It can be dangerous for little ones to be eating too much salt, but please don’t worry: it’s easy to make sure they’re eating the right out.
We ask: how much do they need? And why is too much salt so bad for them? Here’s everything you need to know about salt consumption for babies…
Why is salt harmful for babies?
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.
Is some salt necessary?
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 6 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.
How much salt can babies and toddlers have?
Current guidelines suggest the following maximum daily intakes of salt:
- 0-12 months: less than 1g salt (0.4g sodium) per day
- 1-3 years: 2g salt (0.8g sodium) per day
- 4-6 years: 3g salt (1.2g sodium) per day
When we asked our mums, more than 20% weren’t sure exactly how much salt babies need – so please don’t worry if you didn’t already know this!
- 78% said less than 0.5g
- 19% said less than 1g
- 3% said less than 2g.
How can you reduce your baby’s salt intake?
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.
Alternative ways to make food tasty
There are lots of ways to make food taste appealing without adding salt. Try:
- Adding fresh or dried herbs to casseroles, pizzas and pasta sauces
- Marinating meat in a sauce to give it more flavour
- Using mild spices like curry powder, ginger and pepper
- Adding garlic or onions to the meals you cook
- Seasoning fish or salads with a squeeze of lemon juice
- Roasting vegetables rather than boiling them to bring out their flavour
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