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Romantic meals for 2 could lead to broken hearts

14th February 2011

Many supermarkets are promoting ‘dine in for 2’ meal deals. Valentine’s Day examples include:

Eating In – Tesco’s Finest 2 course meal contains more than your daily maximum of salt (6.3g)

Eating Out - Pizza Express’s Padana Pizza contains more salt than fifteen packets of crisps (7.5g)

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) looked at 95 products from the 5 supermarkets participating in Valentine’s Day offers and found that you and your loved one could be consuming excessively high levels of salt (Ref 1). 

If you’re planning on staying in for a romantic Valentine’s dinner, you could be consuming a surprisingly large amount of salt in just one meal, putting your heart health at risk.  The quick and easy options including ready prepared starters, mains, side dishes and desserts may help save time but can be full of unnecessary salt.  Three of the major supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s, all had meal combinations available totalling over SIX grams of salt, so you could easily exceed the adult’s maximum recommended salt intake for a whole day.

The highest main meal available was a Tesco’s Finest (Restaurant Collection) Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with Roasted Vegetables with a whopping 4.3g salt per portion.  Combined with their side dish of Roasted Potatoes with Bacon and Garlic (1.6g salt per portion), dessert of 2 Bramley Apple Tarts (0.4g salt per portion) and a bottle of wine, the two course meal contains 6.3g of salt (Ref 2). This is over 6 times more salt than the lowest meal combination available, which was at Marks and Spencer’s, where a full three course meal option with wine and chocolates contained just 1.04g salt.

“At this time of the year we should be thinking about protecting the heart of the one we love” says Katharine Jenner, CASH Campaign Director. “By avoiding these salty ready prepared meals and cooking a meal with fresh ingredients we can all help cut down our salt intake. For great low salt recipe ideas, check out the CASH website www.actiononsalt.org.uk”.

If you read the labels carefully, you can find lower salt options available, for instance by swapping the Tesco’s Finest Lamb Shanks, Roasted Potatoes and Bramley Apple Tarts for Tesco’s Finest Salmon en Croute (0.9g per portion) and Green Vegetables (0.5g salt) and Gu 2 Hot Choc Melting Middle Puds (0.25g per portion), you could save NEARLY FIVE grams of salt.

When dining out, it is much harder to find out how much salt you are eating, as none of the surveyed restaurants’ Valentine’s menus, including Ask, Beefeater, Café Rouge, Carluccios, Giraffe, La Tasca, Las Iguanas, Loch Fyne, Pizza Express, Prezzo or Zizzi, provided nutritional information for salt.  From the data available from customer services, CASH found a ‘Padana’ pizza from the Pizza Express Valentine’s menu contained 7.5g salt, more than 15 packets of crisps (Ref 3).  Their ‘La Reine’ pizza is a third lower, but still contains 5g salt, nearly your full daily maximum.

“Too much salt raises our blood pressure, putting unnecessary strain on our hearts, leading to strokes and heart attacks” says Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Chairman of CASH. “We should all be aiming for less that 6g salt a day, which is hard whilst the food industry is still filling our food with salt.”

Top tips to save on salt:

  • Show your partner how much you love them and make the food yourself! 
  • Avoid ready prepared vegetable dishes and cook your own with no added salt 
  • Read the labels carefully and choose products that are lower in salt
  • Try not to add salt, or use salty sauces such as tomato sauce and mustard at the table
  • When eating out, try to avoid salty ingredients such as bacon, ham, olives and cheese, and don’t be afraid to ask the waiter for ‘less salt please’!
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