Many Aussie youngsters are ingesting their entire recommended daily salt intake in just one sitting, new research on supermarket toddler meals has found.
A number of brands including Only Organic, Heinz and Annabel Karmel are among the big names behind 8 products assessed by advocacy group Parents' Voice and nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton.
Stanton queried the use of added salt in Only Organic Vegetable Macaroni Cheese, Only Organic Beef Bolognese Pasta and Heinz Little Kids Ravioli Bolognaise.
"Latest health advice discourages parents from adding salt when they're cooking at home for toddlers. Adding salt to products marketed to children is unwise and unnecessary," she said in a statement.
She said feeding children too much salt set up bad habits for life, leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks.
That's because salty foods accustom the tastebuds to salt, with excess sodium intake from salt linked to a number of health problems later in life.
Stanton was alarmed at how the highly salted meals were aimed at children, saying it made it tough for parents to keep kids' sodium levels under control.
Products that the nutritionist was concerned about included Only Organic Vegetable Macaroni Cheese (273mg), Annabel Karmel Cheeky Chicken & Pumpkin Risotto (230mg) Heinz Little Kids Ravioli Bolognaise (220mg) and Annabel Karmel Beautiful Bolognese Pasta Bake (202mg).
The product with the lowest sodium intake per serve was Rafferty's Garden Moroccan Lamb, with 34 mg.
"The Nutrient Reference Value for sodium consumption for Australian children aged 1 to 3 years is 200-400mg per day," Stanton added.
"It would be hard for parents to keep their children's sodium consumption to recommended levels if these types of products are consumed regularly.
"These meals are not difficult to prepare and could feature as regular family meals."
Parents' Voice wants Only Organic, Heinz, and Annabel Karmel to reformulate these products and "ensure that their marketing claims are more closely matched to the reality."