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Experts warn of sodium overload in kids’ diet; suggests restriction

Posted:  Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Pizza, macaroni and cheese, pastas, burger and fries, and Chinese foods can be christened as a child’s favourite foods. Parents too don’t mind occasionally allowing their children to indulge in them. However, what they are not aware is that their children may be consuming excess of salt and sodium from them. What’s worse, such foods are high in calories and fat too. Health experts warn that such excessive intake of salt and sodium by kids may be setting the stage for a lifetime of health issues.

According to a report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids nowadays may very well be overdosing on salt; almost 90% of them are consuming at least 1000 mg more of sodium daily than they should be. The effects of excess salt are showing as the CDC report found that 1 in 6 children between the ages of 8 and 17 years are reporting elevated blood pressure.

So does this mean parents are negligent about their child’s salt or sodium consumption? No, many may not be aware about the salt or sodium content of the foods being consumed feel the researchers. The CDC report found that almost 43% of the sodium comes from selected foods such as pizza, cold cuts and cheese. In addition, uncontrollable portion sizes are also to blame as children end up consuming double or triple the amount of sodium for their age at a time.

Children aged 1 to 3 years should not consume more than 1000mg of sodium in a day; those aged 4 to 8 years can consume upto 1200mg and older children aged 9 to 15 years can go up to 1500mg of sodium in a day.

Parents can try some of these simple ways to curtail sodium in children’s diet:

•   Offering more fruits and vegetables as the potassium in them can help counterbalance the effects of excess sodium. Fresh ones are preferred, if not unsalted canned vegetables can be used too as long as this food group is included.

•   Scan nutrition labels well. A keen eye should be kept on sodium levels even in foods tagged ‘healthy’, ‘gluten free’, ‘low fat’, and ‘low sugar’.

•   Low or reduced sodium tagged products would effectively mean only 25% reduction in the sodium content. Hence, caution must be exercised while buying them too.

•   Use herbs and spices to make food flavourful. Foods can be evaluated after cooking if they need extra salt. The spices may mask the absence of excess salt and children may very well gobble it too.

•   With every meal, reduce the quantity of salt in small amounts. Eventually, children will be used to a salt reduced food and appreciate the real taste of food.

•   While dining out, make sure to ask questions to the server on the method of cooking. Being cautious is always better to ensure good health of your children.

•   Lastly, be a role model for children. When they see parents eating healthy, they will soon follow suit.

As advised by experts, one must indeed consider a pinch of salt not just for life but also for the foods consumed.

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