Lunchboxes: cut the salt, keep the flavour

Life Education is looking at what can be done to reduce the amount of salt in our children’s lunchboxes.  

We understand the difficulties of packing your child’s lunch box, it can seem quicker and easier to give your child processed or pre-packaged food. However, most additives including salt are found in pre-packaged food, this could actually lead to a dangerously high intake of salt.  The Heart Foundation’s recommended daily intake of salt is 6 grams or less per day which is roughly one-and-a-half teaspoons.

Salt is something our tongues were created to crave. Along with sweet, sour, bitter and umami, it's one of our traditional taste sensations. Unfortunately, Australians consume far too much of it on average – around 9 grams a day, far more than what we should be eating!

Unfortunately, diets high in salt can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Life Education’s unique education program helps children understand how a healthy eating lifestyle is that very important step to making positive health choices for now and in the future.

Salty Facts & Figures

  • Salt is made up of sodium and chloride
  • Salt content is listed on the nutrition panel on all packaged food as sodium and it's important to scrutinise the numbers and understand what they mean.
  • Best to read labels; “75% of the salt we eat comes from processed food,” Meaning anything in a packet, jar, tin or bag could have large amounts of salt.
  • Choose 'reduced salt' products

Tips for Parents

Dietician, Rosalyn D'Angelo shares some tips and tricks for parents who want to tackle salt in their child's lunchbox.

1. Cook from scratch

“If you prepare fresh, whole foods at home, you can control what goes into the food you eat. Make your own soups with homemade stock, or create your own pizzas with shredded chicken breast and plenty of vegetables,” says dietician, Rosalyn D'Angelo.

Leftover homemade pizza can make a great school lunch box addition.

2. Lunchbox alternatives

A sandwich can seem like a quick and easy lunchbox staple; two pieces of fresh white bread, slathered in butter with a few slices of cheese and ham? Think again. Ham and cheese sandwiches are full of saturated fat and salt.

Vegetables are great for kids

Instead of salty processed meats like salami, bacon, pastrami and ham, pack sandwiches full of salad -  spinach, or lettuce leaves, grated carrot, cucumber and more, with some quality protein such as a hard-boiled egg, turkey, tuna, or leftover roast chicken.

Instead of butter and mayo which are salty and high in saturated fat, add some flavour with avocado or hummus. If it’s extra flavour you are looking for herbs such as rosemary, coriander, basil and garlic work well in a sandwich and are much healthier than spreads or dressings.

Fruit adds colour excitement and nutritional value

Watch out for muesli bars, often disguised in healthy-looking packaging but you might be shocked to learn some of them are high in salt, sugar and fat. Fruit and homemade bars are a healthier alternative. Fruits like sliced apple, pomegranate, pineapple and orange can really brighten up a lunch box and boost the flavour.

Going low-salt may not be easy at first, but it is definitely worth the perseverance for the long-term health benefits.

Your taste buds will get used to the lower salt content and won’t miss it after a few weeks

Rosalyn D'Angelo, Dietician

Fueling healthy bodies

Our All Systems Go module explores the human body helping children to understand healthy fuel and why food and nutrition is so important in our lives.

All Systems Go Book Life Education