Many of us know that eating too much salt is bad for our health. One of the biggest challenges in limiting the amount of salt we eat in our diets is that salt is, well, sneaky.
Most Australians are eating nearly twice the recommended daily intake of salt, so something has to change. However, it’s hard to know what changes to make when salt is hidden in many of our favourite foods.
Where is the salt hiding?
Even if you don’t add salt to your cooking or to your meal at the table, it’s still likely that you are eating too much.
Seventy five percent of the salt we eat comes from processed and packaged foods, but many of these foods just don’t taste salty.
Sneaking into sauces
You probably have a few bottles of pasta sauce or pesto in your pantry to help whip up a quick spaghetti or pizza sauce. Sure, it’s a delicious start to cooking a super-fast dinner, but did you know that these sauces can be packed full of salt?
To make things even trickier, there is a huge variation in the amount of salt in different brands of sauce; our research showed that some pasta sauces are up to 90 times saltier than a competitor’s!
TIP: Making your own sauces from scratch is simple – and you can cook a batch ahead of time and freeze until needed.
Hiding in the ham
Ham might be one of your child’s favourite sandwich fillers, but it’s one of the worst offenders when it comes to too much salt. On average, one slice of ham contains 1.2g of salt; that’s nearly a quarter of the maximum daily salt intake. Other processed meats, like bacon and sausages, are just as salty.
TIP: Look for lower salt alternatives for sandwich fillings such as chicken breast and leftover roast meat. Add lots of crunchy salad vegetables and avocado or tahini.
Tricky in time saving meals
Ready-made meals can be a huge time saver, but don’t forget to watch out for the salt. Our research shows that some of these meals contain more than a full day’s recommended intake of salt! And take-away pizzas and other fast foods are also generally far too high in salt.
What about sweet foods like baked goods and treats? Sure, they are full of sugar, but they also pack a lot of salt. Some biscuits, muffins, pancakes and scones may even have more salt than salty snack foods.
TIP: Its quick and easy to toss together a stir-fry. And nothing beats the aroma of home baking!
Planted in packaged foods
Packaged foods can be convenient, but it’s important to be aware of how much salt may be inside. The amount of salt in similar foods can vary widely; read the label (look at the Nutrition Information Panel for “Sodium”) and compare brands.
TIP: Brush up on your food label reading skills
Unpack The Salt can help: read our blog with all the tips. If you are short on time in the supermarket, look out for products with labels that read ‘Low salt’, ‘Salt reduced’, or ‘No added salt’.