Salt may not seem like an obvious threat to kids’ health. Its white crystalized twin, sugar, is the one more commonly associated with pediatric medical issues these days.
But children do love it salty just as much as they like it sweet. Faves like pizza, potato chips, ramen noodles, and mac and cheese are all loaded with sodium.
How much sodium is too much in a child’s diet? And what problems can it lead to?
The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of sodium daily for children that is about a ½ teaspoon of salt each day. Kids who consume more than that on a regular basis are at risk for health issues such as:
- Hypertension or high blood pressure, leading to heart damage and even the possibility of stroke later in life
- Obesity, as salty foods can be just as high in fat and calories as sugary treats
- Kidney stones, too much salt in a child’s body, often coupled with not drinking enough water, can cause the formation of painful stones
Foods to Avoid
Foods typically high in sodium include hot dogs and deli meats, canned soups and vegetables, and pre-packaged snacks. Serve these to your kids in moderation.
Even if your child is a huge fan of salty and savory foods, you can teach them to make healthy food choices and clever swaps. Think unsalted or lightly salted pretzels or popcorn in lieu of chips, and bottled ranch dressing diluted with plain, but tangy, non-fat Greek yogurt. Many top snack brands now have low-sodium versions, and you can also try making your own fun snack mixes or dips at home to control the salt amount.