97% sounds like a pretty stellar grade, right? That’d be an “A” by most standards, but it’s a big, fat, giant, red “F” when it comes to children and adolescent salt intake. That’s right. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports 97% of kids are eating too much sodium. A high salt intake can cause high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and kidney failure. Not things we want to be bestowing upon our kids.
It gets scarier. A recent CDC study showed that nearly 75% of toddler meals, meaning packaged meals and snacks designed for toddlers ages 1 to 3 years old, contain high levels of sodium. “High sodium” was considered more than 210 mg of sodium per serving, which is about one seventh of the 1,500 mg limit recommended by the AHA. Some of the toddler meals examined contained a whopping 40% of the daily limit, around 630 mg per serving. Yikes. The baby food items the study looked at (meals for babies under the age of 1) luckily didn’t rate nearly as high in sodium.
Babies aren’t born with a preference for salt- it’s learned. By limiting kids’ salt intake when they’re young, we’re teaching them to not crave salt as they get older. Not only are kids being put at risk for disease as adults when they consume too much sodium, they’re at risk as adolescents. A 2012 CDC study revealed kids between the ages of 8-18 years old are consuming an average of 3,387 mg of sodium per day.
Sure, it’s easy to pop some pizza rolls in the toaster or nuke some Sghetti-O’s, but is it worth kids getting almost half the daily limit in one meal?
For more information on giving salt to babies and toddlers, check out this resource on Wholesome Baby Food: Salt in Baby Food.