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Action on Salt

Children's Meals


14th June 2012

Your child's pub lunch could be putting their health at risk 

  • Children’s meals found containing MORE than the 4g salt GDA for children
  • Nando’s and Wetherspoons’ each had a children’s meal with 3 TIMES as much salt as a McDonald’s Happy Meal of a hamburger and fries (1.6g)
  • No nutrition information available for parents to make a healthy choice

For full data Children's Out of Home Survey 2012 - High Meal Examples [PDF 299KB]

For high and low tables Children's Out of Home Survey 2012 [PDF 185KB]

For Media Coverage: Children Meals Media Coverage 2

14.06.12 A family pub lunch is a tradition enjoyed around the UK, however new research by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) [REF 1] has uncovered the shockingly high levels of salt hidden in the children’s meals at some of the country’s leading pub and fast food chains. With some of the surveyed restaurants offering meals which contain MORE than a child’s salt Guidelines Daily Amount (GDA) of 4g for an entire day [REF 2].  

5 of the highest main meals (incl side dishes) found were at the following outlets;

  • Nando’s - Nandino’s Veggie Burger with Creamy Mash – 5.3g salt
  • Wetherspoons - Wiltshire Cured Ham & Cheese Sandwich (served with chips) - 4.8g salt
  • Harvester - Gammon and Chicken Combo with Mashed Potato and Beans – 4.3g salt
  • Sizzling Pub Co. – 4oz Gammon with Mash and Beans – 4.1g salt*
  • Wetherspoons – Chicken Breast Nuggets with Chips and Baked Beans – 4.0g salt

The survey found huge variations in meals, even at the same restaurants, however with no nutritional information on the menus it is impossible for parents to make a healthier choice for their children. For instance, Wetherspoons offer ham & cheese sandwich with chips, containing a massive 4.8g of salt whilst on the same menu also offering a much healthier Annabel Karmel Spaghetti Bolognese, the lowest meal found in the survey, at just 0.1g. Sizzling Pub Co. offers Gammon with Mash and Beans at a staggering 4.1g, whilst also offering a meal with just a quarter of the salt (0.8g) - a Chicken Breast with a Jacket boat and Peas. (Table 1: ‘low salt swaps’ below.)

The 5 lowest main meals (incl. side dishes) found were at the following outlets;

  • Wetherspoons - Annabel Karmel Spaghetti Bolognese - 0.1g salt
  • McDonalds - 4 Piece Chicken Nuggets & Fruit Bag - 0.4g salt
  • Wimpy – Fish Bites with Salad - 0.5g salt
  • Hungry Horse - Four Cod Fish Fingers & Jacket Potato with Peas/Corn/Salad - 0.73g salt
  • KFC – Kids Popcorn Chicken with Corn Cobette - 0.78g salt

“Children’s meals should provide tasty and healthy alternatives to more adult dishes” says Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of CASHIt is an outrage that when families go out for a pub lunch, they may be unknowingly putting their children’s health at risk”

Side dishes are an extra hidden source of salt, with a Mash or Spicy Rice from Nando’s containing 1.8g – more than TWICE as much salt as a main dish of Nandinos Chicken Breast Fillet Strips at 0.8g. Mash and beans were typically found to be the highest salt combination, a jacket potato, vegetables or salad the lowest. For instance, at Sizzling Pub Co, Mash and Beans contains 1.4g salt, SEVEN times more than a Jacket Potato with Peas (0.2g).  Although all outlets offered a vegetable side option, just 4 included vegetables as part of all meals.

Desserts were also found to be surprising sources of hidden salt, with 5 desserts found to contain the same or more salt as a packet of crisps [REF 3]; for instance an Ice cream with Chocolate Sauce from Sizzling Pub Co. contains 0.7g salt per portion (18% GDA).

“Salt addiction salt starts in childhood and can lead to serious health issues in later life including high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease” says Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH. “Parents are doing their best, but with the food industry continuing to put huge levels of salt in our food without any information on the menu, our children remain at risk.”  

