Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

How will I know if my child is eating too much salt?

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that nine out of ten American Kids are eating too much salt! That sounds like something parents should be worried about. Let’s look at some facts and see what we can do to reduce the salt in our kids’ meals.

Dietary guidelines recommend that children eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. Salt is actually a compound of sodium and chloride. The sodium is the offending agent when we talk about blood pressure risk and other health considerations. Salt is what we use at the table or in cooking.

The content of sodium in a particular food will be listed on the nutrition fact panel on the label so we can all see how much sodium we are eating each day if we read them. Be sure that you are reading the label for the amount of serving your child is really eating. If there is 300 milligrams of sodium per 2 ounces but the child only eats ½ an ounce, then they are only getting 75 milligrams sodium in that food.

A quick way to limit sodium in your child’s diet is to avoid using the salt shaker at the table or as you cook. According to the CDC, kids are getting most of their sodium in ten foods. If we reduce or ‘renovate’ some of these foods, we can lower the sodium content.

Here are the ten foods and suggestions to reduce their sodium:

High Sodium Food Lower Sodium Version
Pizza Eat veggie pizza with low sodium cheese, limit to one or two slices depending on age
Bread and rolls Read label for lowest sodium, whole grain bread, look for no more than 170 mg per slice
Cold cuts Use other protein sources in place of cold cuts like low sodium sliced turkey or chicken, roast beef or tuna packed in water
Savory snacks Use fresh snacks like fruits, veggies/dips in place of chips and salty snacks
Sandwiches Use lower sodium bread, protein and condiments
Cheese Use a lower sodium product or reduce amount eaten (1 oz vs. 3 oz)
Chicken patties and nuggets Use fresh chicken prepared without salted coatings
Pasta dishes Pasta sauce is culprit, read labels, use fresh made, avoid canned pasta
Mexican foods Use lower sodium cheese, unsalted chips, avoid seasoning blends with salt
Soups Use low sodium or homemade soups

Some sodium is OK, but many foods contain amounts of sodium that quickly add up to become excessive for the day. Sodium is often hidden so it is important to read the label.

It is a good idea to learn new ways to flavor foods if you and your children as used to the saltiness of foods you eat often. There are a variety of seasoning blends (again read the label to be sure they aren’t seasoned salt), fresh or dried herbs and flavored vinegars that can spice up your meals without loading you down in sodium!

Enjoy the freshness a lower sodium meal can give you and your children—not to mention the health benefit!

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