Too much salt could lead to lasting health problems for your baby. Is yours eating more than he should?
Before 12 months, your baby’s kidneys are too immature to process salt, and having too much could cause permanent damage. Research also suggests that children who get used to eating lots of salt early in life are likely to keep the habit into adulthood, putting them at risk of long-term health problems like high blood pressure and stroke.
A very small amount of sodium chloride – the mineral in salt – is necessary for baby nutrition, to keep body fluids balanced and help digest the food we eat. Before six months, your baby will get all the salt he needs from breastmilk or formula; beyond this point, the solid foods he eats will fulfil his requirements.
Current guidelines suggest the following maximum daily intakes of salt:
The best way to make sure your baby doesn’t eat too much salt is to reduce the amount you use. Never add salt to the foods you prepare for your baby, either during cooking or at the table. Keep an eye on salty ingredients, too – for example, if you’re cooking with stock, either make your own without salt or buy reduced salt stock cubes or powder.
Also, be careful when feeding your baby prepared foods. Almost three-quarters of the salt we eat is hidden in ready-made foods, such as bread, baked beans, breakfast and even biscuits, so get used to checking labels and choosing reduced salt versions wherever possible. Adult sauces, condiments and ready meals tend to be very high in salt, so avoid these completely for babies under 12 months, and keep salty foods such as sausages, ham and bacon to a minimum. Ready-made baby foods, however, including cereals, sauces, gravy and snacks, adhere to strict salt guidelines and are safe to give.
Little ones can easily get a taste for salty foods which can lead to a lifelong tendency to eat too much salt. To avoid this, steer clear of salty snacks like crisps, and offer healthier options such as rice cakes, vegetable sticks or chopped fruit.
There are lots of ways to make food taste appealing without adding salt. Try:
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