Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Parents warned as kids' lunch boxes bursting with salt

Survey by Consumer shows parents adding snacks that are far from healthy
The warning comes after an investigation into lunch box snacks. Photo / iStock
The warning comes after an investigation into lunch box snacks. Photo / iStock

Parents are being urged to keep an eye on snacks they are including in their children's lunch boxes which can seem healthy but are packed with salt.

The warning comes after an investigation into lunch box snacks, carried out by Consumer NZ, discovered kids' lunch boxes were housing salty snacks that often exceeded their recommended daily salt intake altogether.

For youngsters aged 4 to 8 years old, the maximum recommended salt intake is 3.5g.

For children aged 9 to 13, the figure is 5g. For adults, the recommended max is close to 6g.

Consumer NZ's report found snacks including a ham and cheese roll, a packet of Shultz Mini Pretzels and a packet of Select Little Families-branded biscuits contained more than 90 per cent of an 11- to 13-year-old's recommended daily salt limit.

Other snacks identified as being high in salt were particular brands of cheese, crackers, processed meats and even sweet biscuits, which people often did not realise included a large amount of salt.

Too much salt and sodium in someone's diet can lead to raised blood pressure -- the biggest catalyst for stroke.

Stroke Foundation national health promotion manager Jo Jarden said fresh foods would help children curb any preferences for salty and sweet snacks later in life.

"Tastes and eating habits can be formed early, so feeding your children fresh unprocessed foods is the best way to set them on a healthy path.

"Processed foods put more salt in our diet than we need and create a taste for it that can lead to over-consumption.

"If we start our children on fresh, natural food instead of overly salty processed snacks, we are doing them the greatest favour."

Parents were encouraged to limit the amount of processed meat, for example, that their child ate during the week.

Salami, bacon and ham all had high quantities of salt, with one serving of Primo shaved Danish salami weighing in with 700mg of salt.

Spreads such as Marmite and Vegemite were also high in sodium something parents could swap for peanut butter with no added salt.

Healthier low-salt (or no salt) alternatives for the Kiwi kid's lunch box included egg, canned tuna in spring water, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Ms Jarden acknowledged it was sometimes difficult for busy parents to check how much salt was in each snack they were providing for their children. As a result, more low-salt options needed to be offered for parents, she said.

"The food industry could certainly do more to provide low and no-salt options, especially in items targeted directly at children."

How much salt?

•Low-salt foods have less than 120mg of sodium per 100g.

•Moderate-salt foods have 120-600mg of sodium per 100g.

•High-salt foods have more than 600mg of sodium per 100g.

Source: Consumer NZ

- NZ Herald

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