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The salty truth

Is your child consuming too much salt?

By Dr Kamal ‘Akl , Family Flavours - Aug 18,2019 - Last updated at Aug 18,2019

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Dr Kamal ‘Akl

Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Nephrologist


Ahmad (6) loves to sprinkle salt all over his food even before tasting it! He learned this  habit since early childhood as his parents use a lot of salt in their cooking.

Table salt is composed of the chemicals sodium and chloride. However, sodium is found in other forms. The terms, salt and sodium, are used interchangeably. To know the amount of salt in food multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5.


Examples of high foods high in salt content


High salt foods include most canned food, pickles, salami, smoked meat, fish, nuts and cheese. Other sources of high salt are ready meals, pizza, sausage, tomato ketchup, cereals, soup, sandwiches, especially if bought from outside such as falafel and shawarma. 

One has to also be careful when using dissolvable vitamin supplements since each tablet may contain up to one gramme of salt.


What’s the problem with consuming too much salt?


Eating too much salt predisposes a child to high blood pressure whether in childhood or adulthood. High blood pressure, which is usually silent, increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Salt also predisposes a child to future bone loss and obesity. High salt intake leads to loss of calcium in the urine, making children, especially girls, have fragile bones. 

Salt causes increased thirst in children. While children should be drinking water, too many of them resort to squelching their thirst with sweetened juices and soft drinks which lead to obesity.


Salt intake and babies


During the first few months of life, breast and formula milk have adequate sodium. No salt should be added to food during weaning. With the introduction of solid food after the age of six months, parents need to be on the lookout for increased sodium content in processed baby foods, including bread, meat and gravy.

Babies and children adapt to the flavour of the food they are given, whether it is high or low in salt. Salt should not be added to baby food because the kidneys of babies are not fully developed to cope with a salt load. Children might dislike fruits and vegetables if they get used to salt having salt in their food. 


Recommendations for healthy babies, children and teens


• During the first year of life, breast or formula feeding are the best options

• Avoiding food containing more than 0.6 grammes of sodium/100 grammes since it is high in salt

• Avoiding the development of salt addiction or craving in your child

• Avoiding using the salt shaker

• Tasting food before presenting it to your child 

• