Sustainable Restaurant Association Guest Blog - Less Salt, More Flavour!
Sonia Pombo is Campaign Manager at Action on Salt, responsible for managing salt reduction campaigns at Action on Salt, including annual Salt Awareness Week, and the award-winning health app FoodSwitch.
Next week sees the start of Salt Awareness Week, an annual campaign aimed at, you guessed it, raising awareness about our salt consumption and why we have a problem on our hands, or rather our hearts.
But whilst the importance of reducing our salt intakes is recognised globally, many of us fail to see it as a problem affecting us personally. Statements such as ‘I don’t really add salt to my food’ or ‘my blood pressure is fine! I don’t have to worry it’ are often said, but the reality is very few of us get our blood pressure checked on a regular basis, and many of us underestimate how much salt we actually eat.
Current recommendations state we should be having no more than 6g of salt a day, which is only about a teaspoons worth. But on average, we are eating more, despite our bodies only needing less than a pinch (!) to function properly. Too much salt raises our blood pressure, which increases our risk of suffering and dying from heart attacks and strokes, the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Many of us however, are oblivious to the damage being done from eating too much salt because it carries no symptoms; a high salt meal, will likely (but not always) taste salty, and leave you a little thirsty, but otherwise there are no obvious physical symptoms associated with it. Instead, our blood pressure rises quietly without us noticing until that rare visit to the GP for a sore throat only to find out it has sky rocketed.
Now changing people’s eating habits and getting them to ditch the salt shaker is a challenge in itself, but even then, our salt intakes would still likely be too high. The reality is, very few people have the time or skill to cook from scratch; our time poor lifestyles and easy accessibility of affordable and convenient food means we often buy our food ‘ready made’, which includes that sandwich bought for lunch, the cheeky mid-week takeaway, or the pub lunch with the family over the weekend. In fact, 1 in 5 meals are now eaten out of the home, and when eating out it is easy to go over the recommended intakes without even realising. We’ve seen time and time again dishes providing more salt than necessary, with some even going as far as dishing up twice the amount we should be eating in one day[i] – in just one meal!
We all need a bit of help in getting our salt levels down, and with 75% of our salt intakes coming from the food we buy, we are looking - in part - to you within the hospitality sector. As experts in cooking we hope you can jump at the opportunity to provide great tasting food that we all love, whilst at the same time improving our health. Are you up for the challenge?
Top tips for less salt but more flavour
- Get creative! Salt is just one ingredient, and it’s an easy one, dare I say it, it’s almost cheating. But dishes using more fragrant flavours such as fresh herbs and spices pack more of a punch, and satisfies all the senses.
- Salty preferences are subjective – your idea of the right amount of seasoning is likely to be different to your customers. If you can’t quite part with the salt shaker, add a bit at a time and remember – less is more! You can’t take salt out once it’s put in
- Slow and steady wins the race. A 10-20% reduction in salt will go relatively unnoticed, so gradually look to reduce the amount of salt you add, one step at a time.
- Keep in mind salt content of other ingredients. Salt is present in a lot of ingredients, so whilst you may think you don’t add a lot of salt in your cooking, consider the stock, the sauces, cheese and meat products to name a few. When buying for supplies, look for the lower salt options. Small and subtle changes have a huge impact overall
[i] A survey carried out by Action on Salt in 2018 on Chinese takeout and ready meals found one dish, Beef in Black Bean Sauce with Vegetables Noodles from Wong Kei contained 11.50g of salt. This is almost twice the amount of salt recommended for consumption in one day, and is equivalent to eating five Big Macs. Additionally, 50% of the Chinese takeaway meals surveyed contained the maximum recommended consumption level of salt per day in one dish (6g)” http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/salt-surveys/2018/salt-awareness-week-2018-survey/