In this guest post we invite Consensus Action on Salt and Health to share their tips on managing your salt intake this Christmas. Their research exposes just how much salt may be hidden in all the trimmings of the day.
Many of us will be tucking into a delicious roast this Christmas, but doing so could add large amounts of unnecessary salt to our diet. Recent research from Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has revealed the high and unnecessary levels of hidden salt in gravies and stocks by leading brands and supermarkets.
Some stock cubes are made of 50% salt – nearly a teaspoon of salt per cube, though as the labels are confusing and complicated – it is very hard to find the true salt levels. 87% of stocks and 99% of gravies would receive an amber or red traffic light for salt content. Out of the 103 stocks tested, only 13 products would be given a green traffic light for salt!
Christmas gravy – fresh is best
The stock with the highest level of salt in was Aldi Quixo Beef Stock Cubes, with 5.09g salt per cube. At the other end of the scale, Asda’s Extra Special Concentrated Vegetable Stock, has just 0.38g salt per 250g container.
And when it comes to gravy, Bisto’s Original Gravy Powder has 1.66g salt per 100ml. Whereas Waitrose Delicate & Savoury Chicken Gravy has a fraction of the salt at 0.5g per 100ml.
Fresh, ready-made stocks and gravies tend to be lower in salt. Best of all, for free and delicious gravy, why not make your own from the juices (not the fat!) of your turkey?
Eating is central to the Christmas Day festivities – but all those treats can contain as much as 15g of salt, over twice your daily recommended maximum of 6g.
With some clever planning however, you can bring all your favourite foods in under your daily maximum of 6g. For some foods it’s well worth spending your time cooking at home to keep the salt down, but if you must save time, I have some more tips below on how to go for the lower salt options.
Check the food labels
Firstly, be sure to check the label; similar foods can vary hugely in their salt content so it’s a good idea to check the label, especially on snacks such as crisps, olives and nuts.
And secondly, work out which foods are low in salt and potential time savers. There are a number of foods which are low in salt or don’t typically vary between brands – for instance pre-prepared Yorkshire puddings are usually low in salt. Cranberry sauce is also a low salt option. Surprisingly, although shop-bought pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped with bacon) are salty, they don’t tend to be any higher than home-made. Dessert items including Christmas pudding, custard and biscuits for cheese also tend to be similar across the board. Though keep in mind that cheese is very salty, so try and keep your portion to the size of a matchbox.
And remember during the festive season: there are other seasonings apart from salt. Try herbs, spices, lemon and garlic for a delicious meal.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Katharine Jenner, Campaigns Director at Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH). All opinions expressed here are Katharine’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.