Studies around the world are discovering that children are consuming too much salt in their lunches as well as from restaurant meals, causing them to become in danger of becoming "salt addicts."
Australian charity Consensus Action on Salt and Health looked at the salt content within 218 children's meals from 23 restaurants, and discovered that 28% of children's meals in restaurants had at least 2g of salt, if not more. That is the maximum daily recommended amount for toddlers, writes Josie Clarke for The Mirror.
The Burger King kid's veggie bean burger with small fries was found to have 4.6g of salt in one serving, amounting to 155% of what it is recommended for a four-to-six-year-old to consume in one day.
Only five of the restaurants studied have pledged to reduce the amount of salt found within their food items by signing a pledge set up by the Department of Health.
A separate study from Staffordshire found that a "healthy" kid's ready meal can contain half of a child's daily salt allowance.
The study was performed by researchers at Staffordshire County Council's Scientific Services, looking at a number of adult and children's meals found ready to eat in local supermarkets. In addition to the high salt levels, packaging problems were reported, including misinformation pertaining to daily limits and an undeclared fat content. For example, the salt content in a fish pie was found to be twice what was stated on the label.
Too much salt can result in health problems including high blood pressure, heart and kidney disease, or cancer.
Similar results were found in a study performed by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) in New Zealand, who reported that children were consuming 30% more salt than is recommended. The group went on to say that parents may not discover this, as 75% of the salt is found in processed and commercially-prepared foods.
"There are a number of foods regularly eaten by children – such as bread, breakfast cereals, processed meats, cheese and takeaway meals – that can contain very high levels of hidden salt," notes the Heart Foundation.
In order to reduce the level of salt found within food offerings, the Heart Foundation suggests choosing low sodium food items, including breads and cereals that have a sodium level of less than 400mg/100g. Also, they suggest using herbs and spices in place of salt for added flavor and eating more fruits and vegetables rather than pre-packaged foods.
A new smartphone app could also help parents reduce salt intake. Foodswitch allows users to swipe the barcode of the product in question to be offered a number of lower-sodium alternatives.