CASH Comment - School Food Trust Food & Drink Guidelines for Early Years

16th January 2012

CASH welcomes the new voluntary food and drink guidelines for early years, published today by the School Food Trust. The guidelines provide clear practical information about the foods that young children should and shouldn’t be eating, portion recommendations, how to read labels and other useful tips, all supported by images and pictures making them really easy to follow. CASH urges everyone who provides childcare to young children to think about the food they provide and to look at these guidelines for help in making meals healthy and balanced.

The guidelines correctly highlight that giving too much salt to a child can increase their taste for salty food. This can lead to a higher salt diet when they get older, resulting in serious health conditions such as high blood pressure later in life.

The recommendations for salt (SACN)

AgeMaximum salt intake
0-6 months<1g / day
6-12 months1g / day
1-3 years2g / day
4-6 years3g / day
7-10 years5g / day
11 years and above6g / day

Key advice for reducing salt in food given to young children (adapted from the guidelines)

  • Cook as much from scratch as possible, using fresh ingredients and herbs and spices for flavour
  • Never add salt to cooking or provide it for children to add to food.
  • Avoid salty snacks such as crisps.
  • Avoid canned vegetables and pulses with added salt and sugar
  • Avoid flavoured dried rice, pasta and noodle products, as these can be high in salt.
  • Avoid foods containing flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (E621; also known as MSG).
  • Limit the use of ...
    1. Processed meat to no more than one a week eg. sausages, ham, pies, coated fish etc…
    2. Cheese.  Try swapping cheddar cheese for cream cheese. Rememver yogurt and milk are good low salt sources of calcium
    3. Baked beans and Canned pasta (eg spaghetti hoops). Opt for low suagr and salt alternatives.  Baked beans can only count as a vegetable once each week
    4. Ready made sauces (dried or liquid), condiments (eg ketchup), soups and gravy granules. Instead cook sauces from raw ingredients, and thicken sauces with cornflour instead of gravy granules.

Check the labels!

  • When planning meals it is a good idea to look at the nutritional information and ingredient lists of the foods you use particularly for packaged foods such as bread, cereal, crackers, snacks and gravy.
  • Packaging usually provides calorie, fat, sugar, salt, protein and fibre information
  • Nutrition information is normally given per 100g and sometimes per portion (such as ‘one slice’).
  • Sodium and salt is not the same! SALT = SODIUM X 2.5
  • Traffic light labelling makes it easier to see whether a food is high, medium or low. Try to get as many green products as possible. Avoid red labels as much as possible




≤0.3g salt /100g 

(or 0.1g sodium / 100g)

> 0.30 to ≤ 1.50g/100g

≥ 1.50g salt / 100g (0.6g sodium / 100g)

OR more than 2.40g salt / portion (0.96g sodium)


For more information about the guidelines and some meal suggestions visit the School Food Trust website 

For more information about salt and children's health click here
For more information about reading labels click here