Most kids are getting too much salt. Although it’s commonplace to add salt (or sodium) to meals for seasoning purposes, many of us consume exorbitant amounts of it each day without even realizing it. The recommended amount of sodium intake per day for adults is 2-1.5 grams, equivalent to 6-5 grams of salt, which amounts to only one teaspoon per day, and the recommended amount for children up to the age of 9 is up to 1.2 g of sodium per day. It’s already known that there is a direct connection between high blood pressure, heart attacks and brain aneurysms, and the amount of salt intake per day, which makes the subject even more pressing. Therefore, we must become familiar with the various foods which contain high amounts of sodium.
How much sodium are children and youth in the U.S. eating?
On average, kids ages 2 to 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 to 19-year-old age group of boys and girls, boys 12 to 19 eat the most sodium — an average of 4,220 mg/day. Girls in the same age group eat about 2,950 mg/day.
Where do kids get their sodium?
Children 6 to 18 get about:
- 14 percent at breakfast
- 31 percent at lunch
- 39 percent at dinner
- 16 percent at snack time
Grocery store and restaurant foods make up 81 percent of the sodium they eat, which means it’s in their food from the get-go and they can’t take it out.
According to national data about Americans’ eating habits, these foods are the leading contributors to the sodium kids 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)
Brands and restaurants make versions of the same foods with different sodium levels, and some options are even purposefully made with less sodium. You can make smarter choices about the foods you eat by comparing labels to pick the product with the lowest amount of sodium you can find.
How can too much sodium hurt my child’s health?
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. High blood pressure in childhood is linked to early development of heart disease and risk for premature death. Kids with high-sodium diets are almost 40 percent more likely to have elevated blood pressure than kids with lower-sodium diets.
Luckily, lowering blood pressure during childhood can help lower the risk for high blood pressure as an adult. And it can be as simple as helping them eat less sodium, which can help lower blood pressure in children and teens.
How can I help reduce the sodium my kids get?
Making sure your kids get less sodium today can help prevent heart disease tomorrow, especially for kids who are overweight and obese.
One slice of bread usually contains 150 mg of sodium, and a pita or a decently sized baguette can easily contain twice that amount: If you usually eat grilled cheese for breakfast, a small sandwich at lunch, and a slice of bread with soup in the evening, along with other salty foods, you’re most probably going over the recommended daily intake of sodium. Try to cook dishes with whole grains such as quinoa, season them with herbs and avoid adding salt, which will help you reduce salt intake in general and bread in particular.
The best way to fill a sandwich is with cold cuts such as salami or turkey, however, these tend to contain high amounts of sodium. In three ounces of turkey lunch meats contain 780 mg sodium, while in just one gram of salami (about 3 slices), there is 450 mg sodium. This is why you should avoid eating processed sausages as much as possible. Doing so will help you significantly cut back on your salt intake.
3. Muffins and other baked goods
It’s very tempting to go into a bakery and buy muffins or any other baked good, and enjoy its delicious taste, all without considering the amount of sodium they may contain. The tempting treats contain many calories, saturated fat, sugar, and some 570 mg of sodium, if not more. This is close to half the recommended daily amount, so opt for baking your own pastries.
A great way to start the day is with a bowl of cereal, which is especially popular among young children and teens. Many kinds of cereal contain less than 200 mg of sodium per serving, but there are also quite a few that contain 300 mg per serving. You can easily avoid salt in the morning by making healthier whole grain meals, such as oatmeal, which has great taste and uncompromising quality.
We often season our food with different sauces, whether it’s salad, hamburgers or sushi, while we don’t always pay attention to the high salt they contain. Sauces and condiments are actually at the top of the list of high-sodium food items. One tablespoon of barbecue sauce contains 175 mg of sodium, while the same amount of teriyaki sauce contains 690 mg sodium. Therefore, it is important that you choose low sodium options of the same sauces.
6. Instant meals
Many people that don’t have time slaving over a stove to make soup or stews from scratch often take a shortcut by pouring some hot water into a cup-o-noodles. However, by doing so, you are compromising the quality of the food. These high-speed meals contain high amounts of sodium, which is linked to heart disease and high blood pressure. Therefore, it’s important to critically examine the ingredients of those foods and soups. It should be noted that in a regular serving of chicken flavor cup-o-noodles, there is 1070 mg of sodium.
We all love pizza – whether we eat it for lunch, dinner, or breakfast the next day, it’s simply delicious. However, it’s important to know that pizza contains various sources of salt, including tomato sauce, breadcrumbs and of course, cheese. It’s no wonder that pizza is a bomb of sodium waiting to explode and threaten our health if we do not know how to consume the right amount. In fact, only one slice of pizza contains 650 mg of sodium, before you add olives or any other added salt, not to mention that most of us eat more than one slice, which means that without even trying you can easily reach half of the recommended daily intake of sodium. Therefore, the next time you order one, be sure to eat as little sodium as possible that day.
8. Canned beans
While making soup, rice or a stew, a good way to enrich the dish with protein and fiber is by adding canned beans, because of the convenience it offers. The problem is that the same can of beans contains a large dose of sodium, but this can be fixed. All you have to do is rinse off the beans, reducing the amount of sodium on them, or you can buy a can of sodium-free or salt-free beans. However, it is always better to purchase dry, salt-free beans and cook them on your own.
9. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese, whether fat-free or regular, is a great source of protein, but when it comes to sodium, it’s something to be wary of. One cup of this cheese contains 920 mg of sodium, which is almost half of the recommended daily intake, so you should look for cottage cheese with no sodium or salt at all, and enrich its flavor by adding fresh or dry herbs.
Source: AHA & Others
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The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for a physician’s advice. Always make sure to seek a doctor or a professional’s advice before proceeding with the home treatment plan.