Kids and Salt

Are your kids getting too much sodium in their diets?

Even if you don’t have the saltshaker on the dinner table at home, your kids can easily consume way more sodium than is recommended for good health.

Too much salt isn’t just harmful for adults, but it can affect kids’ health as well. With sodium being a major contributor to heart disease, a leading cause of death, it may be time to make some changes in your kids’ diet.

Why is too much salt bad for kids and what are the major sources of sodium for children? Read on to get answers to these questions and learn simple ways to reduce the amount of salt your kids consume.

Blood Pressure

When you eat salt, sodium enters your bloodstream. As your kidneys filter the blood to remove water, the sodium hinders your kidneys from doing this completely, leaving extra water in your blood. This extra water increases your blood pressure and places stress on your heart, kidneys, arteries, and brain. Over time, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, kidney failure, eye damage, or dementia. Salt may not have the same short-term health risks for kids as it does for adults, but it’s setting the stage for future health issues.

Along with a high-sodium diet, the child’s weight, genetics, and level of physical activity influence blood pressure levels. In the U.S., it’s estimated that one out of six kids has borderline or high blood pressure. While salt isn’t always to blame, many times it is. Based on these statistics, it’s clear there’s too much salt hiding in kids’ food. Without necessary changes, kids are on the road toward potentially life-threatening health problems.

Not From the Shaker

Many people mistakenly believe they’re safe from the dangers of too much salt because they rarely sprinkle it on their food. But the salt is already there. You may be surprised to know the top 10 sources of sodium in kids’ diets. Unfortunately, many of them are your kids’ favorite foods. Pizza, breads, deli meats, cheese, snacks, sandwiches, chicken nuggets, pasta dishes, Mexican food, and soups are all jam packed with excessive salt.

Most of the salt kids eat comes from processed, packaged foods bought at the grocery store. The rest is usually found in fast food and cafeteria meals.

Time to Cut Back

An overwhelming 9 out of 10 American kids eat more salt than they should. The recommended daily amount of sodium for school-aged children is less than 2,300 milligrams a day, but studies show kids consume an average of 3,387 mg, well over the recommended amount, and it’s easy to see why. Six McDonald chicken nuggets contain 540 mg of salt, a single serving of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese contains 560 mg, and a medium order of French fries from Burger King has 570 mg.

What to do? Remember this: It’s your responsibility to help your children develop healthy eating habits. Studies have shown that kids who aren’t exposed to salty foods when they’re young will have less of a desire for salty foods later in life.

Reducing the salt in your family’s diet starts at the grocery store. Choose foods labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium.” Also, fresh or frozen foods are better for you than canned, and as you cook meals, reduce the amount of salt in recipes or substitute salt with salt-free seasonings, garlic, or onion powder. Make your own sauces and dressings, cook your own beans, and keep low-sodium snacks on hand. On the rare occasion you eat out, order low-sodium menu options or ask for no salt to be added.