Britain’s saltiest kids’ meals can contain a whopping 4.8g of salt, the same as 26 bags of Pom-Bears (0.18g), it was revealed today.
The obesity activists behind the analysis criticized restaurants for putting so much salt in kid-friendly dishes like cheeseburgers, pizzas and noodles.
More than two-thirds of the more than 300 kids’ meals at the nation’s most beloved chains contain more than 2 g, the analysis showed. For comparison, a serving of McDonald’s medium fries contains 0.44 g.
NHS guidance states that those under 10 years of age should not consume more than 5g of salt per day. But restaurants must reduce salt levels to 1.7g per serving by 2024. More than four in 10 foods on the list were above this target.
The worst offensive option, Gourmet Burger Kitchen’s cheeseburger with skinny fries, is packed at 4.8g.
Action on Salt said the findings should serve as a “wake-up call” to ministers. He wants the government to introduce tighter restrictions on what restaurants can serve children.
Eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure by increasing the amount of water your body retains, which makes your heart work harder. This can, over time, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The NHS advises children to eat less salt than adults because their kidneys are not as developed and less able to process it.
Research by the scientific think tank Action on Salt has revealed that more than four out of 10 meals at 15 chain restaurants contain more than 1.71g of salt, the maximum a child’s meal should contain. Graphic sample: The saltiest children’s meals in eight of the 15 restaurants
Professor Graham MacGregor, a cardiovascular disease expert at Queen Mary University of London, said cutting salt is the most cost-effective way to lower blood pressure.
This may help “reduce the thousands of strokes and heart disease caused by this excessive salt intake,” he said.
Professor MacGregor said: “Ministers must now force recalcitrant restaurants to stop adding all this salt with mandatory reformulation programmes, better labeling and restrictions on marketing and promotions to really stop this avalanche of unhealthy food being served and put the future health of our children at risk. risk.’
What is the maximum amount of salt a child should eat per day?
one to three
four to six
seven to 10
11 to 18
The other restaurants included in the review were Yo! Sushi, Prezzo, Pizza Hut, Miller and Carter, Nando’s, Harvester, Hungry Horse, Wagamama, Pizza Express, McDonald’s, Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Burger King, and Ikea.
Pizza Hut’s saltiest food was Big Boss Thin Pizza Margherita With Fries, which contains 4 g of salt. Meanwhile, Miller and Carter’s was Grilled Chicken and Ratatouille with Seasoned Fries (3.54g).
The worst offerings from Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Yo Sushi, Pizza Hut and Miller and Carter were twice the recommended salt intake for a child’s meal.
Nando’s, Harvester, Hungry Horse, Wagamama, Pizza Express, McDonald’s, and Beefeater all had kids’ meals with more than 1.71 g of salt.
There were only three restaurants whose saltiest meals did not exceed government guidelines: Brewers Fayre (1.7g), Burger King (1.7g) and Ikea (1.14g).
The government originally set its 1.71g target for all children’s meals by 2024 in 2020, but campaigners have raised concerns that not all restaurants will reach that target by then.
Nearly a quarter of all dishes also reviewed in 2022 had their salt increased, while a third saw no reductions.
Sonia Pombo, campaign manager for Action on Salt, said: “It has been three years since our previous survey was carried out to expose unacceptably high salt dishes served in UK restaurants and it is now abundantly clear that has advanced.”
‘These new findings should be a wake-up call to the industry to make children’s health a priority.
When there is too much sodium, the main component of salt in our diets, in our systems, our bodies hold onto excess fluid to try to balance it.
The extra fluid makes the heart have to work harder to pump blood, leading to higher blood pressure. High blood pressure, in turn, increases the risks of stroke and heart disease.
Higher blood pressure also makes it harder for the heart to push oxygen-carrying blood to various organs, including the brain, leading to cognitive decline.
A spokesperson for Whitbread, which owns Beefeater, said: Whitbread restaurants have been early adopters of the government’s strategy to improve the nation’s health and for the last ten years we have supported their salt reduction programs.
‘We welcome the Action on Salt survey in recognizing that our children’s meals are on the low end for salt content and we are committed to doing more where possible.
“We are already meeting the government’s salt targets for 2024 and will continue to commit to Action on Salt and champion salt reduction while ensuring the safety, quality and taste of our dishes are never compromised.”
An IKEA spokesperson said: ‘At IKEA, we will never compromise on food quality and offer options that are tasty, nutritionally balanced and more sustainable.
‘None of our children’s foods exceed the maximum recommended salt content. Plus, we make sure portion sizes are based on nutritional needs based on a child’s age—we never offer fries with kids’ meals, and we include a free vegetable option whenever possible. Our children’s refillable drinks are low in sugar, and our children’s gelatin is also sugar-free.
“Next year we will focus on developing even healthier and tastier food for children, which will always come at a low price.”
A spokesperson for Mitchells and Butlers, which owns Harvester and Miller and Carter, said: “We are committed to providing healthy options to all of our customers, including our little ones.”
“We have always supported PHE’s voluntary targets and have successfully met the 2012 and 2017 targets and our company nutritionist is now working with our food development teams to achieve the upcoming 2024 targets.
‘Mitchells and Butlers has an established children’s food strategy that focuses on reducing high fat, sugar and salt content, which is currently in progress across all of our brands, including Harvester and Miller & Carter.
The ‘Our Kids’ menu at Harvester also supports the Peas Please initiative, with each kids meal including at least 2 of their 5 a day.
“These menus can also be customized to help parents make the best choices for their children, which has been recognized by the Soil Association’s ‘Out to Lunch’ survey.”
A Nando’s spokesperson said: ‘Nando’s provides nutritional information on all of our products to help inform our customers. This means that they can enjoy our chicken as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
“We have also committed to the Public Health England 2024 Salt Reduction Programme. We pride ourselves on using high-quality ingredients and regularly update our menu to offer a wide variety of delicious food.”
Prezzo said: “Reducing salt content is a key priority for Prezzo and several of the menu items initially listed in this report have been redesigned or removed from our menus entirely as part of this approach.
‘In addition, as part of our strategy to provide nutritionally balanced meals for children, we have developed an additional option for children under 6 years of age with a very low level of sodium. We will continue to review our salt levels and identify ways they can be reduced without compromising the quality, safety and taste of our food.”
HOW SHOULD A BALANCED DIET BE LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS.
• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains.
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-grain crackers, 2 thick slices of whole-grain bread, and one large baked potato with skin.
• Drink some dairy products or dairy alternatives (such as soy beverages) choosing low-fat and low-sugar options.
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other protein (including 2 servings of fish a week, one of which should be fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume them in small amounts.
• Drink 6 to 8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide