. However in the case of our turkey slices this is a different situation as turkey is very dry and was only added to keep it moist here.

6. Sol Salami
Protein 14.6g
Fat 43.7g
Salt value not given
Calories 481

Paula's Opinion:
Little or no goodness left. Highest in calories, poor protein, and a whopping 43.7g of fat.
Must be high in salt as it is both an ingredient and is found in the additives too - third ingredient on label!


Additives
Emulsifiers -diphosphates, triphosphates, polyphosphates
Colour -Cochineal extract (red colour that comes from crushed bugs)
Antioxidant (sodium esythorbate)
Preservative - sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL ADDITIVES MENTIONED: EMULSIFIERS, STABILIZERS, CIOLOURINGS AND PRESERVATIVES ARE EU APPROVED.

Paula's Top 4 Additives to watch out for:
. Nitrates
. Nitrites
. Some Colourings ( Paula will elaborate as we will be discussing them in 'Sweets' in two weeks time).
. Synthetic additives


Conclusion:
Try to avoid these too regularly in the lunchbox. They are a major problem when you consider that children aged 5-10 only need 4g of salt per day and in a couple of slices of some hams you can get one third of this. Also some contain added fat and nasty additives.

Better and healthier options would be to grill some extra chicken breasts for sandwich slices the night before when you're preparing the evening meal or buy the deli premium meats like sliced turkey on the bone which are without additives.

Failing that use other protein sources like hummus (made from chickpeas) as dips, Cheese (protein and calcium), bean salads, and lentil soups in flask.

Some supermarkets and manufacturers are just using sugar and more natural additives now in their sliced meats - e.g. M&S.

Shaws Ham
Crumbed Ham Slices per 100g
Protein 19.3g
Fat 2.2g
Salt 2.2g
Calories:102

Denny Luncheon Roll
Luncheon Roll made from Selected Cuts of Pork per 100g
Protein 15.9g
Fat 8.15g
Salt 1.7g
Calories 157

Tom and Gerry cured turkey and pork sausage
Turkey and Pork Sausage, Cured and Cooked Per 100g
Protein 12.2g
Fat 12.6g
Salt 1.7g
Calories 189

Bally Free Deli Roast Turkey Breast
Roast Turkey Breast Slices per 100g
Protein 21g
Fat 0.9g
Salt 1.2g
Calories 101


Sol Salami
Salami, Dried Cured Pork Sausage per 100g
Protein 14.6g
Fat 43.7g
Salt value not given
Calories 481

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