Babies and children only need a very small amount of salt in their diet. However, because salt is added to a lot of the food you buy, such as bread, baked beans, and even biscuits, it is easy to have too much.
The maximum recommended amount of salt for babies and children is:
up to 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium)
1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)
4 to 6 years – 3g of salt a day (1.2g sodium)
7 to 10 years – 5g of salt a day (2g sodium)
11 years and over – 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium)
Babies who are breastfed get the right amount of salt through breast milk. Infant formula contains a similar amount of salt to breast milk.
When you start introducing solid foods, remember not to add salt to the foods you give to your baby, because their kidneys cannot cope with it. You should also avoid giving your baby ready-made foods that are not made specifically for babies, such as breakfast cereals, because they can also be high in salt.
Lots of foods produced for children can be quite high in salt, so it’s important to check the nutritional information before you buy. The salt content is usually given as figures for sodium. As a rough guide, food containing more than 0.6g of sodium per 100g is considered to be high in salt. You can work out the amount of salt in foods by multiplying the amount of sodium by 2.5. For example, 1g of sodium per 100g is the same as 2.5g salt per 100g.
You can reduce the amount of salt your child has by avoiding salty snacks, such as crisps and biscuits, and swapping them for low-salt snacks instead. Try healthy options such as dried fruit, raw vegetable sticks and chopped fruit to keep things varied.
Making sure your child doesn’t eat too much salt means you’re also helping to ensure that they don’t develop a taste for salty food, which makes them less likely to eat too much salt as an adult.
As I sat down to work today I had a look over the BBC’s health news to see what the issues of teh day might be. The main headline was “Heart disease warnings ‘missed‘” . I’d also forgotten that today is World Heart Day.
Delving further into the article I discovered that the British Heart Foundation had recently organised some survey research and they discovered, to their horror, that 90% of people think that there must be symptoms associated with that “silent killer” high blood pressure.
So I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you British Heart Foundation’s tips for a healthy heart and to prevent coronary heart disease.
a) Give up smoking. You can find some ideas to help you pack in smoking here.
b) Get your general health road tested by your doctor.
c) Maintain a healthy weight. Read our weight loss tips and blog posts here.
d) Keep active. Pretty hard for many of us but much more for people with chronic pain. You might find this guide to exercise for people with pain useful.
e) Lower your salt consumption. Both in and out of the home.
f) Eat your 5-a-day. Do you?
g) Cut the saturated fat. Find out more about diet and health here.
h) Always read the food labels. You would be amazed at the salt and sugar in processed foods.
i) Cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink. How much do you drink?
j) Watch your portion sizes. Make sure you eat less.
Do you have any tips for our readers? If you do please do feel free to share below in the comments boxes.
As regular readers of this blog know I am rather skeptical about of lot of MedEd (medical education for those not in the in crowd). Actually much of it is total rubbish. And it strikes me the bigger the organisation the more rubbish it tends to produce. You know who you are! But no names no pack drill!
So you can imagine my delighted when an email about World Heart Day dropped into my inbox. One of those great occasions when I’m sent something which is actually useful. Mainly about salt reduction it does not just say why but much more importantly it says how.
On World Heart Day, which takes place on 29 September, the World Health Organization (WHO) is asking us to take action on the overuse of salt. They feel we can do this by implementing their sodium (the main source our diets is salt) reduction recommendations. This they say reduce the number of people experiencing heart disease and strokes.
In fact noncommunicable diseases, including heart disease and stroke, are now the main causes of premature death .
“If the target to reduce salt by 30% globally by 2025 is achieved, millions of lives can be saved from heart disease, stroke and related conditions,” shares Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.
As we noted above main source of sodium in our diet is salt. But it also come from from sodium glutamate and sodium chloride, and is used as a condiment in many parts of the world. In the developed world WHO claim 80% of salt intake comes from processed foods such as bread, cheese, bottled sauces, cured meats and ready-made meals.
Too much sodium to hypertension, or high blood pressure, and there or up the risk of things like heart disease and stroke.
On average, people consume around 10 grams of salt per day which is twice as much as we should.
“Salt is in almost everything we eat, either because high levels of salt are found in most
processed and prepared foods, or because we are adding salt when we prepare food at home,” adds Dr Chestnov.
