Samantha Elliott, nutritionist at Bidfood, offers her advice on how care home caterers can keep salt levels down, whilst maintaining taste.
The risk of high blood pressure, and as a result, stroke and heart attack significantly increases with age. More specifically, diets with a high salt intake have a huge bearing on this.
Looking at the industry as a whole, the UK-wide salt reduction targets set out by the government have resulted in more than 11m kg of salt being removed from foods. However, the current target states that adults shouldn’t exceed 6g of salt on a daily basis, and with this in mind, there is still more that can be done to meet requirements.
When it comes to the care sector, no one can deny the challenges that care homes face when catering for residents, particularly considering the loss of taste and appetite often experienced by the elderly. When catering to those who are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition, it means that every mouthful has to count. However, whilst it is tempting to do all you can to encourage residents to eat, it’s imperative not to overcompensate for this by relying on salt to enhance flavour.
To help, here are my top tips on reducing salt intake:
As a first step, keeping an eye on ‘hidden salts’ is vital. Quick wins include making sure any tinned products, such as beans and pulses, are stored in water rather than brine, and ensuring salt is not readily available on tables. Sourcing lower salt alternatives of products such as seasoned snacks and table sauces is another important measure to consider.
Reduction of salt should be phased in gradually, to allow residents’ taste buds to adapt. Processed and ready-made products tend to have higher salt levels than meals made from scratch, since they give caterers increased control over salt levels. For example, adding a sprinkling of spices and dry herbs, garlic and ginger can help to increase flavour. Also, a squeeze of fresh citrus juice or vinegar can help give food a zesty taste, all without the use of salt.
There is a lot of support available to care home caterers to help combat high levels of salt. Online reports and guides, such as Public Health England’s healthier and more sustainable catering toolkit, are great resources for caterers looking to assess suitable products for their menu.
Finally, caterers should also engage with suppliers to establish what they’re doing to meet current salt targets and identify lower salt options. For example, Bidfood offers customers support through our advice centre and fact sheets, including our salt reduction and positive steps reports, which helps customers make informed food choices based on products’ nutritional content.