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Should we be worried about salt?

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Data work
Topic: Food & digestion

More than 26 million Britons are putting their future health at risk by exceeding the recommended 6g/day of salt. Eating patterns are laid down in childhood but the health problems appear in later life. So young people need to be aware of the dangers. It isn't easy to tell where the salt is coming from. High salt foods don't always taste salty and food labels can be confusing. The resource supports a range of card games that highlight the salt content of common foods.

This topic is being revisited to support inclusive science, and students with special educational needs.

Published: 21st January 2005
Reviews & Comments: 6

Learning objectives

Pupils should learn to be aware of their diet; appreciate that too much salt can harm the body; know that some foods contain more salt than others. Some will know that salt is added when most foods are processed.

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

QCA Unit 8A: Food and Digestion
That foods contain different amounts of salt.
That the interpretation of evidence about health and diet may be difficult.

Running the activity

Suggest time: 20 minutes to a whole lesson, depending upon the ability of the group.

Suggested starter activity: Show page 1, which can be projected as students enter the class. The focus is salt but the word is missing. Pupils could be prompted to come up with other aspects of unhealthy diets besides high salt consumption.

Main Activity: Page 2 is a set of sixteen Salt Data Cards. They can be printed onto card (preferably in colour), laminated, and cut out ready for use. Each card shows a portion of food and the grams of salt it is likely to contain. Salt contents show a lot of variation between brands. The values on the cards are for typical brands with high sales volumes. Higher values have been quoted for many of these foods in the media.

Each card has a colour code to provide a visual indication of the food's salt content. These are different shapes, so they can be distinguished by pupils who are colour blind or working with black and white copies. The numbers could be removed for pupils with very low numeracy or to simplify the visual impact of the materials.

The cards can be used to play a variety of games to suit the abilities of the students. Some suggestions are:

A simple sorting exercise to separate 'good' foods - green; 'be careful' foods - amber, and 'unhealthy' foods - red.
Matching foods with the same salt content.
A game like pontoon, but with students collecting up to 6g of salt rather than 21 points.
A game of pairs or snap using the salt content data.
'Dominoes'- which involves students collecting a 'run' of cards with salt contents from 'trace' to 4g.
Picking up 5 cards and seeing if they are under or over the 6g/day limit.
Picking up cards one at a time and trying to stay under the 6g/day limit.

Seeing each card repeatedly, will raise pupils' awareness of the salt content of these everyday foods. The teacher can add a differentiated commentary to compare natural and processed foods. As an alternative approach, page 2 could be printed onto paper to use in a 'cut and stick' activity for individual students.

Page 3 is a picture of a 'buffet table' showing a similar variety of foods to those on the cards. There are a few extra natural and processed foodstuffs. This can be used as a visual resource at any time, but is particularly useful for a plenary.

Plenary: Look at the picture of the buffet table. Identify a food, by saying its name or pointing to it, which is 'healthy' and low in salt and a food that is high in salt, and should only be eaten in moderate amounts.

Background Notes: There is evidence that reducing salt consumption can reduce the incidence of heart disease and strokes. The nutritional content of food and drink advertised during children's viewing times has been analysed. 95 -99% of the products contain high proportions of fat and/or sugar and/or salt. This is unfortunate. People tend to stick with the sorts of foods they develop a taste for during childhood. Children are particularly vulnerable advertising. They are encouraged to consume heavily processed foods by a variety of marketing strategies. Foods are associated with engaging characters from films and cartoons and children are encouraged to buy more to collect free toys.

Extension activities: Interpret food labels using the "salt calculator" on ; design a new packaging label to show the salt content, or use the "Salt Myths" page of the Food Standards Agency site, to do a 'true/false' quiz at

News links

Food Standards Agency
The Food Standards Agency Web Site: Salt - Watch it - also watch out for Sid the Slug crawling down your screen.
Concensus Action on Salt and Health
Look here for information about 'Salt Awareness Day' & details of resources to purchase.
BBC news
Go to this site for a BBC News story about popular foods loaded with salt – many news story links from this- with balanced points of view put forward from the food industry in reply to criticisms of salt levels in their products:

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Should we be worried about salt? review

Nov 26th, 2014

5 Star

This is very helpful.

great way to start new topics and to use as extension work

Reviewer: Jeetendra Chohan


Oct 28th, 2006

4 Star

Used this as a starter activity with a top set Y8 as sintroduction to balanced/healthy diets. Worked well - they enjoyed the activity.

Pat Hunter

Reviewer: Patricia Hunter

Salt 7th December 2005

Dec 7th, 2005

4 Star

Used this with a 3rd set out of 4. Really good activities - particularly the pontoon game. Links in really well with current advertising.

Reviewer: Charlotte Auger


Jul 15th, 2005

4 Star

Used it with top year 7 set but extended the activity a bit to look at contrasting information given on 2 websites: food standards agency reinforces message from the article and then salt manufacturers association who say that research suggests miniscule effects of salt on blood pressure. We discussed the need to look at who has written an article and the fact the 'fact' can actually be viewed as a matter of opinion.

Reviewer: Cate Lacey

should we worry about salt.

Jul 1st, 2005

4 Star

it is very good for mixed ability groups as i have used it with pupils in a special school.



Feb 23rd, 2005

3 Star

Have used the extension activities as a good research base with ks4 pupils studying the effect of salt on blood pressure etc as part of Edexcel Double Award Science - module 8.

Good urls for most abilities

Reviewer: Kay Budge