With all the recent headlines warning of the evils of sugar you could be forgiven for taking your eye off the ball when it comes to the levels of salt in your child's menu. While sugar of course needs attention, when it comes to children's nutrition salt is of equal if not greater concern and is possibly much harder to control than sugar.
When you consider salt and health, the chances are you think about overweight Adults with high blood pressure? Well, in fact the foundations for high blood pressure start much earlier. There's strong evidence showing that children who consume too much salt can also develop high blood pressure. Children who eat too much salt also predispose themselves to develop other diseases like osteoporosis, asthma, some cancers and obesity.
It's as basic as that! Children under 5 simply don't have the capacity to deal with large amounts of salt. Their little kidneys cannot cope and that's what causes their blood pressure to rise and yet it can so easily be avoided.
What constitutes a large amount of salt is actually very tiny when it comes to children.
A child aged 4-6 years can't cope with more than 3g salt per day, that's just half a teaspoonful of salt a day or half the amount that adults should be aiming for. For younger children it's even lower.
Now see just how much salt is in every day foods:
The irony is that we normally add salt to these foods because we like it there. We wouldn't buy the food if it wasn't added.
We like the taste of salt.
As adults, we've developed salty palates and are accustomed to the presence of salt even in foods which we don't think of being either salty or savoury.
Young children don't have the preference for salt unless we train them. By giving them lots of salty food we are training them to need more - and effectively setting them on the road to ill health.
Food manufactures have been making steps to reduce the amount of salt added to a lot of foods to try and improve the UK health statistics, and as a result of pressure from the Government. However, even with these efforts it's still very easy to overload a child with salt if their diet is dependent upon a menu of manufactured food.
We estimate over 75% of the salt we consume is in pre prepared food. So, the problem is not the salt we add at the table or during cooking. Are you really aware of the hidden salt in foods like bread, stock cubes, processed meats and cereals.
Some of the classic ingredients which are contributing large amount of additional salt to your child's food include:
Hidden salt in your child's food