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Ask the experts: How bad are instant noodles for your health?

Q I have a teenage boy who almost lives off instant noodles. How bad are they for him? I’m wondering what I can give him instead that he will eat and doesn’t cost too much.

A Instant noodles are incredibly cheap and very popular with teenagers, that’s for sure, but you are right in that they aren’t a great everyday choice.

Most instant noodles have been deep fried which is what makes them cook ‘instantly’, and the types of oil they use are often high in saturated fat.

Instant noodles are also low in fibre and protein, meaning they aren’t that filling, plus, they are high in sodium. As an example, at the higher end of sodium levels are Trident Hot and spicy noodles with 2900mg sodium per serve (nearly 1.5 times as much as we are okay to have in a whole day) and many other examples are 2000mg or more per serve. If you check the back of the packet of what your son eats, you might get a nasty surprise.

The good news is there are some great, healthier options he can make for himself that are also very afforable and ready in under five minutes.

Cook and drain small pasta shapes or spaghetti and then mix with flavoured canned tuna or salmon (check the sodium content of that too — you can find our guide to canned fish here). If he is up for it, add a handful of frozen peas, corn or mixed veges when cooking the pasta, or add a few chopped tomatoes at the end. The great thing about this is, he can make enough for a few meals or snacks at a time.

Use the soft style hokkien or udon noodles instead of the deep-fried instant noodles. They just need boiling water poured over them to cook for a minute or so. Mix through tuna, chopped cooked chicken or cooked egg and, if possible, some fresh or frozen veges.

Other options for healthy quick snacks what teenagers often seem to like include omelettes or scrambled eggs or beans (ideally with reduced salt) on wholegrain toast, or maybe try a smoothie with banana, berries, milk and yoghurt (and if you can get a handful of spinach in there all the better).

Date modified: June 14 2020
First published: Nov 2019

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