The dangers of sodium
The average 4-year-old eats 2,400 milligrams of salt per day, double the recommended maximum amount, according to a recent study in the Journal of Human Hypertension.
Why does this matter? Kids eating the most salt had the highest blood pressure, the study found, even when other factors like obesity were accounted for — and that can contribute to health problems, such as heart disease and stroke, later on in life.
And it’s not just the obvious culprits, like snack foods, behind kids’ rising sodium intake. Even seemingly innocuous kid staples like ice cream (especially the cookie-dough flavors), cereal, and bread are surprisingly high in sodium. So what’s a mom to do?
Switch to foods with low, or no, sodium. “If you gradually reduce the amount of salt in your diet, within a few weeks the foods you used to eat will actually taste too salty,” says Stephen Daniels, chief pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital in Denver.
Always read nutrition labels. Compare brands and pick the one with the lowest sodium content.
Don’t add salt at the table — especially with prepared foods like pasta sauce.
Balance out the sodium sources. If your kids are having tuna sandwiches for lunch, skip the ice cream for dessert.