Most kids eat way too much salt, with overweight kids most at risk of developing pre-hypertension if they overdo it, says a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Buy foods with 150 mg of sodium or less per serving,” says registered dietitian Joy Bauer. “If you tame a child's taste for salt, you'll do her a lifelong favor.” Here, five sneakily salty foods, and go-to alternatives:
BREAD A single slice of bread is the number one source of sodium in kids' diets, with many containing 250 mg. “That's 500 mg of sodium in a sandwich before you put anything in it,” Bauer notes.
Try: Opt for 100% whole-grain bread; it generally has the least sodium. Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Soft Honey Wheat Bread comes in at 115 mg per slice.
CEREAL A serving of cold cereal can hide 200 mg of sodium. “The biggest issue here is that kids pour a lot more than one serving into a bowl, or they sit down at the TV, box in hand,” Bauer says.
Try: Limit their favorite cereal to one serving in the morning, and keep it off-limits as an all-day snack. Try puffed rice and old-fashioned oatmeal; both are sodium-free.
CHEESE One processed American cheese single sneaks in 250 mg. “An after-school snack can unload a wallop of sodium. How many kids stop at one slice?” Bauer says.
Try: Mild cheddar cheese clocks in at 130 mg per ounce. Sargento Reduced Sodium Mild Cheddar Cheese Sticks have 105 mg.
CHICKEN FINGERS Packaged breaded chicken is a tough one: Most have 600 mg per serving, usually three or four fingers.
Try: Bell & Evans Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets contain 360 mg for four.
COOKIES Three boxed chocolate-chip cookies match the salt content of a small bag of potato chips (170 mg).
Try: One big rectangular graham cracker, with just 85 mg of sodium.