According to a recent study in the Journal of Human Hypertension, the average 4-year-old eats 2,400 milligrams of salt per day, double the recommended maximum amount. The study also found that kids that were eating the most salt also had the highest blood pressure. This was true even when other factors like obesity were factored in. High blood pressure can contribute to health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, later on in life. Some people may ask why does this really matter?
For many parents, already overwhelmed with the daily demands of parenting and dealing with picky eaters, the salt issue causes much frustration. It is important to keep in mind that it is not just the obvious culprits like snack foods which cause kids’ rising sodium intakes. Even seemingly innocent kid staples like ice cream, especially the cookie-dough flavors, cereal and bread are surprisingly high in sodium.
So, you may be asking,”What can I do?” There are tips that can help you reduce the sodium in your child’s diet. Keep in mind, however, that, while most children’s diets will never be held up as a paragon of nutrition, there are ways to make them a little healthier by reducing the sodium content.
Here is what you need to know about cutting back on salt for your child:
• Remember who buys the food. While it may buy you peace in the grocery store to placate your child with their favorite salty snack just remember that it is your purchasing power. Parents report that, when shopping alone, they are much less likely to purchase snacks that are high in sodium. To save you money, improve everyone’s health and keep your sanity try to shop alone. If you find that impossible, remember that your 8-year old did not drive to the store for that bag of potato chips.
• Out of sight out of mind really does work! Many parents report that when salty foods were removed from the house or the quantities of them were reduced, the kids did not even ask where they went. Most children are highly visual learners and are stimulated by what they see in front of them. If you do not have it in the house chances are they will not ask for it.
• Make snack foods really for snacks. While no one is advocating cutting out all of the fun foods in anyone’s diet, it is important to teach your child the purpose of a snack. Check the nutrition label on the bag or box of their favorite snack and take the time to count out the correct number of chips or cookies. Measure out ice cream to what a serving really is, generally that does not mean filling the bowl. It is very most important to teach your child that potato chips are not lunch and ice cream is not dinner.
• Read the labels! A recent study among parents showed that most were shocked to find items that they thought were healthy actually had a high degree of sodium. Do not be fooled into thinking something is healthy for your child without reading the label. Granola bars often contain a high degree of sodium despite their healthy reputation. Dried fruits, pretzels and other seemingly healthy snacks also usually have huge amounts of sodium added into them. Before offering any food to your child, read the nutrition label first to determine the actual salt content.
• Just because you drink it does not mean it’s healthy! Another surprising place to find a high level of sodium is in beverages. Sodas and juices can contain large quantities of salt. Be sure to read the labels first and choose drinks that will not send your child’s salt intake skyrocketing.
Being ever mindful of what you buy for your family and what they’re eating and how much of it will have an immediate impact on their salt intake. Read labels, choose foods carefully and read labels. Following these simple steps will have great, positive returns for your children’s health in both the long- and short-terms.