Research shows simple choices to foods in Australian kids' lunchboxes can reduce excessive salt intake

Research shows that the average child consumes more than the recommended amount of salt for adults. This excessive consumption of dietary salt increases the likelihood of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure during their adult lives.

Recently released Australian Health Survey data showed that 4-8 year old children had an average salt intake of 5.1g per day and 9-13 year olds 6.2g per day in contrast with the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s recommended upper limits of 3.5g and 5 grams for these age groups.

The George Institute for Global Health published a report today, with findings that showed that by switching to healthier choices for the same food type, children can easily lower their dietary salt intake.

Dr Jacqui Webster of The George Institute and Director of WHO Collaborating Centre for Population Salt Reduction, said that this increased salt consumption in children is disturbing, especially when there are very simple ways to keep excess salt out of kids’ diets.

“We’ve shown that children can avoid consuming almost 4g of salt if parents make the right choices for their lunchboxes,” said Dr Webster.

“This year’s World Salt Awareness Week is an important reminder for parents to empower themselves with the tools and information they need to make sure their kids are getting healthier, lower-salt options every day,” she said.

“We have seen some fantastic results when parents use the FoodSwitch app and Health Star Rating labels, which makes it easy while shopping to switch to healthier options when choosing packaged foods,” said Dr Webster.

Excessive salt consumption, in conjunction with poor diet, is a major contributor to other leading and associated causes of death and disability like heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and kidney disease. As such, The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended salt reduction as apriority action to tackle the global chronic disease burden. 

Many companies are already working to reduce salt in food products through the government’s Food and Health Dialogue. However, The George Institute is advocating for Australia to work harder to address this public health priority through a five-pronged approach consisting of: strong government leadership, broader engagement with the food industry to reduce salt in foods and meals, effective implementation of the Healthy Star Rating labelling system; wide-reaching community education campaigns; and a robust food supply monitoring program.

To find out more about the Food and Health Dialogue, click here:…

Healthy lunchbox tips

  • Where possible, choose fresh, whole foods, for kids to take in their lunchboxes. 
  • Choose healthier, lower salt options of the same food type, including sandwich bases, fillings and snacks.
  • Use the FoodSwitch app and Health Star Ratings when shopping to find healthier options among packaged foods. 
  • Include a drink in the lunch box to ensure kids get enough fluids. The best choice is water. Other better choices include a small milk drink or 99% fruit juice of less than 200ml. A chilled bottle of water in the lunchbox can also help keep foods cool.
  • Offer a variety of healthy lunch box choices as children learn to eat what is familiar to them. For example offer different seasonal fruits for a change in flavour and texture.