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10 Simple Tricks to Lower the Sodium in Your Child’s Diet

Posted by Mandy Sacher on August 17, 2016

Posted by Mandy Sacher on August 17, 2016

So much attention in the media is driven towards the sugar content of kid’s favourite food products, that salt manages to mostly fly under the radar.

I read a few days ago about a mother in South Carolina who has been accused of poisoning her 17-month-old toddler by feeding her one tablespoon of salt … yes that’s just one tablespoon! The child was hospitalised the same day and suffered from seizures and a high fever. Doctors diagnosed her with acute salt poisoning and she died three days later.

Of course this is a totally extreme case, but it does highlight the dangers of too much salt for children. Most of the salt in a child’s diet comes from processed foods such as bread, deli meats, biscuits, cheese, crisps, breakfast cereals, sausages, canned soups, ready-prepared meals, vegemite, take-away foods and canned fish, such as tuna in brine.  In fact many children’s diets often contain up to 75% more salt than the recommended daily amount.

Salt contains an ingredient called sodium, which can be harmful for growing bodies if eaten in high amounts. Excessive salt consumption trains tiny taste buds to crave salty foods and can produce a rise in blood pressure that progressively worsens with age. A penchant for salty snacks is a habit that is extremely hard to break in later life and can lead to serious illnesses.

10 simple ways to slash salt intake!

  1. Choose your cheese wisely – not all cheese is created equal, so choose a low-sodium cheese. The best options include cream cheese, ricotta, quark, mozzarella and Swiss cheese. High-sodium cheeses include fetta, haloumi, edam, gouda and processed cheese sticks and slices. Most school lunchboxes contain processed cheese sticks and slices, so making the right choice can make a huge difference. We compared four choices and Nimbin Naturals, while still a little high, was the clear winner, with Kraft strip cheese and Aldi Cowbell Cheese Rockets the worst offenders.
  2. Opt for low-sodium crackers  – real Food Organic Corn and Sesame Thins are a good option, but steer clear of Arnott’s Sao crackers and Tuckers Rosemary and Rock Salt, both are very high in sodium. Better still make your own or if you are going to include crackers reduce the serving size.
  3. Avoid canned fish in brine  – choose fish canned in spring water instead.
  4. Look for low-sodium tomato paste or passata when making pasta
  5. Choose sodium-reduced soy sauce if it features heavily in your child’s diet
  6. Take away the table salt – salt is addictive, so remove it from the dining room table. It’s easy to over season – for adults and kid alike!
  7. Compare labels when shopping for bread and crackers. Always opt for low-sodium choices where you can.
  8. Swap salted butter for unsalted butter
  9. Cut down on processed foods and try to include homemade treats instead of store-bought goodies. Cakes, pastries and biscuits all contain salt. A typical croissant can contain nearly one gram of salt.
  10. Limit processed meats such as bacon, salami and roast chicken. Sodium nitrate is an additive which is added to lunch meats to keep bacteria at bay, provide color, texture and hide bitter flavours. These types of processed foods can account for up to 70% of sodium in our diets. An easy way to replace this is to rely on leftovers from the night before and use these as a replacement in your child’s sandwiches. Be sure to cut into thin slices and refrigerate or freeze correctly.

So does salt have any dietary benefits?

Yes, salt can help our body absorb other important nutrients more effectively. Celtic sea salt, Himalayan salt and natural sea salts are far better than white table salt as they contain beneficial trace elements and minerals. However, we still need to use them sparingly in our children’s diets.

How much salt is safe? 

  • 0-6 months less than 1g
  • 7-12 months 1g
  • 1-3 years 2g
  • 4-6 years 3g
  • 7-10 years 5g
  • 11-14 years 6g
  • Adults 6g

For example, a typical lunchbox may include a vegemite sandwich, popcorn, a cheese stick and a piece of fruit. The total salt content of this one meal amounts to 2.8g of salt. As a general rule, look for foods that contain no more than 150mg of sodium per 100g on the food label.

The final word

Lastly, cook at home whenever you can. Homemade pizza typically contain 5g of salt, while a large store-bought pizza can contain a whopping 16grams! And, while we all have those nights when we’re exhausted and reach for the takeaway menu, the reality is that pizza is SUPER easy to make and it’s a meal kids love to help out with. Plus, homemade pizza tastes so much better than anything you’ll get out of a cardboard box.

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