A local dietician has joined hordes of others in the fight against the huge amount of salt packed into children’s food.
A joint study by the George Institute for Global Health, VicHealth and the Heart Foundation found fast food meals targetted at children could contain enough salt to exceed the recommended daily amount.
The study analysed the salt content of children’s meals from Hungry Jack’s, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway.
It found a child’s chicken nugget meal from Hungry Jack’s contained more than a day’s worth of salt for a four to eight-year-old child.
A cheeseburger Happy Meal from McDonald’s contain two-thirds of a day’s worth of salt and KFC’s Kid’s Meal Snack Popcorn almost half a day’s worth.
Subway fared best as their children’s meals focused on mini-subs and didn’t offer chips with their meals.
Michelle Taylor, paediatric and adult dietitian at Nexus Primary Health in Broadford expressed grave concerns about the levels of salt in children’s meals.
‘‘Seventy-five per cent of salt in our diet comes from processed foods and we know many Australian children are consuming above the recommended daily limit for salt,’’ she said.
‘‘Processed foods high in salt include breads and cereals, baked goods, ready meals, sauces and processed meats.
‘‘You can lower the salt content of your child’s diet through choosing lower salt alternatives as well as including more fresh foods like fruit and vegetables in their diet.
Ms Taylor also said knowledge of food labels will help you lower your own and your children’s salt intake.
‘‘Look at the sodium level in the nutrition panel using the 100g column. Anything under 120mg sodium per 100g is a good choice.
‘‘Sodium under 400mg per 100g is okay and above this the salt content is getting high.
‘‘Going for no-added-salt products can also help.’’
The Heart Foundation’s dietitian Sian Armstrong said 80 per cent of Aussie children were eating too much salt which was concerning. She said there could be greater health risks in the future and some parents weren’t aware of these effects.
‘‘Consuming excess salt can lead to high blood pressure, a major risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Studies suggest children with elevated blood pressure may go onto suffer it as adults,’’ she said.
‘‘Most parents know fast food isn’t a healthy option for their kids, however they may not realise a single kid’s meal could blow out an entire day’s salt intake.
‘‘Fast food outlets can and must reduce the salt content of their meals.’’
VicHealth dietitian Jenny Reimers believes it is time for fast food outlets to make the healthier options the default choice when it comes to children’s meals.
‘‘Kids aren’t born craving salty food — we develop this taste preference based on exposure so it’s really important parents limit the amount of salty food their kids eat,’’ she said.
‘‘Fast food really should be occasional treats, yet the average family has takeaway almost once a week.
‘‘If you’re going to have takeaway foods, try less salty options with fresh fruit and vegetables included.’’