When salads aren't the healthy option...

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast year we all discovered that sometimes things lurk in our food, or in some cases, replace our food entirely (Findus Lasagne anyone?) Of course, unidentifiable meat in processed products will always contain an element of risk, but you can’t get more risk-free than a salad can you? There’s nowhere for any nasties to hide. Or so you’d think. New research from the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) shows that some ‘healthy’ high street salads contain more salt than two and a half Big Macs.

CASH surveyed 650 ready-to-eat salads available for purchase from supermarkets, restaurants, cafés and fast food restaurants and found almost four out of five, 511 products,  contained more salt than a packet of crisps (0.5g/portion).

Of the eating out salads:

Pizza Express’ ‘Grand Chicken Caesar Salad’ contains an astonishing 5.3g salt/serving, the equivalent of two and a half Big Macs, which is almost a whole days’ worth of salt (6g) in just one meal.

Pizza Express' ‘Warm Vegetable & Goats Cheese Salad’ containing 5g salt/serving - four fifths (83%) of the maximum recommended daily intake.

Wagamama’s ‘Lobster Super Salad’ contains 4.5g salt/serving – three quarters (75%) of your salt limit for the day in just one meal.

Nando’s ‘Mediterranean Salad with Chicken Breast’ sounds healthy, purely by dint of including the word ‘Mediterranean’ but still contains a whopping 4g salt/serving.

A McDonald’s ‘Crispy Chicken & Bacon Salad’ has MORE salt (1.3g vs 1.2g), fat (19g vs 8g) and calories (380kcal vs 250kcal) per portion than a McDonald’s Hamburger. Although why anyone would expect to see a vegetable in a McDonald’s anything is the bigger mystery.

Of the supermarket salads, examples of those with the largest amount of salt/serving include:

Morrisons ‘Chicken & Bacon Pasta Salad’ 2.8g salt/290g serving

Marks & Spencer ‘Chicken, Bacon & Sweetcorn Pasta Salad’ 2.58g salt/380g serving

Boots ‘Delicious Simply Tuna & Sweetcorn Pasta Salad’  2.25g salt/300g serving

John West ‘Light Lunch Moroccan Style Salmon Salad’ 2.2g salt/220g serving

CASH found that, despite what you might otherwise think, over one in ten (15%) salads would get a red (high) colour for salt, and two thirds (69%) would receive an amber (medium) colour.

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, says: “It’s not unreasonable to think that if you pick a salad it’s going to be a healthy choice. But this survey shows in some cases what you see might not always be what you get. A colourful salad full of vegetables may look like a healthy way towards your 5-a-day but what you can’t see is the salt content which, in some cases, could amount to almost a whole day’s worth in one portion.”

Sonia Pombo, a nutritionist at CASH added her cheery two penneth, “Say the word ‘salad’ and you tend to imagine a bowl of healthy stuff nestled amongst some leaves, but…food manufacturers and restaurants continue to add unnecessary salt to the dish, which not only alters the taste and makes you feel bloated, but more seriously, can lead to high blood pressure – the main cause of strokes and heart attacks.”

If salt intake is a concern for you, or even if it’s not, CASH have developed a free app that can analyse the salt content of packaged food and suggest lower-salt alternatives. You download the Foodswitch app and use the SaltSwitch function to scan the barcode. And you might not have a heart attack.


  • Peter T.
    But a lot of those items mentioned above are not really 'salads', are they? As far as I can tell, the Morrison's Chicken, Bacon & Pasta salad contains almost nothing that would justify the name 'salad' and the issue is therefore not that these items are unhealthy, rather that they should not be described as salads.
  • Jerec
    At the end of the day, if you are stupid enough to think a large pot of white pasta, mayonnaise and cooked "meat" is a "healthier alternative" to lettuce, tomato, cucumber etc then you probably deserve heart failure!

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