Salt and your family

We are drawing to the end of Salt Awareness Week. This is a useful reminder in the year that as a nation our average salt intake is still above the recommended intake. Unfortunately, much of the salt consumed is in ready prepared foods which means we all need to learn to be salt detectives and consider salt content when making our purchases.

What are the salt recommendations:

  • <6 months <1g per day

  • 6-12 month 1g per day

  • 1-3 yrs 2g per day

  • 4-6yrs 3g per day

  • 7-10 yrs 5g per day

  • 11+ yrs 6g per day

With a slice of bread containing on average 0.3-0.5g per slice and a cereal such as Cornflakes containing 0.3g per serving, you can see how young children can quickly consume more than is recommended.

As it is likely that everyone in the household eats too much salt it is important to take the following steps to reduce their intake:

  1. Avoid salty snacks - choose fresh fruit and vegetables, lower salt crackers, toast or homemade popcorn with no added salt instead.

  2. Read food labels. Sometimes the supermarket own version will contain less salt than the branded version and vice versa. Take a look at the table below for a comparison of products and advice on food labelling.

  3. Cook the majority of your meals from scratch and don’t add salt. Bought sauces and ready meals will often contain a lot of added salt.

  4. For adults that are used to a lot of salt, try adding salt to your own meal only (rather to the cooking) and slowly reduce the amount added - you will gradually adjust to the taste of the food with less salt and then hopefully, none! Try to add the salt discreetly so the kids are tempted to copy.

  5. Swap processed meats like sausages and ham for fresh varieties that are not preserved with salt.

  6. Buy tinned beans and vegetables in water with no added salt or use frozen varieties instead.

  7. Limit the use of condiments and sauces such as tomato ketchup and gravy which are high in salt. Look for lower salt alternatives such as low salt stock cubes.

  8. When eating out, don’t be afraid to ask for salt not to be added to your meal if at all possible.

Tips to still make food that tastes delicious:

  • If you are making your own soups and sauces make use of herbs and spices to add flavour without the need for salt.

  • Making your own salad dressings is very easy so you can leave the salt out. An old jar comes in handy for shaking the ingredients up and storing it in the fridge. Alternatively, some extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice can add flavour many dishes.

  • Some foods that are high in salt are hard to buy in lower salt options. These include cheese, olives, and marmite. A reduced salt variety of marmite is available, but if you read my Instagram post about it you’ll have found out that it is thicker than regular marmite, so the total quantity of salt being eaten may in fact be the same. So, this is when portion control comes into play. Make sure high salt foods are not given too frequently and that the portion size is kept small.

To enhance your label reading skills take a look at Consensus Action on Salt and Health: Low Salt Shopping Guide