UK research shows dangerously high levels of salt in kids' meals

June 14, 2012 By Bridget Dempsey

Children’s meals at some of the UK’s leading pub and fast food chains contain more than a child’s recommended daily salt allowance, research from Queen Mary, University of London has shown.

The recommended child’s Guidelines Daily Amount (GDA) is 4g and the survey from the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), based at Queen Mary, uncovered five meals which topped the GDA:

• Nando’s: Nandino’s veggie burger with creamy mash – 5.3g salt
• Wetherspoons: Wiltshire cured ham and cheese sandwich served with chips - 4.8g salt
• Harvester: Gammon and chicken combo with mashed potato and beans – 4.3g salt
• Sizzling Pub Co: 4oz gammon with mash and beans – 4.1g salt*
• Wetherspoons – chicken breast nuggets with chips and baked beans – 4.0g salt

“Children’s meals should provide tasty and healthy alternatives to more adult dishes,” says Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of CASH.

“It is an outrage that when families go out for a pub lunch, they may be unknowingly putting their children’s health at risk.”

The survey showed there were considerable variations in the salt levels between restaurants as well as between meals from the same restaurant.

Wetherspoons offer a ham and cheese sandwich with chips, containing 4.8g of salt whilst also offering spaghetti bolognese, containing the lowest amount of salt found in the survey - 0.1g.

Sizzling Pub Co. offers a gammon with mash and beans containing 4.1g of salt and also has a chicken breast with a jacket potato boat and peas meal with just a quarter of the salt, 0.8g.

The five main children’s meals, including side dishes, containing the lowest amount of salt found in the survey were:

• Wetherspoons: Annabel Karmel spaghetti bolognese - 0.1g salt
• McDonalds: Four-piece chicken nuggets and fruit bag - 0.4g salt
• Wimpy: Fish bites with salad - 0.5g salt
• Hungry Horse: Four cod fish fingers and jacket potato with peas/corn/salad - 0.73g salt
• KFC: Kids popcorn chicken with corn cobette - 0.78g salt

The survey found side dishes also were an extra hidden source of salt, with a mash or spicy rice from Nando’s containing 1.8g - nearly twice as much salt as a main dish of Nandinos chicken breast fillet strips at 0.8g.

Mash and beans were typically found to be the highest salt combination and a jacket potato, vegetables or salad the lowest. At Sizzling Pub Co, mash and beans contains 1.4g salt, seven times more than a jacket potato with peas (0.2g).  Although all outlets offered a vegetable side option, just four included vegetables as part of all .

Desserts were also found to be a hidden salt source with five desserts found to contain the same or more salt as a packet of crisps; for instance an ice cream with chocolate sauce from Sizzling Pub Co contains 0.7g salt per portion (18% GDA).

“Salt addiction starts in childhood and can lead to serious health issues in later life including high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease,” says Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH based at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.

“Parents are doing their best, but with the food industry continuing to put huge levels of salt in our food without any information on the menu, our children remain at risk.” 

Nutritionist Hannah Brinsden suggests some tips for healthier choices for children:

• Consider carefully the side order, e.g. replace mash with jacket potato, or replace baked beans with a salad or vegetable side
• Consider ordering a smaller portion of one of the adult options for a child
• Try not to add further salt at the table
• Remember that foods like bacon and cheese are high in salt

Explore further: New research reveals alarming levels of salt and fat in Britain's takeaway pizzas

More information: For more information on making low salt choices go to

Related Stories

New research reveals alarming levels of salt and fat in Britain's takeaway pizzas

March 27, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- New research by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) at Queen Mary, University of London and the Association of London Environmental Health Managers (ALEHM) for National Salt Awareness Week 2012 ...

Reduced salt equals reduced taste in the mind of consumers

March 29, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- ‘Reduced salt’ on a food label can lead consumers to believe the food is less tasty according to Deakin University health experts.

Less salt, less strokes, says new research

August 12, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Speaking ahead of a United Nations High Level Meeting on non-communicable diseases, Professor Francesco Cappuccio from Warwick Medical School argues that lowering dietary salt intake has the potential ...

Industrial salt sold as food salt in Iceland for 13 years

January 17, 2012
Industrial salt not intended for human consumption has been sold in Iceland as food salt for 13 years by mistake, Icelandic officials said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.