Government and NGos wouldn’t be government or NGOs if they did not call for greater regulation. So they kick off with:-
regulations and policies to ensure that food manufacturers and retailers reduce the levels of salt in food and beverage products;
agreements with the industry to ensure that manufacturers and retailers make healthy food (with low salt) available and affordable;
fostering healthy eating environments (that promote salt reduction) in public places such as schools, hospitals, workplaces and public institutions;
ensuring clear food labelling so consumers can easily understand the level of salt in products;
But what about us. Because that is where it really counts as we all know.
reading food labels when buying processed food to check salt levels; (or of course you can give process food a miss)
asking for products with less salt when buying prepared food in restaurants etc
removing salt dispensers and bottled sauces from dining tables;
limiting the amount of salt added in cooking to a total maximum amount a fifth of a teaspoon over the course of a day;
limiting frequent consumption of high salt products;
guiding children’s taste buds through a diet of mostly unprocessed foods without adding salt.
They also gave us a few links so please check them out!
A new study shows the vast majority of parents are unaware of the salt levels present in their children’s breakfast cereals, with health experts worried they could be easily exceeding recommended salt intake levels on a daily basis
In a study released today, 85% of parents didn’t factor in salt content when choosing breakfast cereals for their children. Many might ask why they would, when hot debate in this category has been focused on sugar (leaving salt levels largely unnoticed). But with cereal manufacturers under increasing pressure to reduce sugar levels in their products, the two issues aren’t mutually exclusive: salt enhances sweetness.
With two thirds of children eating cereal every day for breakfast, and salt levels still worryingly high in popular cereal choices and other mainstream foods (an innocent homemade ham sandwich* provides over 50% of this age group’s 3 gram daily allowance of salt), experts are concerned that parents could be struggling to bring their children’s diets in at the recommended levels.
The YouGov research, commissioned by healthy food brand BEAR on their launch of the first salt and refined sugar free cereal for children, saw 41% of parents whose youngest child was between 4-6 years old, guessing a maximum daily salt allowance for this child to be higher than the recommended maximum amount. 12% guessed this to be 3-6 times higher.
The need for a salt free start to the day is crucial to reduce future risk of strokes and heart attacks but the more pressing concern during childhood is that a high salt intake leads to loss of calcium, therefore thinning bones and putting children at serious risk of developing diseases like osteoporosis.
Katherine Jenner, Campaign Director of CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health) says that research has shown that we only develop a liking for salt through eating salt in food which is why it is important not to give children salty tasting foods.
A reduction of salt intakes across the UK population by just 1 gram a day is estimated to prevent 6,000 strokes and heart attacks a year as well as have other health benefits for the population. Salt is not needed in cereal.
Here to tell us more about the research and how parents can avoid giving their children too much harmful salt are Sonia Pombo of CASH and founder of healthy food brand BEAR, Hayley Gait-Golding. Interviewing them on behalf of PatientTalk.Org is Lauren Beslaw.
BRESLAW I’m joined by Sonia from CASH and Hayley, founder of BEAR. They are discussing a new study that shows that the vast majority of parents aren’t aware of salt levels in their children’s breakfast cereals. This is leading health experts to worry that they could be easily exceeding the recommended salt intake levels on a daily basis.
So what’s the best possible breakfast for a child?
SONIA POMBO: I think there are lots of potentially great breakfasts a child could have. I think that currently when parents go out to supermarkets there is a lot of almost, bewildering choices available for them. There are so many cereals and obviously the ones that children seem to want the most tend to be full of refined sugars and salt. So I think a great breakfast for children would be something like our BEAR Alphabites which we have made with no refined sugar and importantly no salt and also things like porridge, fruit that’s a great start to the day. You want something without the refined sugars so you get nice steady energy and without the added salt too.
BRESLAW Is there any special advice you’d give for children with allergies and food intolerance?
SONIA POMBO: With regards to cereals or just in general?
SONIA POMBO: Well definitely if they do have any allergies then they need to get a check-up by the doctor, make sure that they are aware of which allergies they have and then just check the back of food packaging to make sure they double check any of those allergens are not involved in the boxes. So for example dairy don’t drink any milk. If you are allergic to nuts, some cereals although they may not contain nuts they may be produced in the same factory that has nuts so always be cautious and double check the back of the pack.
