Li’l sodiumBy Marilee Griffin • Published: August 23rd, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
These days, baby food manufacturers are really thinking outside the bottle. Vacuum-sealed pouches of organic cereal, freeze-dried vegetable medleys, gluten-free teething wafers and puffed fruit snacks are just a few products revolutionizing baby and toddler food. They’re also using ingredients more commonly associated with foodies than high chairs, such as quinoa (KEEN-wah), lentils, Greek yogurt, purple carrots and kale.
However, new research shows that parents may be buying more than a convenient meal for their little ones. Despite the modern selections and inventive packaging, many also contain an overdose of salt.
In a recent study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the sodium content of more than 1,000 packaged foods targeting children 1 and up. They analyzed prepackaged meals and snacks such as cereal bars, crackers, dairy products and juices and found that more than 70 percent were high in salt, which means they contained more than 210 milligrams per serving — about one-seventh of the daily recommendation. A few of the meals contained three times that much sodium.
The study found that baby food contains far less sodium as a whole than adult fare, but parents should still check the labels. Children don’t have an inherent taste for salt, although a high level of exposure can change that. This is worrying, since a lifetime of surplus sodium can lead to higher blood pressure, stroke and obesity. Older children who are overweight are particularly likely to eat more salt than their peers.
The CDC recommends serving more fruits and vegetables than pre-packaged foods to your little ones to keep their sodium intake in check. However, a 2011 European study found that children who were eating adult foods like spaghetti and bread were getting too much salt, too. So be sure to keep it fresh and simple. As simple as taking sodium from a baby.