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New survey finds kids’ meals too salty and saltier in some locations than others

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kids eating fast foodA new survey of kids' meals was released this week by the World Action on Salt and Health. It found that not only were the meals too salty, but also that the amount of salt per meal differed by location. Depending on the country surveyed, some meals were saltier than others. For example, the survey found that one children’s meal in Costa Rica was almost six times saltier than the same meal in the UK.

The survey included 387 children’s menu choices sold at popular fast food chains. And, the survey compared similar offerings in approximately 49 countries. Check out the online survey for more details.

The World Action on Salt and Health praised the UK’s salt reduction program, which set specific targets on sodium reduction. It pointed out the success of the program, and highlighted that the varied salt content of children’s meals shows that if fast food companies have the ability to reduce salt in children’s meals in some countries, they have the ability to do so in other countries.

Want to watch the sodium in your child’s meals? Here’s what you can do when you order at a restaurant:

  • If you can, specify how you want your food prepared. Ask for your dish to be prepared without extra salt.
  • Taste your food before adding salt. If you think it needs a boost of flavor, add freshly ground black pepper or a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime and test it again before adding salt. Lemon and pepper are especially good on fish, chicken, and vegetables.
  • Watch out for foods described using the words pickled, brined, barbecued, cured, smoked, broth, au jus, soy sauce, miso, or teriyaki sauce. Foods prepared this way tend to be high in sodium. Foods that are steamed, baked, grilled, poached or roasted may have less sodium.
  • Control portion sizes. When you cut calories, you usually cut the sodium too. Grab a to-go box when you order and place half the meal in the box to eat later.
  • Ask for the nutrition information of your meal. Then, look for the sodium content of your food. A new law requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to provide this information to customers when they request it.

Hungry for more? Check out the American Heart Association Eat Less Salt healthy lifestyle book to learn strategies to break up with excess salt! This includes 60 high-flavor recipes, a toolkit with a daily sodium tracker, lists of smart pantry staples, and more!

You can also try these tips to make fast food friendlier for kids.

Read the study by the World Action on Salt and Health and the details of their online survey.