BRESLAW So why is salt bad for us?
SONIA POMBO: The main reason, not just for children but for adults, is that it puts up our blood pressure and that’s the main cause of strokes, heart attacks and heart failures which is the biggest cause of death, not just in the UK but worldwide and although people associate having a high blood pressure with adults especially with the elderly, it’s definitely something that can start up as young as in childhood. So if you have high blood pressure as a child that will most likely lead on to having high blood pressure in adulthood as well but just focusing on children, it’s especially important not to have a high salt diet as it affects the amount of calcium that’s absorbed in your bones and as we know while children are growing their bones are getting stronger and absorbing as much calcium as they can and with salt preventing this from happening then it could lead to problems later on in life such as osteoporosis and just having more brittle bones.
BRESLAW Why do we need salt?
SONIA POMBO: Well we need salt for, that’s a very good complicated question. We need salt, although a very minimal amount which can easily be found naturally in foods, we need it just for our systems to work properly. It’s involved in a number of nerve systems and also in making sure that our body retains the right amount of water and all the vitamins and nutrients etc. So there is definitely a need for salt but it’s not really an issue for us because the amount of salt that we are having huge. At the moment we’re as a nation, having about 8.1 grams of salt a day. We probably don’t need even more that 1 gram a day so it’s something that we to try and combat, not just individually but as a nation and within the food industry and government.
HAYLEY GAIT GOULDING: Yes and we’ve recently done some work with Amanda Ursell who is a very respected nutritionist and we looked at the types of typical days, what a conservative estimate would be of what children in the UK would be consuming a day and they are already consuming around 7 grams a day and like I said that is a conservative estimate and you know if you think a 4 – 6 year old the maximum they are allow a day is 3 grams. So that is at the upper limit, 3 grams but they are already more than double of what they should be having and like I said that was a very, very conservative estimate that we took so it could be very close to what adults are consuming, around 8 grams that children are having and that’s like Sonia said, is going to cause their bones to lose calcium. Salt saps calcium from their bones and that that weakens over time and children are building that bone bank. So I think it’s really important that manufacturers follow in our footsteps and take salt out of cereals because there is not technical reason you need salt in cereals. It’s probably the one meal a day where you could quite easily say, do you know what, let’s get rid of that salt and it would give people a much better start to the day.
BRESLAW Are there any alternatives to salt available?
HAYLEY GAIT GOULDING: In terms of alternatives I’m guessing that you mean ingredients, is that
BRESLAW Yes, that tastes similar.
HAYLEY GAIT GOULDING: Yes, the reason salt is in products is, it varies by product so salt has a technical function for some foods so it has some sort of interaction, I think it is with the yeast although don’t quote me on this, for break it makes break rise but like I say, when it comes to cereal there is no technical reason so you could take it out. Why don’t manufacturers do that? It’s probably is going to make the cereals taste a bit bland because like you say, you have to find an alternative ingredient. Just a better ingredient and what we think at BEAR is nature is always better. We only use 100% natural ingredients, we don’t use any refined sugars or salts or anything artificial. We go into nature and we look for the answer. So we found that up a coconut tree, we found coconut blossom nectar which is a lot GI product. It’s the sweet sap that is found in the flower of the coconut tree, it doesn’t have any coconut taste it’s just naturally sweet. If you add that to your whole grains and mix it together it gives you a nice, sweet, crunchy cereal that kids really enjoy. It doesn’t have that bland taste often associated with healthy cereals.
BRESLAW How can we reduce salt in our diets?
HAYLEY GAIT GOULDING: There’s lots of ways you can look to reduce salt in your diets. I think, like I say, the number one thing that we are hoping to help people do is start the day salt free. That’s a really important thing to do because already that tips the scales. Sonia talked earlier about how much salt that you do actually need. If you think that a very small bowl of breakfast cereal which 30 grams, which is what people say on the portions but that is actually really small and I don’t think it is that realistic that many people are having a 30 gram bowl but that has 0.5 gram typically, of salt in most of the very well-known brands that we all buy and if your child is supposed to have 3 grams a day you can see that that’s already a lot. So if you took that out of breakfast that’s already giving you a head start makes the rest of the day less of a worry and then just make sensible choices throughout the day. So cut down on things like ketchups and stuff that might be really salty or buy or buy low salt versions. Switch salty snacks like crisps and maybe some cheeses, watch out for some cheeses, they have got quite a lot of salt in. Things like that just switch them for fruit or yoghurt, things that are salt free. Pick a few salt free things throughout the day and then start taking out those little surprising things like, humus or ketchup could be quite high.
