Women's health * Healthy living

High Street salads saltier than a Big Mac

Lunchtime salads can have more salt than a Big Mac Some contain more than half your daily allowance

Many of us opt for a pre-packaged salad for lunch in an attempt to eat healthily, but a new survey has found that many high street salads contain more salt than a Big Mac.

And some contain more than half of our recommended daily salt intake of 6g.

The survey, by health charity Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), measured the salt content of 270 pre-packaged salad and pasta products from high street food chains and supermarkets.

Only six of the salads tested contained contained less salt than a bag of crisps. Fast food salads from sandwich chains such as Pret-A-Manger and Eat were found to be some of the worst offenders.

The top five fast food salads for salt were:

  • EAT Spicy Crayfish Noodles (3.51g salt per portion)
  • Pret Super (Duper) Humous Salad with French Dressing (3.2g salt per portion)
  • KFC Zinger Salad with Caesar Dressing or Low Fat Vinaigrette Dressing (3.1g salt per portion)
  • KFC Original Recipe Chicken Salad with Caesar dressing or low fat vinaigrette dressing (2.9g salt per portion)
  • McDonalds Crispy Chicken and Bacon Salad with Low Fat Caesar Salad Dressing or Low Fat Balsamic Dressing (2.6g salt per serving)

The survey also revealed that supermarkets were not much better, with salads from upmarket chains Marks and Spencer and Waitrose particularly salty.

Top five saltiest supermarket salads tested:

  • Marks & Spencer A Taste of Asia (2.83g salt per 258g portion)
  • Marks & Spencer Pasta with British Chicken, Bacon and Sweetcorn (2.65g salt per 380g portion)
  • Marks & Spencer Avocado and Feta (2.40g salt per 320g portion)
  • Tesco Prawn Layered Salad (2.3g salt per 380g portion)
  • Waitrose Special Edition King Prawn Thai Rice Salad (2.25g salt per 230g portion)

Commenting on the results, CASH Campaign Manager Katharine Jenner said: "Many women choose salad as a healthy and convenient lunch, particularly when watching their waistline.

"Rather than feeling healthy however, they often feel bloated and sluggish, symptoms of ‘water retention’, which can be caused by the hidden salt in these salads."

"In the long term the health problems are more serious as salt intake is linked to osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Given the healthy image of salads it’s surprising to find that they contain such high levels of unnecessary salt."

The good news from the survey is that there has been some reduction in overall salt levels compared to a similar survey 5 years ago.

But CASH chairman Professor Graham MacGregor called for more action on this matter: "Every gram of salt removed from our diet is estimated to prevent 6,000 deaths from heart attacks, heart disease and strokes per year, creating potential healthcare savings of £1.5 billion per year.

"Clearly the manufacturers still have a long way to go if we are to reduce our salt intake to 6g a day and save the maximum number of lives."

This point was echoed by Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation: "Some of the salads in this survey provide more than half the recommended daily amount of salt for an adult in just one dish.

"Over time, eating a diet high in salt can increase your risk of raised blood pressure, which is linked to heart disease and stroke" she said.

Top tips for reducing your lunchtime salt intake

  • Avoid salty ingredients such as ham, bacon and cheese, swapping them for chicken, tuna or vegetables instead
  • Don’t use the whole pot of dressing provided with a ready-made salad
  • Olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, balsamic vinegar and herbs can all make a salad taste great without the need for salty dressings and sauces
  • Make sure you read the labels carefully and check the recommended portion sizes
  • For a more filling salad try one based around pasta or mixed beans

This article was published on Thu 26 August 2010

Image © nsphotography - Fotolia.com

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