Now THAT’S sickly sweet: The rise of the cafes that only sell belt-busting desserts with up to TWENTY-TWO teaspoons of sugar
- Dessert cafes across the UK sell puddings containing up to 1,000 calories each
- But medical experts warn against temptation to over-consume on sugary treats
- Among chains selling puddings from £3 each are Kaspa’s and Heavenly Desserts
The dimly lit establishments springing up on High Streets across the country feature pounding music and leather booths in black and pink. No wonder they draw in teenagers like a magnet.
What is being peddled, however, is not alcohol or drugs, but something experts fear could prove equally life-threatening long-term: desserts containing up to 1,000 calories each — almost half an adolescent’s recommended intake for a whole day, and up to four times their recommended daily limit of sugar.
These ‘dessert cafes’ are swiftly becoming a feature of town centres. But with obesity among adults and children at epidemic levels, nutritionists are horrified by the arrival of this sickly-sweet new kid on the block.
Dr Sally Norton is an NHS consultant surgeon who has performed hundreds of bariatric operations, where a gastric band is fitted or part of the stomach removed as a weight-loss solution.
Choc Royale Sundae – 20 teaspoons of sugar. Chocolate hazelnut gelato, vanilla ice cream, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, milk chocolate shavings and milk chocolate sauce, whipped cream. Calories: 910 Fat: 44g Carbs: 90g Sugar: 79g
She says: ‘We need to reduce temptation to over-consume calories. I’ve spent my career operating on people who are unable to lose life-limiting amounts of weight. Meanwhile these cafes are springing up everywhere. It’s disheartening.’
The problem is affecting younger and younger children, with the latest statistics showing a third are overweight by age 11, while a fifth are obese.
While a degree of responsibility falls to parents to control children’s portion sizes, once they hit secondary school and have greater freedom, their diets become much harder to police.
Among the chains selling puddings from £3 up to around £10 are Kaspa’s, Creams and Heavenly Desserts. Outlets are run as franchises from Glasgow down to Exeter. Kaspa’s, which opened its first parlour in 2010, has 46 diners, with a further 20 opening soon.
Ultimate chocolate bubble waffle – 15 teaspoons of sugar. Maltesers and chocolate chip gelatos, milk chocolate, white chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings. Calories: 890 Fat: 46g Carbs: 84g Sugar: 61g
LEFT: Chocoholic – 17.5 teaspoons of sugar. Italian wafer basket filled with chocolate, caramel and vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with nuts, chocolate shavings, drizzled with chocolate syrup, served with an edible chocolate cup and whipped cream. Calories: 990 Fat: 49g Carbs: 89g Sugar: 71g RIGHT: Hot fudge sundae – 22 teaspoons of sugar. Warm fudge pieces, chocolate, fresh vanilla ice cream and Belgian chocolate sauce. Calories: 890 Fat: 34g Carbs: 109g Sugar: 89g
Creams, which opened in 2008 and now has 57 cafes, specialises in ‘big, flamboyant desserts’ which they say will make customers want to ‘celebrate something — anything! — every day’.
Heavenly Desserts claims to create some of the country’s ‘finest sweet things’. While it has opened only five cafes since launching in 2008, ten more are scheduled to open soon.
Unlike shop-bought sweets — the calorie, fat and sugar content of which must be clearly labelled — customers at these cafes can only hazard a guess at the levels in their desserts.
While children and adolescents are recommended to consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day, nutritionists estimate just one of these desserts is packed with up to 22 teaspoons and between 700 and 1,000 calories.
LEFT: Knickerbocker glorious – 17.5 teaspoons of sugar. Chocolate chip and strawberry gelatos, fresh fruit, strawberry sauce. Calories: 890 Fat: 46g Carbs: 84g Sugar: 71g. RIGHT: Cookies and Cream Sundae – 18 teaspoons. Oreo cookies with vanilla, cookies and cream ice cream, chocolate syrup topped with crushed Oreos. Calories: 930 Fat: 46g Carbs: 90g Sugar: 73g
More Oreo Waffle – 17.5 teaspoons of sugar. Bubble waffle with cookie dough gelato, butterscotch sauce and more Oreo cookie crumbs. Calories: 960 Fat: 43g Carbs: 91g Sugar: 71g
With names like Bubblelicious and Chocoholic, they are designed to get mouths watering.
‘Sugar is addictive, so some kids will be drawn back to these cafes every day,’ says nutritionist Rick Hay. ‘Calories eaten in addition to meals, in these sorts of quantities, will soon add up to alarming weight gain.’
Being heavy in childhood is likely to lead to a lifelong battle with weight. This, in turn, is at the root of health problems including diabetes; heart disease; cancer; fatty liver disease, which can cause cirrhosis; asthma; joint problems; and infertility.
In England alone we spend £5.1 billion a year treating conditions related to excess weight, according to the latest Government figures. Public Health England is working with manufacturers to reduce by 20 per cent the sugar content in foods aimed at children.
However, while it is mandatory to have nutritional information on packaging, there is no expectation that restaurants will list those details on menus. Even if they did, experts recognise that would not deter children and adolescents, who are generally not focused on the long term.
The Brownie Waffle – 15.5 teaspoons of sugar. Fresh waffle, topped with fudge brownie pieces, drizzled with warm Belgian chocolate sauce, finished off with pouring cream. Calories: 740 Fat: 30g Carbs: 92g Sugar: 62g
‘Some children are having all their teeth pulled out because they’re rotting with all this sugar, and others are developing type 2 diabetes, which used to be a disease of old age,’ says Dr Norton. ‘A recent study found that a person can expect to lose around seven months of life expectancy for every surplus half stone they put on.
‘The food at McDonald’s and the fried chicken and chips teenagers are drawn to, while very far from great, at least have protein in them. But there’s no nutrition at all in most of these desserts.’ While menus often feature fruit smoothies, even these can contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar.
‘I think that everyone should have the odd treat,’ says Rick Hay. ‘But with the ticking timebomb of the obesity crisis, we don’t want businesses taking advantage of kids who will turn up like sugar zombies to get a fix.’
Handley Amos, chief executive of Creams, says: ‘We’ve always positioned ourselves as a place for special celebrations. Our core product, gelato, is a healthier alternative to industrially produced ice cream.
‘Our menu consists of fresh fruit toppings options, smoothies and a new kids’ menu, which has halved the portion sizes of our desserts.’
Banoffee Cookie Dough – 20 teaspoons of sugar. Cookie mixture topped with banana and toffee sauce, with ice cream, whipped cream or custard. Calories: 800 Fat: 32g Carbs: 97g Sugar: 79g