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We've all heard it by now: While convenient and cheap, fast food is bad for us. It's high in fat, sugar, salt and even MSG—and it's hard not to connect those factors with the nation's obesity epidemic. The obesity rate among preschoolers alone has doubled in the past 30 years. Now a new study is rubbing more salt in the wound, revealing dangerously high levels of salt in children's fast-food meals (surprise, surprise).
The study by the World Action on Salt and Health committee (a group of 95 countries seeking to reduce sodium intake worldwide), found that 82 percent of international fast-food kids meals contain more than the recommended amount of salt, which according to the study, is 1 gram of salt per serving for kids between aged 4 to 6. The CDC recommends everyone over 2 years of age to consume less than 2.3 grams of sodium each day.
Interestingly, fast food salt levels vary by country; the study analyzed 37 different countries. That means McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, for instance, had 2.4 grams of salt in Turkey, 1.4 grams of salt in China and just over 1 gram in America. Over a year, a kid in Costa Rica could be eating 18 teaspoons (106.56 grams) more salt than a kid eating the same meal in the U.K.
The U.K. performed better than most. Its Burger King kids' burger and fries contained 1.06 grams of salt (compared to Finland's 2.54 grams) and its Subway Kids Pack turkey sub contained 1 gram (compared to Germany's 1.5 grams).
"The fact that these fast food chains are able to produce less salty children's meals in some countries means they can do the same in all countries, and should immediately," says Clare Farrand, Public Health Nutritionist and International Programme Lead at WASH.
While the U.S. isn't the worst of the countries compared, Americans' average salt intake is still alarming. A CDC report shows that 90 percent of Americans eat too much salt. Consuming too much sodium can put people at risk for heart problems and has been linked to high blood pressure, obesity and strokes. Too much sodium also gets kids used to and craving the taste, similar to cocaine addiction.
We get it, sometimes fast food is the best we can do. But for those other times, when we can spare a few extra minutes, here are some recipes that are ... well, worth their salt: