How much salt do our kids consume?
The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg of sodium a day for all Americans for ideal heart health. On average, kids ages 2-19 eat more than 3,100 mg sodium per day, about double the amount the American Heart Association recommends. The older children get, the more calories and sodium they tend to eat. In the 2-19 year-old age group for boys and girls, boys ages 12-19 eat the most sodium — an average of 4,220 mg/day. Girls in the 12-19 year-old age group eat about 2,950 mg/day. Children ages 6-18 get their daily sodium about:
· 15 percent at breakfast,
· 30 percent at lunch, 39 percent at dinner and
· 16 percent at snack time.
According to national data about Americans’ eating habits, these foods are the leading contributors to the sodium 6-18 year-olds eat:
· Bread and rolls
· Cold cuts and cured meats
· Savory snacks (such as chips and pretzels)
· Sandwiches (including burgers)
· Chicken patties, nuggets and tenders
· Pasta mixed dishes (like spaghetti with sauce)
· Mexican mixed dishes (like burritos and tacos)
What is the problem with eating more salt?
Eating too much sodium is associated with higher blood pressure in children and teens, and the effect is even greater if they’re overweight or obese. Kids with high-sodium diets are almost 40 percent more likely to have elevated blood pressure than kids with lower-sodium diets. There is a link between high blood pressure in childhood and high blood pressure in adulthood.
What is the best type of salt?
There are many types of salts. Some are mined from the salt deposits left by the dried up lakes and some are procured from the sea water.
Some common types of salts are:
· Table salt. This is the regular refined salt that has added chemicals that we consume daily in our food.
· Kosher salt. This is a large-grained, irregularly shaped crystal salt mainly used for removing as much blood from meat as possible in order to comply with Jewish dietary laws.
· Sea salt. Sea salt is produced from sea water.
· Pickling salt. Pickling is a very fine salt, with no additives, that’s used in brines used to pickle foods.
· Celtic salt. Celtic salt is made by the process of the solar evaporation of water from the Celtic sea.
· Seasoned salt. This refers to a variety of salts wherein herbs are added. For example, garlic salt, onion salt, and so forth.
· Rock salt. A large crystalline salt that’s usually used for making ice cream in ice cream machines. Food grade rock salt is also available to use in regular cooking.
· Black salt. This is a dark, reddish-black colored crystalline salt that turns a pinkish grey color when ground up. It has a distinct sulfurous odor and taste.
According to Ayurveda, rock salt is the best kind of salt for eating. The next best is black salt. Rock Salt is mined from underground deposits of dried up lakes. It is unrefined, non-iodized and contains no additional anti-caking agents. It is white, pink, or blue in color. This salt is lower in sodium than regular table salt and contains 94 trace minerals as opposed to just the three that are in common table salt. Also, it does not contain the toxic wastes that sea salt has from the polluted waters.
So what should we do?
Most kids get too much salt, but you can help set them on a healthier path from the start. Start young! Our taste preferences for salt are shaped by what we eat early in life. Kids may not prefer so much salt if they’re given foods with less sodium from an early age.
- Model healthy eating. Use the American Heart Association’s diet and lifestyle recommendations as a guide.
- Involve your kids when you’re preparing healthy meals. Try some of our kid-friendly recipes.
- Ask your grocery manager to offer your family’s favorite foods in versions with less sodium. And look for the Heart-Check mark Certification seal. Foods bearing the mark are building blocks that make it easier for you to construct a heart-healthy eating plan.
- Before you go out to eat, look up nutrition information online to find the healthier choices.
- Support changes that will lead to healthier meals in child care centers and schools.
- Take the pledge to reduce the sodium you eat. Your healthy habits will likely influence your kids, too.
- Fruit and Veggie Toolkit for Kids – in English and Spanish!