salt in children's dietYou’ve probably heard that too much salt in our diet isn’t good for our health. According to AWASH, high salt diets are linked to heart disease, kidney disease, stomach cancer, asthma and osteoarthritis.

Our preference for salty foods is something we learn. Quite simply, the more salt we have in our diet, the more we like salt. We also know that eating patterns in early childhood affect how we eat later in life. In the case of salt, exposure to a lot of salt as a child leads to a preference for salty foods into adulthood.

The salt is in the foods you buy

The problem is that we often eat salt without realising it. Most of our salt intake comes from packaged or processed foods. Salt is added to packaged foods for flavour and as a preservative. How much salt is too much? The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends the following upper limit for salt intake in children:

1-3 years 1,000 mg/day
4-8 years 1400 mg/day
9-13 years 2,000 mg/day
14-18 years 2,300 mg/day

Sodium also happens naturally in foods, such as meat, fruit and vegetables. But it’s all the extra salt that we need to limit, and remember that the maximum recommended isn’t the goal – the less salt your children eat, the better.

What’s in the pack?

To avoid too much salt in our children’s diet, the solution is to eat mostly fresh foods, cook meals yourself most of the time, limit table salt and monitor the salt (sodium) content in packaged foods. When buying packaged foods, it’s worth checking the sodium content on the side of the pack and comparing your options.

Check your pantry. Why not have a look at some of the foods you have in your pantry and compare the sodium between the products you buy? You may find that some of the products you buy are very high in sodium, while some other products are a great choice. This can guide your buying habits and help reduce the salt intake for your children, as well as the whole family.