The Better-for-you (BFY) food segment is the highest growth segment among health and wellness foods – with an explosion in the number of low calorie, low fat, and low carb products.
While these products offer the health benefits of less sugar and fat, they often have a hidden danger. Many of them have sodium levels in excess of WHO and FDA guidance.
In fact, a recent study found so many unhealthy products labelled as “healthy” that research groups are now calling for stricter regulation. This would include mandatory targets for reformulation, rather than relying on voluntary measures from the industry to reduce foods that are HFSS.
We looked at three of the most popular categories of low carb/lower calorie foods: ready meals, snacks, and cheese. In each category, we found many examples of high sodium levels in products packaged as healthier choices.
And as the natural clean label ingredient for sodium reduction in BFY Ready Meals; Snacks and Cheeses the SALTWELL® provides excellent flavour and function but with 35% less sodium.
These easy meal solutions are often the foundation of a new weight loss plan. With lots of options to choose from in both refrigerated and frozen products, ready meals can take the hard work out of calorie counting. However, most exceed the WHO sodium benchmark of 250mg per 100g for ready meals.
For example we found a chicken curry meal with 320mg per 100g, and beef noodles with 360mg per 100g – 44% more than the recommended sodium content for a ready meal.
Most ready meal brands offer Better-for-you options like low carb, low calorie, and keto. The meals are each shown with their nutritional info, including calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat. However, many of the meals are shown with no reference to their salt or sodium content.
In fact, several of these lower carb meals exceeded the total RDI for sodium. A UK based meal service had a chicken mac ’n’ cheese meal with 2,013mg of sodium, and a fish pie meal with 2,445mg of sodium.
The highest sodium content was found in two satay dishes, one with 8,476mg of sodium and one with 8,522mg. That’s over three times the FDA and American Heart Association guidance of 2,300mg of sodium per day – in a single meal.
With more of us living busy lives, the demand for healthier on-the-go snacking options is growing. Products that offer low carb, high protein snacking – like meat snacks – are more popular than ever.
The WHO sets a sodium benchmark of 500mg of sodium per100g for potato and other vegetable based savoury snacks. In the Better-for-you market, legumes like lentils are often used to create higher protein snacks with a lower carb count than potatoes. We found lentil-based snacks from a global weight loss brand to be some of the highest in sodium – with 1,132mg of sodium per 100g.
Another salty product from this big brand was a high protein snack cracker with 880mg of sodium per 100g. This exceeds the WHO benchmark of 600mg of sodium per 100g for crackers and savoury biscuits.
Meeting the demand for a healthier cheese has long been a project of the dairy industry. With modern refining techniques, today’s low-fat cheeses taste and melt better than ever.
But where fat and calories have been reduced in these products, we often find that salt and sodium levels remain high.
The WHO sets a sodium benchmark of 720mg per 100g for processed cheese. Among the lighter cheese options, we found many that exceeded this with 800mg of sodium per 100g. One reduced fat “salad cheese” from a big European brand has 1,120mg of sodium per 100g.
In the US, two of the leading supermarket cheese brands had the highest sodium levels of the lower fat cheeses we saw. One of these was a reduced fat American cheese with 1,157mg of sodium per 100g, and the other was the reduced fat version of a classic soft cheese with 1,392mg of sodium per 100g.
Solving the sodium problem in BFY foods
There’s a current boom in Better-for-you products designed to help us cut carbs and slim down. Unfortunately, many of these products have a blind spot where sodium is concerned. Food manufacturers can’t offer a true healthier choice if that choice includes excessive salt.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to formulate low carb, low fat foods with significantly less sodium.
Saltwell® is the simple, clean label solution to achieving 35% less sodium in your Better-for-you ranges. With an easy 1:1 replacement for normal salt, Saltwell® provides the same smooth, natural salty flavour profile your customers crave.
So don’t just reduce fat or carbs – cut the sodium too, and give your products a real point of difference with a full spectrum of nutritional benefits. To learn more about how Saltwell® enables you to offer a more complete healthy choice, get in touch or request a sample.