Giving pre-packaged meals and snacks to your little kids is convenient. But did you know that most of them contain too much sodium?
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The American Heart Association says that nearly 75 percent of the snacks and meals marketed to toddlers (ages 1 to 3 years) are high in sodium. And their concern is that too much sodium early can lead to health problems later.
What researchers found
American Heart Association researchers looked at more than 1,100 pre-packaged foods for babies and toddlers and found that of these almost 75 percent were high in sodium, defined as 210 mg or more per serving.
They found the foods with the most sodium content per serving were meals and savory snacks for toddlers. Toddler meals had significantly higher amounts of sodium than baby meals.
One meal had more than half daily requirement
Pediatric registered dietitian Andrea Rumschlag notes that some of the pre-packaged toddler meals contain more than 600 mg of sodium.
“Most adults really shouldn’t get more than 1500 mg a day,” says Rumschlag. “A toddler’s intake should be around 1,000 mg. And 600 mg is more than half of what they should have in an entire day, and they’re getting it in just one meal.”
A taste for salt develops early
Researchers worry about the long-term health risks of introducing high levels of sodium in a child’s diet because high blood pressure, as well as a preference for salty foods, can develop early in life.
“Taste buds are sensitive when you’re younger. You’re going to develop the taste that you’re going to have for a while,” she says. “If you get accustomed to all these salty foods you’re not going to realize that non-salty food is really the way something is supposed to taste. And you’ll be adding salt to foods that don’t need it for the flavor.”
Rumschlag recommends parents check nutrition labels on all pre-packaged meals or snacks for their sodium content.