Treating your family to a day out with some food is a normality and a regular occurence for some families. But are you putting your child's health at risk with it?
New research by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has uncovered the shockingly high levels of salt hidden in the children’s meals at some of the country’s leading pub and fast food chains.
With some of the surveyed restaurants offering meals which contain MORE than a child’s Salt Guidelines Daily Amount (GDA) of 4g for an entire day.
5 of the highest main meals (incl side dishes) found were at the following outlets:
- Nando’s - Nandino’s Veggie Burger with Creamy Mash – 5.3g salt
- Wetherspoons - Wiltshire Cured Ham & Cheese Sandwich (served with chips) - 4.8g salt
- Harvester - Gammon and Chicken Combo with Mashed Potato and Beans – 4.3g salt
- Sizzling Pub Co. – 4oz Gammon with Mash and Beans – 4.1g salt
- Wetherspoons – Chicken Breast Nuggets with Chips and Baked Beans – 4.0g salt
The survey found huge variations in meals, even at the same restaurants, however with no nutritional information on the menus it is impossible for parents to make a healthier choice for their children.
For instance, Wetherspoons offer a ham & cheese sandwich with chips, containing a massive 4.8g of salt whilst on the same menu also offering a much healthier Annabel Karmel Spaghetti Bolognese, the lowest meal found in the survey, at just 0.1g. Sizzling Pub Co. offers Gammon with Mash and Beans at a staggering 4.1g, whilst also offering a meal with just a quarter of the salt (0.8g) - a Chicken Breast with a Jacket boat and Peas.
The 5 lowest main meals (incl. side dishes) found were at the following outlets;
- Wetherspoons - Annabel Karmel Spaghetti Bolognese - 0.1g salt
- McDonalds - 4 Piece Chicken Nuggets & Fruit Bag - 0.4g salt
- Wimpy – Fish Bites with Salad - 0.5g salt
- Hungry Horse - Four Cod Fish Fingers & Jacket Potato with Peas/Corn/Salad - 0.73g salt
- KFC – Kids Popcorn Chicken with Corn Cobette - 0.78g salt
“Children’s meals should provide tasty and healthy alternatives to more adult dishes,” says Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of CASH.
“It is an outrage that when families go out for a pub lunch, they may be unknowingly putting their children’s health at risk.”
Side dishes are an extra hidden source of salt, with a Mash or Spicy Rice from Nando’s containing 1.8g - nearly TWICE as much salt as a main dish of Nandinos Chicken Breast Fillet Strips at 0.8g. Mash and beans were typically found to be the highest salt combination, a jacket potato, vegetables or salad the lowest. For instance, at Sizzling Pub Co, Mash and Beans contains 1.4g salt, SEVEN times more than a Jacket Potato with Peas (0.2g). Although all outlets offered a vegetable side option, just 4 included vegetables as part of all meals.
Desserts were also found to be surprising sources of hidden salt, with 5 desserts found to contain the same or more salt as a packet of crisps [REF 3]; for instance an Ice cream with Chocolate Sauce from Sizzling Pub Co. contains 0.7g salt per portion (18% GDA).
“Salt addiction salt starts in childhood and can lead to serious health issues in later life including high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease,” says Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH.
“Parents are doing their best, but with the food industry continuing to put huge levels of salt in our food without any information on the menu, our children remain at risk.”
Nutritionist Hannah Brinsden suggests some tips for healthier choices for children: