We’ve been hearing a lot lately about getting too much salt from our diets. Evidence has been building to support the hypothesis that excess sodium intake contributes to increased rates of high blood pressure and heart disease. Health officials have taken this evidence and built initiatives to bring down the sodium content in processed foods (where most of our sodium intake is coming from).
The primary focus of all of this work has been on adults, and rightfully so. However, when studies show that infants are getting way more sodium than they need, there is a problem. Combine that with the fact that lifelong food habits, including a preference for salt, are shaped early on in childhood, there is a case for thinking a little bit more about how much sodium is in what we feed infants and toddlers. Since most of the sodium reduction initiatives have focused on foods consumed by adults, one emerging food category that has escaped much notice is toddler foods. These products, created and designed for a very niche market, seem smart and convenient to a busy parent. There’s no doubt that feeding a toddler can be challenging and frustrating, and there is no shortage of attempts to make the task easier. Unfortunately, logic and closer examination shows some jarred toddler foods to be unnecessary and unhealthy.
Toddlers are recommended to get 1,000mg of salt per day. Above is a chart that shows just how much extra sodium there is in toddler foods (both meals and snacks). Some adult foods are included for reference. Feeding your toddler some of the items above would give them nearly half the sodium they need for the day. The take away? If you’re relying on processed food for your toddler, check products to make sure they aren’t too high in sodium. Also, consider shifting away from those jarred foods. Toddlers can actually handle most adult foods – they just need smaller portions!