6g Of Salt
SATURDAY 31ST MARCH 2018
“Have no more than 6g of salt per day” is one of the key public health nutrition messages. It’s true and based on sound scientific research. The diets of UK adults are too high in sodium and our long-term health is suffering as a result - we would collectively benefit from lowering the salt we consume.
Now you know that, you’ll do it, yeah?
A question… did you consume more or less than 6g of salt yesterday?
Whenever I ask this question to groups I’m always met with blank looks. I work a lot with health professionals and as we dig deeper into behaviour change I ask them lots of questions about different aspects of their own health behaviour and the salt question is the one which always trips people up. On this question, they usually pause for a moment and then look around to check they are not the only one who isn’t sure.
So, how much salt did you consume yesterday?
Let me guess, the first step you took to try to answer that is to remember what day it was yesterday - and the bank holiday weekend really messes with that! Then you had to piece together the meals you had, and the snacks and drinks in between. Even if you know what foods are high or low in salt, I suspect you still have no idea how much salt you actually consumed.
I don’t know how much salt I ate yesterday either but I’m sure I could figure it out. All I would need is a quiet room, a notepad, a calculator, a manual of nutrition with all the relevant nutrition tables and I’d have to fish around in the bin for some food packaging labels.
That’s a lot of effort.
Let’s imagine I worked out that yesterday I ate 7.4 grams of salt. That’s 1.4g too much. Should I be worried? Apparently about 50% of UK adults eat too much salt, so I’d be in good company, and the consequences aren’t particularly visible or immediate. I didn’t notice half of the population yesterday in a life-threatening state.
I’d have to ask myself more questions… was yesterday a typical day? Was what I ate a normal amount for me? Even if 1.4g of salt more than the recommended limit each day is typical, is that too much too much?
At this point, I’m weighing up so many rational calculations, questions and numbers, and the consequences seem so remote, that I feel no motivation, no emotional incentive to change. It's also another great example of 'asking the second question first'.
Somewhere, in your advertising, or in your product instructions, or in your correspondence with customers, do you have a 6g-of-salt-type message? One which you feel is important and you talk about because it’s based on truth. But one which is also almost meaningless because it is wrapped up in too many layers of rational consideration, customers don’t know where they are at to start with and they struggle to understand what it means in practical terms.
If you have a message that needs attention and is worth sharing, don’t start with a number. It's too rational - start with a story, or something that makes us feel connected to the message instead.
(Side note - chocolate eggs are low in salt. Have a great Easter.)