BRESLAW So with the study that you conducted what was the methodology and the conclusions?
HAYLEY GAIT GOULDING: So we took a nationally represented study of 1,178, to give you a precise number of people. We did that together with YouGov and the conclusions that we found from the study was that 85% of parents said that they didn’t even consider salt when it came to making the decisions about what to give their children for breakfast. They were thinking about very high sugar a levels which is good, that’s a really great thing. There has been a lot of media focus sugar over the last few years but I think salt really needs to come under the agenda now equally because it has equally negative health implications. So that was one of the findings. The other finding was that two thirds of families have cereals for breakfast and I think Sonia will probably tell you a little bit about that, like how much cereals contribute and cereals and cereal products contribute to breakfast.
SONIA POMBO: Yes definitely. If you look at the latest government national diet and nutrition survey that was done in 2011 they actually found that cereals and other cereal products contributed to over a third of a child’s salt intake. So that’s a huge amount that you’re contributing and removing that as BEAR have you are already reducing the salt intake of a child’s diet by that third and giving them a better start to the day but by far most of the salt that we do consume isn’t from what we add to the food ourselves, its already in the foods that we buy. So breads, cereals, cheeses are a very big contributor. Cured meats so ham, bacon, sausage all the things that people tend to love but they are completely coated in salt and it’s just a matter of trying to remove that slowly and gradually that people don’t notice and their taste palettes, the palettes in their mouth will adapt to the level of salt really.
HAYLEY GAIT GOULDING: One other thing you might be interested in knowing about with what was found, what came out of the research was that 61% of parents when they gave their children lower sugar cereals, so things were either without sugar, so things like porridge or things like Weetabix which have less sugar, they were saying that they added it back so that’s also something interesting to think about when comes to health. Sometimes when people are choosing these lower sugar alternatives they are adding it back in refined sugar which kind of defeats the object. So that’s why it’s really important to try and find natural ways. So if you are going to another brand of lower sugar cereals, try and sweeten it with fruit or buy something like BEAR Alphabites which doesn’t have the added sugar or porridge, add something which is a healthier lower GI sweetener. Try to think about as many of those things, I know it can all be a bit overwhelming but try and think about as many of those things as you can.
BRESLAW Finally, what online information would you recommend?
HAYLEY GAIT GOULDING: There are two great places to go to for information. There’s the CASH website which is you type into any search engine ‘CASH salt’ it will come up and they’ve got absolutely loads of amazing information on salt specifically. If you are looking for a bit more general information about healthy breakfast or healthy food products we’ve also got some nutritional information at BEAR and that’s www.bearnibbles.co.uk
For the first time, new research revealing the shockingly high levels of salt purchased in chain restaurants and celeb eateries throughout the country has seen Jamie’s Italian rate as poorly as Pizza Hut, while 62% of the meals surveyed were deemed high in salt.
The study undertaken by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) and released today to mark the start of Salt Awareness Week saw meals from popular restaurants analysed by testers, with mystery diners taking their ‘doggie-bags’ straight to labs for analysis.
Any meal which contains more than 2.4g of salt qualifies for a ‘red traffic light’ salt rating and 358 of the 667 meals surveyed had this level of salt or more, while 13 meals had more than double that.
Alongside the analysis, research of diners shows that more than half find restaurant meals too salty, while 69% think guidelines should be introduced for chefs to limit the amount of salt they can use in meals.
Close to two thirds say they would like to see salt levels indicated on menus when eating out, while almost three quarters agree that restaurants in their local area don’t do enough when it comes to telling them about the ingredients in their food. Furthermore almost a fifth said it would help if salt shakers were removed from the tables.
Furthermore, 90% believe that local restaurants/cafes should let them choose if they want to add salt to their meal or not.
