Most people in the U.S. today eat too much sodium, mainly in the form of salt. After all, salt is in almost all of the food we buy—especially processed food—even if we can’t directly taste it. Unfortunately, eating too much sodium is bad for our health. It can lead to high blood pressure, which is a big risk factor for heart disease and stroke, especially for African-Americans.
Kids (and parents) should be particularly careful about the sodium content in the food they eat. Plenty of research has established a link between high blood pressure in childhood and high blood pressure in adulthood. Unfortunately, kids today eat too much salt; 9 in 10 kids eat more than the recommended amount of salt—some estimates even say kids eat double the recommended daily amount. As with most habits, our taste preferences and eating habits develop at a young age. So limiting the salt in our kids diets means that they’re likely to want and need less salt when they’re older.
All it takes to lower your risk of these diseases is to eat less salt. Nearly everyone can benefit from lowering their sodium intake. Guidelines for daily sodium intake published by health agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association, range from 1,500mg to 2,300 mg.
As parents, helping kids lower their sodium intake is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
- Limit the amount of pizza, breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, soups, savory snacks (like chips and pretzels), and cheese. These are some of the top sodium sources for kids.
- Check nutrition information before buying food at the grocery store or restaurants. If possible, choose the low sodium alternative.
- Model healthy eating and cooking at home. The easiest way is to eat more fruits and veggies. And don’t forget to use less salt when cooking at home. If extra flavor is needed, try using different herbs and spices, like garlic and black pepper, instead! Check out this great resource for ideas!
Photo courtesy of health.harvard.edu