While most Scots were broadly correct when asked to guess the calorie count of meals and drinks, they were “way off” when asked the same question about snacks, a poll on behalf of innovation charity Nesta has found.
This lack of awareness could be contributing to Scotland’s obesity crisis, the charity warned.
Some 95 per cent of people in Scotland underestimated the number of calories in half a branded sharing packet of crisps, Nesta found, some by as many as 300 calories.
Three quarters of people thought there were fewer calories in a sausage roll than the true amount, with most out by at least 100 calories.
Even healthier choices were underestimated, with 97 per cent of respondents incorrect about the number of calories in a packet of dried mango slices.
And more than half of people were wrong about the calorie count of two chocolate digestive biscuits.
Some 2,000 adults across the UK were polled in April and May, with an addition of just over 500 adults in Scotland.
Frances Bain, healthy life lead for Nesta in Scotland, said: “Snacks and small bites to eat like these are often grabbed on the go or on impulse when we are at the shops, travelling or at work.
"Not only are they often much higher in calories than the public understands but they are the kinds of foods that are heavily promoted and given priority placement by retailers at counters and checkouts to push people towards buying them.”
She added: “Our obesity crisis is urgent and we need to see action to improve the availability, accessibility and affordability of healthier snacks in the places we are making quick, on-the-go purchases.”
Public health minister Maree Todd said high rates of obesity are a key factor in these proposals, which should help people make “healthier choices” when eating out.
But eating disorder charities have raised concerns that the measure may have a negative impact on those with and without eating disorders.