Danielle Robinson has interviewed Katharine Jenner of CASH on behalf of Patientalk.Org
ROBINSON: The recent study by the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition suggested that it is processed meat per say which is the problem rather than salt as this reports suggests. Which is correct? JENNER: Well it would be lovely to be able to say there’s only one problem and if we stopped eating processed meat that would fix everything but unfortunately with nutrition there always lots of interlinking factors. So one thing with processed meat is that is has too much saturated fat, too many toxins from the way they process the meat and also too much salt. The study itself said it is very difficult to separate what was the exact problem but certainly the fact that we eat a lot of processed meat is a problem but actually salt in itself puts up our blood pressure which leads to strokes and heart attacks so it has an independent effect of saturated fat and all the other problems of processed meat. So unfortunately its quite likely that salt is a problem, saturated fat is a problem, too much sugar is a problem, smoking’s a problem, all these things and they will all have an impact on our health. So I think it’s good to consider them all together.
ROBINSON: What role does salt take in the curing food process?
JENNER: So not that many foods are cured now actually so it tends to be things like smoked salmon and certain types of meat and what happens is the salt is put in the food and it draws in the water and it stops any more microbial activity happening which means that you can eat the food as it is without it needing to be cooked. Generally for foods to be preserved in salt it has to be about 15% salt so that’s things like anchovies, some smoked salmons that are really very salty products and certainly not the norm.
ROBINSON: A meal is a bit of an ambiguous concept as a unit of measurement to be used. Could you qualify it a bit more for us?
JENNER: So we considered a meal to be a main meal that was served at any of these café, restaurant chains of fast food, so it tends to be a meal centre. So unless the meal came with side dishes such as chips or potato, it was whatever was considered to be a main meal and that was, as stated on the, in the restaurant. So a meal is effectively whatever the fast food restaurant, café chain said was a main meal and we used their basis for it. A meal size could vary between perhaps 300 and 600 gram portions sizes.
ROBINSON: Could you talk us a little bit through about the research. How many restaurants were sampled and how did you select those?
JENNER: So we looked at the list of the top restaurants in the UK, the most popular restaurants in the UK and we found any nutritional information that was available online so a lot of the restaurants, cafes and fast food chains had nutrition information available online so we extracted all of that information. The remaining popular restaurants such as Pizza Express, Café Rouge, I can’t think what the other ones were, pus all these celebrity ones we went in there and sampled products ourselves. So we got hold of the menus separated out the main meals, numbered them from one to six or however many there were then we selected meals from that, then we went into the restaurants, purchased them, took them away for sampling and we don’t analyse results ourselves, that’s all done independently by a public analyst which is a trained professional body. ROBINSON: Over what period of time did that take place?
JENNER: We did it over a week so within a one week period commencing the 14th of January we sampled all of the products.
ROBINSON: Do you know how many in total how many restaurants were included?
JENNER: We included 29 restaurants so that was chain restaurants, celebrity chief chain restaurants, fast food outlets and cafés.
ROBINSON: Is the concept of too salty becoming a common problem because it is in fact we are using far less salt?
JENNER: Well I think to say we are using far less salt would be an exaggeration. We are eating about 10% less salt than we were say, ten years ago. Salt reduction has been a very long and slow and gradual process and the idea is that people generally don’t notice the difference but as supermarket food salt levels are coming down we are actually starting to, our taste buds are starting to adapt and actually we are starting to find that food tastes too salty. So in the survey that we under took we found that over half of people were finding restaurant meals too salty because they have not made the same reductions that the supermarkets have and the also thing that the chefs should start taking some responsibility for our health and start reducing their salt levels as well.
ROBINSON: Could you tell us a little bit more about the idea of the red traffic light system? How was that worked out and by whom?
JENNER: Yes, so in the supermarkets now at the moment certainly Sainsbury’s, Co-Op and ASDA but by the end of next year the Department of Health has recommended all supermarkets carry this traffic light labelling. It means that at a glance you can see whether a product is high, medium or low in salt, fat, sugar or calories. It’s a really useful, helpful tool if just want to get a bit of an idea of what’s in your food and for salt in particular if gives you red traffic label if it’s over 1.5 grams per 100 grams or if it is over 2.4 grams per portion. So this means that for a meal if it is over 2.4 grams it would get a red traffic light. So you would know in a supermarket quite easily if you were buying a ready meal or a pizza or some other kind of food, that it was high in salt because it would have a red traffic light. That’s something that you wouldn’t know in a restaurant and it would be a really easy way to see at a glance what was in there.
