Don’t Be Too Salty This Labor Day3 months ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
For some it may be back-to-school time, but summer is not quite over yet! This means picnics and barbecues are still in full swing, and this Labor Day weekend it’s likely you’ve got a picnic or party to attend.
Now, I’m not trying to be the fun police or burst anyone’s bubble. But as joyous as these occasions are, they are usually not good for our waistlines and health because the food tends to include a lot of processed, fried, sugary and salty items.
If you’re thinking: Well, it’s just one party, you need to hear me out. The truth is there are constantly holidays, parties and celebrations throughout the year and many opportunities to drink too much alcohol and not eat the healthiest.
Salt (sodium) is a culprit we need to be particularly aware of. Although sodium is an essential nutrient (it is an electrolyte that helps regulate blood pressure and enable muscle and nerve cells to function properly), overall most Americans consume way too much sodium, putting them at a higher risk of developing hypertension and heart disease.
Foods, like potato chips, BBQ sauces and hot dogs, that tend to pop up at picnics and parties are usually ‘salt bombs.’
And recently, a survey based in London conducted by “Action on Salt” identified picnic foods with dangerously high levels of salt. The foods are so salty that one in four of them qualified for a red label on the front of the package, according to a report discussing the research.
(To understand the labeling system, which in my opinion we could afford to adopt in the U.S., read here. Basically red means high, amber means medium and green means low).
The survey found that the food inside a typical picnic basket contains five grams of salt, which equates to 5,000 milligrams! The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.
As a result of the survey, experts from Action on Salt “are calling for immediate compulsory front of pack nutritional labeling on picnic savories.” And honestly, I think we need to do the same here in the U.S.
“This survey highlights just how easy it is for consumers to unknowingly eat huge amounts of salt and saturated fat hidden in savory snacks and picnic favorites,” said one of the nutritionists with Action on Salt.
We have to be proactive, but part of being proactive is knowing what is in the food we are eating. Unfortunately, food labeling is not making it easier for us. But staying abreast about recent research will definitely keep us informed and more equipped to be proactive.
What were some of the foods identified?
- Aldi Specially Selected Hand Stuffed Halkidiki Olives. Contains double the salt concentration of seawater! Just five olives equates to a third of an adult's daily recommended limit of salt.
- Ginsters Cornish Pasty (272g) with 2.99g of salt per portion, equivalent to seven portions of salted peanuts.
- Aldi Eat & Go Sausages & Ketchup with 2.2g per portion, as much salt as 4.5 bags of ready salted crisps.
- Fry's Spicy 3 Bean Pasty (200g), 1.8g per portion which is the amount of salt in a McDonald's hamburger and fries.
“The survey reveals that as part of a typical picnic it can be very easy to consume high levels of salt and saturated fat in one sitting. While vegetarian products were found to be lower in saturated fat, they still contain high levels of salt.”
Potato chips and store-bought bbq sauces are all examples of some of the food items Americans need to watch out for. Others are pretzels, cold cuts, salad dressings, tomato sauces, breads and baked beans.
So how can you be proactive this Labor Day?
You may have to switch things up a bit and put in a little more work, but staying away from packaged foods is generally a good way to cut the salt.
- Instead of store-bought chips and salsa, go for homemade hummus or guacamole with fresh veggies.
- Substitute store-bought bbq sauces that are usually loaded with sugar and sodium with homemade sauces. Make your own low-salt marinades and use lemon, herbs and spices for great flavor without the added salt.
- Put out a fresh fruit and veggie platter. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense and contain potassium, which helps combat sodium. These whole, natural foods are also water-rich and hydrating.
- Hold the salty cocktails, like margaritas and Bloody Marys. Or I guess you can do them salt-free (in moderation of course!).
Happy Labor Day!
Enjoy your healthy life!
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