Nutritionist Hannah Brinsden suggests some tips for healthier choices for children:
• Consider carefully the side order, e.g. replace mash with jacket potato, or replace baked beans with a salad / vegetable side
• Consider ordering a smaller portion of one of the adult options for a child
• Try not to add further salt at the table
• Remember that foods like bacon and cheese are high in salt
• For more information on making low salt choices go to

Mubeen Bhutta, Policy Manager at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Most parents do everything they can to keep their family healthy, and so many mums and dads strive to avoid the salt shaker. The disappointing thing about these findings is that parents choosing to head out for lunch are being kept in the dark about the amount of salt served up in their child’s food. Whether you’re out at a restaurant or shopping in the supermarket, consistent traffic light coloured labelling on packs and menus would give busy parents the at-a-glance information they need.”

Annabel Karmel, the UK's number 1 parenting author, whose spaghetti bolognese was the lowest in this survey, said "It is so important to keep the levels of salt in our children’s diet to a minimum, the more they have from an early age, the more likely they will become used to its taste and expect it in their food. I have worked hard to keep the salt levels in all my restaurant meals to never be more than 25% of the Guideline Daily Amount.  We have found other ways, such as using herbs and spices, to make food tasty without relying on salt."



Notes to Editor
Go to for more information or contact:
• Professor Graham MacGregor on: 020 7882 6217 or 07946 405617,
• Katharine Jenner on: 020 7882 6018 /5941 or 07740 553298,
• Gillian Breen on: 0207 242 2844 / 07815 125 675, /
Follow us on twitter at #salt

Table 1 –Low salt swaps available in each restaurant:


High Example


Low Example




Product Name

Salt (g)

Product Name

Salt (g)

Difference (g)

Burger King Chargrilled Chicken Mini Burger with Small Fries


Chicken Nuggets with Fresh Apple Fries



Harvester Gammon and Chicken Combo with Mashed Potato and Beans


Simply Pasta (Large)



Hungry Horse BBQ Ribs


4 Cod Fish Fingers with Jacket Potato and peas/corn/salad



KFC Kids Mini Fillet Burger with BBQ Beans


Kids Popcorn Chicken with Corn Cobette



McDonalds Cheeseburger & Fresh Fries


4 Piece Chicken Nuggets and fruit bag



Nandos Chicken Breast Fillet burger with creamy mash


Chicken Breast Fillet Strips with Corn on the Cob/side salad



Pizza Hut Smiley Face Thick Ham Pizza


Cheesy Macaroni



Sizzling Pub 4 oz. Gammon  with Mash & beans


Chicken Breast with Jacket Boat & peas or salad



Subway Turkey Breast Mini Sub


Beef Mini Sub



Wetherspoons Wiltshire Cured Ham & Cheddar Cheese Sandwich (with chips)


Annabel Karmel spaghetti Bolognese



Wimpy Cheese Toastie with Chips


Fish Bites & Salad




1. Survey Details: CASH surveyed a number of pubs and fast food chains to find the salt content of their children’s meals. In total, 11 chains were looked at including 6 pubs and 5 fast food chains/restaurants. CASH focused on the main meals (or mains and sides if offered as part of a combo meal). 163 menu items, including 104 main meals (with or without sides). Data was collected online from the company websites and checked with customer services where possible:

Burger King:
Hungry Horse:
Pizza Hut:
Sizzling Pubs:

Notes about data
• For analysis purposes, meals were only looked at with either the highest or lowest side. One main will not be represented in tables more than once, even if an alternative side would also make it high.  Further data tables available on request.
• Where small and large options were offered, the large has been used and small included in brackets
• In some cases the lowest side was not used as it was higher in saturated fat compared to another which was similar in salt. Also in some instances the lowest or highest side was not a suitable side so the next highest and most suitable was used
• Vegetarian options have been included in the high and low tables but have not been used in any swaps tables
• *Sizzling Pub Co have removed the nutritional data from their website, as they are launching a new Spring/Summer menu.

2. The Guideline Daily Amount for salt for a 5-10 year old child is 4g/day.
3. A packet of Walkers Ready Salted crisps contains 0.5g/ 34.5g pack (13% child GDA)

NB The Department of Health is in the process of launching a Salt Catering Pledge as part of the Responsibility Deal. The Pledge will cover kitchen practices, purchasing and reformulation of products.  For further information, please contact the CASH team directly on 020 7882 6018

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