5 SIMPLE STRATEGIES TO REDUCING YOUR FAMILY'S SALT INTAKE
Did you know that the majority of Aussie children and adults are consuming more than double the daily recommended salt intake each day? It is also one ingredient that is in the majority of foods we eat, listed as either salt or sodium.
With National guidelines recommending no more than half a teaspoon (3.5 grams) of salt per day for children aged between 4 – 8 years old, excessive salt consumption is of major concern, with high dietary intakes being a known risk factor for hypertension in both adults and children.
Many parents may not be aware of the high levels of hidden salt found in many of the foods their children eat (from soups, processed meats and even cheese!), which may lead to overconsumption. My philosophy to nutrition is that eating well is about achieving balance, it doesn’t have to be about cutting out certain food groups, but more about getting the amounts right. I believe it’s important to get the balance right where salt is concerned, as excessive salt intake has been linked to health problems like hypertension, stroke and heart disease. With increased blood pressure and associated hypertension shown to track from childhood into adulthood.
National guidelines recommend that Australian adults should aim to consume no more than one teaspoon (5 grams) of salt per day, while the recommended daily salt intake for children varies per age group:
Age 1-3 yrs: 0.5g - 1g
Age 4-8 yrs: 0.75g - 1.5g
Age 9-13 yrs: 1g - 2g
Age 14-18 yrs: 1.15g - 2.3
High salt intake can come from the way we prepare and cook foods (adding salt to cooking), or from certain pre-packaged foods we buy. Below is a list of high salt foods to be aware of:
salted and dry roasted nuts
smoked meat and fish
If you are concerned that you or your family might be consuming too much salt, never fear! By making some small, smart and simple swaps to the foods you purchase and the way you cook can go a long way to helping to reduce your families salt intake - improving their overall health. And remember, healthier, low-salt options don’t have to compromise on taste!
SIMPLE STRATEGIES TO HELP REDUCE SALT INTAKE:
1. TASTE TEST BEFORE ADDING EXTRA SALT
One of the simplest ways to reduce your salt intake is to stop adding it to your meals when cooking, or reduce the amount you would normally use. Instead, try replacing salt with fresh herbs, spices, chilli, citrus, garlic, and black pepper. Taking it off the dinner table and switching it out with any of the above is a great way to prevent you from adding it to your meal while at the table. We’ve all been guilty of adding salt to a meal before we’ve even tried it, sometimes purely out of habit, so next time remember to do a taste test before adding that extra seasoning. You may be concerned that you will have to get used to eating bland food, but it won’t take long for your taste buds to adjust, allowing you to enjoy all the other flavours your food has to offer!
2. CHECK FOOD LABELS FOR SALT CONTENT
Nutrition labels on foods break down the different content contained in the products, making it relatively easy to identify the salt (or sodium) content.
Look for the following when checking labels:
High-sodium foods contain around 600mg sodium or more per 100g
Moderate-sodium foods contain around 120-600mg sodium per 100g
Low-sodium foods contain around 120mg sodium or less per 100g
I encourage you to take the time practice this skill, as once you start looking at the content on food labels, you may be very surprised to learn just how much hidden salt is in foods that you regularly eat - like breakfast cereals for example!
3. REPLACE STORE BOUGHT SAUCES, MARINADES, STOCKS, & DRESSINGS WITH HOME-MADE
Store bought sauces, marinades, stocks, and salad dressings can contain high levels of salt (soy sauce for example!) and while looking for products with the lowest salt content is a great way to reduce your salt intake, an even better way is to make them yourself, that way you know exactly how much salt is being added. I often have clients telling me that they don’t have the time to make home-made sauces, however, they actually don’t take long to make and if you make them in a large batch and freeze the excess, they can last longer than store bought sauces! Try getting your kids involved in the process, it is a great way to encourage them to try new things as well!
4. RE-THINK YOUR BREAKFAST
For many time-poor parents, breakfast cereals and toast are breakfast staples - being quick and easy to prepare and an excellent “on-the-go” option that you don’t have to think too much about. But did you know that a lot of breakfast cereals and breads contain high levels of salt, meaning you may be consuming a large proportion of your recommended daily intake before you’ve even left the house for the day! Try swapping out with oats, fresh fruit, wholegrain breads, low-fat yoghurt, eggs, and even vegetables!
5. WHEN EATING OUT ASK ABOUT SALT CONTENT
We all enjoy eating out, but often don't give a second thought to how much salt may be in our meals. When dining out, get into the habit of asking if your meal can be prepared without salt. While some restaurants won’t allow it, asking for this slight alteration to your meal may help considerably reduce your salt intake!