Checking the label
Checking the label and choosing foods that are lower in salt is one of the best ways to cut down. When most people think of salt, they think of shaking it on their food, or adding a pinch to cooking, but 75% of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy. So even though it's important to try to get out of the habit of adding salt, we also need to be careful about the salt in everyday foods.
By looking at the salt content on the label you can:
- compare similar products and find out which is lower in salt
- find out if the food is high, medium or low in salt
- work out how much salt will be in the portion you would eat
How can I compare the salt content of different foods?When you’re comparing the salt level of different food products, look at the nutritional information on the labels and make sure you’re comparing like with like. The easiest way is to check the figure for salt per 100g on both labels. Choose the one that is lower in salt – even if there is quite a small difference in salt content, choosing the lower one can help you cut down on salt, especially if it’s a food you eat a lot of.
If the label also tells you how much salt is in one serving or one slice, remember that the servings won’t always be the same size from brand to brand – and they may also not be the same amount you would eat.
How can I tell if a food is high in salt?Here is a quick way to tell if a food is high in salt by looking at the nutritional information on the label.
Look at the figure for salt per 100g.
High is more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low is 0.3g salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
If the amount of salt per 100g is in between these figures, then that is a medium level of salt.
Foods produced by some supermarkets and manufacturers have 'traffic light' colours on the front of the pack, which show you if a food is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. For a healthier choice try to pick products with more greens and ambers and fewer reds.
How do I know how much salt is in a portion of food?Look at the nutritional information on the label. If the label gives a figure for salt per 100g, all you have to do is work out how much salt is in the amount you will eat. So if you're eating 500g, you would multiply the figure for 100g by 5. Or use the calculator below to work it out.
The label might also tell you how much salt (or sodium) is in the whole pack or in part of the pack. Remember that the serving size listed on the label may not be the same as the amount you will eat and it may be different from brand to brand.
If you only have a figure for sodium, work out how much sodium is in the amount you will eat. And then multiply this by 2.5 to find the amount of salt. (See What’s the difference between sodium and salt? below.)
How can I work out how much salt I’m eating?It would be very difficult to calculate exactly how much salt you eat in a day, because you would need to know the salt content of each food and measure the exact quantities you eat.
But if you find out the amount of salt in a few of the foods you normally eat, then you'll see how easy it can be to eat more than 6g in one day. So if you eat a 200g ham sandwich that contains 1.6g salt per 100g, then that would be 3.2g salt, which is more than half of an adult’s daily maximum of 6g.
What’s the difference between sodium and salt?Salt is also known as sodium chloride. So sodium is part of salt. Having too much sodium could increase your blood pressure.
Lots of food labels tell you how much salt is in 100g of the food. Sometimes they only give a figure for sodium, or they might give both.
Sodium x 2.5 = salt
If you know how much sodium is in a food, you can work out roughly the amount of salt it contains by multiplying the sodium by 2.5. So if a portion of food contains 1.2g sodium, then it contains about 3g salt. Or use the calculator below to work it out.
How much salt?