Want healthy kids? Here are 3 “this leads to that” salty foods facts to think about…
1. 90% of children in the US eat more sodium than recommended.
2. Most of the sodium they consume comes from the ridiculously high salt content in processed foods.
3. 1 in 6 have raised blood pressure — a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
These are scary numbers, don’t you think? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does. It just released a report examining the sodium intake of children, where it comes from, and how parents and caregivers can reduce the amount of sodium their kids consume.
The Trouble with Salty Foods
US kids ages 6 to 18 are supposed to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Some kids — African Americans and those with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease — are supposed to have even less — no more than 1,500 mg a day. Unfortunately, the CDC report states that our youth consume on average about 3,300 mg a day — and that is before food is likely to be salted at the table. ¡Ay, caramba!
Most of the sodium intake comes from the 10 common food types listed in this infographic from the report. All are foods that most kids love. Most are foods that are easy to make or pick up in the drive thru.
Additionally, the CDC found that most of the sodium kids consume is at lunch and dinner. And 65% of it comes from store-bought foods. Start looking at sodium content in the foods you normally buy, and you’ll realize how much sense that makes. For example, one slice of Oscar Mayer Oven Roasted Smoked Turkey has 300 mg of sodium. A McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese comes packed with 1,110 mg of sodium!
What’s a Parent To Do?
As a parent, caregiver, or school food manager, there are so many ways you can work to eliminate excess salt from your kids’ diets. The CDC report presents some great recommendations for reducing your kids’ salt intake in the form of infographics. Take a look… (Click on the images to see a larger view.)
The report also recommends substituting herbs and spices for salt when you cook at home and modeling healthy eating for your children by providing dishes created with loads of fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods.
I’ll add three additional recommendations from a blog post I wrote last year:
- Obviously, start reading your nutrition labels — sodium content is clearly stated. If you haven’t paid attention before, you will likely be surprised at the high sodium content in some of your favorite soups, chips, and crackers. Watch out for frozen foods too. You can also use the mobile app Fooducate — it’ll warn you if the food you are considering has too much salt.
- Stock your pantry with more than just table salt. 1 teaspoon of Morton’s table salt has 2,360 milligrams of sodium. The same amount of Diamond Crystal kosher salt contains 1,120. This is mostly a result of the texture difference between the two: kosher salt crystals are larger and coarser than table salt’s. But you will add less sodium using a pinch, dash, or teaspoon of kosher salt over table salt. (Plus, the flavor is better in my opinion.)
- Beware of the Salty Six. The American Heart Association recommends you be particularly diligent about sodium in six food categories (which are all represented in the CDC’s research).
- Breads and rolls: As stated earlier, a single slice can contain more than 200 milligrams of sodium.
- Cold cuts and cured meats: Six thin slices of deli meat can account for half of your daily recommended sodium amount.
- Pizza: The AHA recommends limiting the cheese and adding more veggies to your favorite pie.
- Poultry: Processing can add significant sodium content so choose carefully.
- Soup: You’ll be shocked when you start reading their labels.
- Sandwiches: In particular, fast food burgers and sandwiches can take you well over 1,500 grams a day
I know it is often easier to send your kids to school with a deli ham sandwich, Lunchables, microwaveable soup, or a frozen entree. Hopefully, the time you spend to think about healthier alternatives (like these) will pay off in healthier, happier kids who live healthier, longer lives.
What are your thoughts? Do you (or did you) worry about how much sodium your kids consume? Do you have other tips for parents and caregivers?