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Let's give our children healthy food choices

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Too much salt

Too much salt

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Too much salt

We are what we eat - and increasingly our choices seem to becoming less healthy.

Salt is one of those food issues that has been debated on and off since the 1970s, with most experts coming to the view that too much salt is bad for you, even though we all need a moderate sodium intake.

There is ample evidence that too much salt raises blood pressure in adults. Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White went so far as to say: "We know salt is a killer, people suffer strokes and heart attacks as a result of too much salt".

While adult intake is one thing - even in this era of the 'nanny state' adults are still entitled to make up their own minds about overindulgence in a whole range of areas, from salt to fatty foods to alcohol - there has to be real concern about the presence of too much salt in children's meals.

What many of us don't realise is that almost all processed foods contains large amounts of salt and our survey today reveals that many so-called 'kiddy meals' in fast food outlets contain over 3g of salt, more than the maximum daily intake recommended for children.

Undoubtedly, this unseen salt makes these meals more palatable, but if children are eating such meals regularly it cannot be good for them.

Studies of Irish teenagers have already shown elevated levels of blood pressure. We don't wish to regulate what children eat, especially when they are out for a treat. But it is important for parents to be aware that "family friendly" establishments may not be health friendly.

Nutrition expert Marian Faughnan said it is children who decide what they are going to eat. She and other health experts recommend that parents should try to change eating patterns "one small step at a time".

Every healthy choice is a step in the right direction. Fast food outlets and makers of processed foods can also help by cutting down on the amount of salt used in their products.

Over-consumption of salt can be fatal in later life. It is important that we have healthy children, otherwise we face an overburdened health service and a bleak future.

Irish Independent