People often mistakenly think that it’s only seniors who should be careful of their salt intake as it makes them vulnerable to strokes due to their pre-existing problem of high blood pressure. However, that’s not the whole truth because children too are taking in too much salt in their food which can affect them in later life.
By now, it’s a well-known fact that a high salt diet increases blood pressure and brings on problems of kidney stones, strokes, heart disease and osteoporosis. Already, kidney stones and osteoporosis among children have been detected, proving the theory that salt intake is something to be watchful about, whether an individual is a child or an adult.
On the research front, it has also been found that a high salt diet leads to asthma. So, treating asthma means reducing one’s salt intake. Dehydration due to excess salt in their food is another cause for worry. A large part of the worry is the food parents buy that come with salt in it, such as baked beans, bread and biscuits, which children gorge on.
Can I add salt to my baby’s food?
Babies don’t need a lot of salt in their diet, in fact, not more than one gram a day till they are a year old. After all, your baby’s kidneys won’t be able to take so much salt. Before your baby turns six months old, he will receive all the sodium his system requires from breast milk or an instant milk formula. When he is old enough to eat solid food, you’ll find his home-cooked baby food doesn’t need any extra salt.
When he is a toddler, again, he won’t need much salt. Between the ages of one and three years, don’t give him more than 2 gm of salt per day. Pre-prepared baby foods, breakfast cereals for adults and pasta should be avoided for their high salt levels. However, commercial baby food is good for them as they don’t come with excess salt.
Avoid giving your kids these high-salt foods: Ready-to-eat child and adult foods, biscuits, gravies, pizza, crisps, pies, soups, crackers and bacon. However, you can give him foods low in salt like fresh fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, plain meat, salad, lentils and milk.
Maximum Recommended Salt Intake
According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK, the maximum recommended salt intake for babies and older children are as follows:
|AMOUNT OF SALT PER DAY
|AMOUNT OF SODIUM PER DAY
|Up to 12 months
|Lesser than 1 gm
|Lesser than 0.4 gm
|1 to 3 years
|4 to 6 years
|7 to 10 years
|11 years and above
If the above table points to ideal salt intake for different age groups of children, reality is different. On an average, children between the ages of two years and teens eat over 3,100 mg sodium per day, when they shouldn’t exceed 1500 mg.
Children get their salt from pizzas, cold cuts, bread, rolls, burgers, sandwiches, pretzels, cheese, fried foods, pasta, soup, burritos and tacos.
Health Effects of Excessive Sodium on Children
An excess of salt in your diet can cause a slew of health conditions, such as:
High blood pressure: There’s a definite link between high blood pressure and salt, as seen among children and teens. This problem is further compounded if the child is already obese or overweight. Such children are not surprisingly diagnosed with high blood pressure. A high blood pressure only means that your child’s heart must work harder to pump blood all over his body. As time passes, this condition may damage his heart muscle and make him liable for developing heart conditions as he enters adulthood and premature death.
Stomach aches: A habit of eating excessive salt may cause your child’s stomach to be irritated, causing him to have stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Your toddler may have loose and watery bowels, calling for frequent nappy changes. If he has several bouts of diarrhoea, he could be exhausted and dehydrated due to the loss of body fluids.
Seizures: If your child’s bloodstream has an excess of salt, he may have seizures. He may have these seizures in the form of muscle spasms or he may be unconscious for some time. He may also be confused, restless and lethargic.
Obesity: Though salt is not the direct reason for children to develop obesity, yet it is a major influencer as it is present in soft drinks. Salt increases one’s thirst which kids quench by drinking fluids. Kids who drink a lot of carbonated drinks automatically had a large intake of salt, which ties up with obesity.
Slaking his thirst often: If your child drinks a lot of water, it could be because his intake of salt has exceeded the limit. His skin may look bloated, leading to respiratory problems, kidney damage, heart failure or swollen brain. If left untreated, it could be fatal.
Osteoporosis: Children can lose necessary calcium needed for their bone development by having a large intake of salt. Calcium is lost through urine, leading to the demineralization of the bones, risking the development of osteoporosis, a condition of bones becoming fragile and breaking easily and often. Though this condition is detected among adults, yet the effect of salt on the metabolism of calcium among children is also proved. This increases the possibility of children growing into adults—especially girls—and suffering from osteoporosis.
Stomach cancer: Overly salty food eaten in childhood paves the way for children to develop all kinds of medical conditions in later life. One of them is stomach cancer, caused by damage done to the walls of the stomach and increasing the growth of Helicobacter pylori, bacteria present here. Other problems that can also emerge include asthma and kidney disease.
To avoid such situations, introduce your family to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re dining out, look for healthy food choices and consciously reduce salt in your food.