ROBINSON: Do you think that’s what the value of it is to the typical consumer, that they can see it straight away?
JENNER: Yes, so it is a really easy, quick way of seeing what’s in your food and being able to make that choice. So if you just looked at the names of some of these foods you’d have absolutely no idea about how much salt was in them by just by looking at them. You can look for salty, traditionally salty ingredients so things like bacon, anchovies, olives and cheese in fact but really you wouldn’t know what was in them unless somebody told you because quite often the salt, we say it is hidden salt because you can’t taste it as much as you might think. So a lot of people think they are being very good at being able to tell how much salt is in things because they’re aware of this. They have salt in their chips or their crisps taste salty but actually a lot of sweet things can have salt in them and you have no idea. Our taste buds are actually not as sensitive as you might think so eating some of these main meals like the meatballs or the Wagamama soups might not taste that salty but it doesn’t mean they are not full of salt. ROBINSON: Would it not be better to study salt intact over a period of time rather than targeting restaurant meals which for most of us will be a one off or an exceptional event?
JENNER: Well we were very careful to include in our study not just exclusive, expensive restaurants. We looked at the ones the people do go to every day and they are exceedingly popular. So in fact three meals a week are eaten out of the home so that might be breakfast, lunch or dinner, so it is not really a rare thing and particularly people who do eat out tend to eat out more often, so not everybody eats out all of the time but there are some people who eat out a lot more. For them certainly, it will be very important. We do try and track what people are eating over time. The Department of Health look at salt intakes and they’ve worked out that we are eating an average of about 8.1 grams which is a lot more than the recommended 6 grams a day and we ourselves at CASH try and have a look at what’s going on in the supermarkets so we try and keep track on what’s going on and we found that supermarkets salt levels are coming down slowly so that will impact on our diet and we just thing it’s time for the restaurants to start doing the same.
ROBINSON: Could you explain to us why medically salt is so dangerous and if it is, should we not completely exclude it from our diet?
JENNER: So salt is made up of sodium and chloride both to essential minerals. You can’t cut sodium out of your diet, you will die. It has a very important function in water balance and electro-function of the cell. So we certainly need to have some sodium but less than about a gram a day and we’re currently eating more like 8 or 9 grams. So the problem with salt is that it puts up our blood pressure, you’ll know if you eat too much salt because you become incredibly thirsty, it’s sort of a thirsty mineral. It holds onto water in your cells and makes it harder for the heart to push it around. So that’s what puts up our blood pressure over time and that’s happening every day and it’s also quite hard for the kidneys to secrete all this extra salt so the extra work on your kidneys puts a strain on them and hence the link to kidney disease. Sodium is also known to react very poorly with calcium and causes it to excrete calcium from the bones, so it’s linked to osteoporosis and kidney stones through that mechanism as well. So the main problem with salt is that it puts up our blood pressure which leads to strokes and heart attacks and heart failure which are the biggest killers in the UK, so anything we can try and do to reduce blood pressure at a population level would be really helpful. Currently about 2/3 of the population have got higher blood pressure and half of those people don’t even know it which is why it’s called the silent killer. So to suggest that anyone with high blood pressure can do something about it and reduce their risk is not that easy because it’s very hard to do something about it when you don’t even know that you have it.
ROBINSON: What do you think about the idea of removing salt shakers from the table, do you think it’s a bit nanny state gone mad?
JENNER: Well I don’t think we’re suggesting that if you remove salt shakers you make them not available. The thing is with salt is that it’s a very habitual thing that we do, we naturally sit down at the table and put some salt on our food. I don’t know why that is, it’s always been like that, I think we always had it on the table from childhood, but there’s no reason why we should automatically reach for the salt shakers. So much research has shown that if you don’t have the salt shaker in front of you, you actually forget about it and don’t think about adding. So just one way that might help us all to add a little bit less salt and get used to the flavour of less salt would just be to have them out of sight and have them available on request and that’s a department of health recommendation.