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The children’s meals with the highest salt content - according to Action on Salt





More than a third of children’s meals sold in restaurants exceed government salt targets, new research has found.

Menus from Wetherspoon, Hungry Horse, Prezzo and Gourmet Burger Kitchen are among those studied by Action on Salt, which has analysed the ingredients in meals offered by big-name chains.

Action on Salt has studied the children’s meals sold in restaurants. Image: iStock/romrodinka.
Action on Salt has studied the children’s meals sold in restaurants. Image: iStock/romrodinka.

The government has set a maximum target of 1.71g of salt for children’s restaurant meals that it expects eateries to reach by the end of the year.

But researchers based at Queen Mary University say more than 37% of restaurant meals aimed at children currently exceed those limits - with some dishes containing more than a child’s entire day’s worth of salt in just one sitting.

Children aged four to six should eat no more than 3g of salt, in total each day, say current dietary guidelines.

The report says more than a third of restaurant meals aimed at children exceed salt targets set for the end of the year. Photo: iStock/DGLimages.
The report says more than a third of restaurant meals aimed at children exceed salt targets set for the end of the year. Photo: iStock/DGLimages.

Meals with high salt content

A Prezzo gluten-free pepperoni pizza contained 4.3g of salt, says Action on Salt research, while a Gourmet Burger Kitchen junior cheeseburger and skinny fries came in at 4.2g.

Other children’s meals found during the study to exceed a six-year old’s day’s worth of salt intake included Prezzo’s rigatoni carbonara with 3.9g and the Hungry Horse Quorn sausages, fresh garden salad and baked beans with 3.59g

A Slug and Lettuce fish goujons with beans and hash browns came in at 3g as did the Bella Italia larger margherita pizza.

Action on Salt is calling for clearer labeling on children’s menus for customers eating out.

Its report entitled Are Children's Meals Worth Their Salt says diets high in salt are a major risk factor for raised blood pressure in both adults and children.

However, of the 37 ‘out of home’ eateries included in the study only 29 provided accessible nutrition information for customers explains researchers.

Children, it says, should consume no more than 3g of salt each day. Image: iStock/detry26.
Children, it says, should consume no more than 3g of salt each day. Image: iStock/detry26.

Meals with the lowest salt content

By comparison, the restaurant with the lowest average salt content overall in their children’s meals was Subway with 0.79g.

Other children’s meals surveyed with some of the lowest salt content were the Wetherspoon’s tomato and mascarpone pasta with 0.0g, ASK Italian mini main pasta with butter with 0.01g and the Prezzo gluten-free kids Fusilli butter with 0.05g.

A Hungry Horse nuggets with corn on the cob and chips also came out with 0.12g while a Harvester 4oz rump steak with corn cob and peas was 0.14g.

Zoe Davies, nutritionist at Action on Salt said: “If the Out of Home sector were as transparent as retailers, who are legally obliged to declare nutrition information on pack, surely these companies wouldn't think twice about reducing the amount of salt in their food rather than having to declare that their meals contain more salt than a child’s entire day’s worth.

“Parents need to be supported in fuelling their children with nutritious food, including that of meals eaten out of home.”

In response to the report Prezzo says it has since had a ‘seasonal meal change’ which now reflects some of its recent work concentrated on salt reduction.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen disputes the salt calculation for its burger meal, which it says is in fact 2.6g.

The firm says it too is committed to reducing salt in meals and has also made other changes in restaurants such as serving children’s meals without salt seasoning and moving salt from tables to condiment stations, making it harder for customers to add more. Children’s meals are also being served with carrot and cucumber sticks while fried chicken tenders have been replaced with a grilled chicken burger.

Head of Food Development Andy Hazel added: “GBK is committed to providing delicious and enjoyable meals for children. We understand the importance of offering healthier options and are taking several measures to improve our kids’ meal choices.”

“We want to assure parents that GBK is considered a treat for children, not an everyday meal option.”

Wetherspoon is among those to say it has made changes to its children’s menus. Image: Stock photo.
Wetherspoon is among those to say it has made changes to its children’s menus. Image: Stock photo.

Wetherspoon says it has released a new and improved children’s menu where the salt content in some dishes has been reduced as it also tries to cater for different age groups and address customer expectations on portion sizes.

As a result its children’s margherita pizza has moved from 2.4g to 1.9g and its ham and cheese pizza has changed from 3.1g to 2.6g.

A roasted vegetable pizza, vegan roasted pizza and a new children’s chilli have also seen changes too.

Slug and Lettuce said it had also reviewed its children’s meals and made significant improvements in its new menu for May while the company behind Bella Italia says it will continue working with suppliers to understand how it can improve the nutritional content of its food.

John Maingay, Director of Policy and Influencing at the British Heart Foundation, said more stringent rules may be needed if targets are not met come the end of the year.

He explained: “Eating too much salt as a child can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure as an adult, and this increases the chance of having a future heart attack or stroke. However, as much as 85 per cent of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy.

“There is a clear case for helping families eat more healthily by taking salt out of food before it ends up on our plates, at home and when eating out. If the food industry will not lower the salt content of their products, the Government will need to step in to protect the health of future generations.”



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