I have been meaning to write this piece for a long long time…and now is the time!
Why is it that manufacturers of gluten-free food seem to think it so important to add so much salt to their food? In the past when I have queried the amount of salt added to bread type products I have been told it is because of the taste. This leaves me and others with gluten-free children with rather a challenge. According to the NHS, the recommended salt intake per day for children depends on their age as follows:
- 1 to 3 years: 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
- 4 to 6 years: 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
- 7 to 10 years: 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
- 11 years and over: 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)
This means my 5 year old daughter can have 3g of salt per day. This equates to a gluten-free bagel, a gluten-free muffin and 4 slices of gluten-free bread. OK, she wouldn’t eat all those things in a day but if she were to that would be her allowance used up completely and none of those things (clearly) are main meals! Luckily, I make all her meals from scratch and never add salt so in general they are salt-free (apart from when we have sausage casserole or baked beans with jacket potato or something!).
Breakfast, as I have mentioned in previous posts, is a major area of conflict! Given her own way,’ big fuss pot’ would eat her way through a whole box of cereal every morning! I make her stop at 3 big bowls, and that in itself provides her with almost 1g of salt and 10g of sugar in what would seem fairly ‘innocent’ breakfast cereals like cornflakes or rice crispies!
What I find incredible about all this is that most of the foods I have referred to (except the breakfast cereals) are prescribed on the NHS…and presumably nobody queries with the manufactuers why they add so much salt to their products (and in the case of crispbreads almost double the amount of salt to the equivalent gluten-containing product). What is also amazing to me is that the prescribed foods do not seem to contain the traffic light colour coding system on them so you can’t easily see how much of the ‘bad’ stuff is contained within them.
When the list of ‘allowable’ items for prescription finally included oats earlier this year, it took me about 6 months of requesting (with the support of my dietician and consultant) to be prescribed them by the doctor. It would seem that they were far too healthy being a pure product with no salt or sugar!
OK, so stop moaning I hear you say. “Make your own bread products and you will know what is in them!” Believe me, I have tried, and am still in search of that elusive recipe that offers a loaf of edible, soft, moist bread that my ‘big fuss pot’ will actually eat! Having said that, she has practically given up bread products all together…preferring for the time being to have rice cakes for her lunch. A great relief as it is possible to buy salt-free rice cakes…despite our local Tesco’s stopping stocking their organic salt free ones!
So, my remaining challenge is breakfast. I have started to sneak ground almonds into her pancakes now so at least she gets some goodness, and have ordered some teff flour to make them with too. Teff is a naturally gluten-free grain that supplies more fibre-rich bran and nutritious germ than any other grain. It also packs a high mineral content that boasts 17 times more calcium of whole wheat or barley. It certainly is a ‘super grain’ and one that I have been successful at baking cakes and biscuits with in the past.
You can guarantee that once I start adding teff to the morning pancakes ‘big fuss pot’ will decide she doesn’t like pancakes anymore!!!
If you are reading this and you manufacture gluten-free bread products (or indeed gluten containing bread products which are also high in salt) please please please could you reduce the amount of salt in them? Pretty please?!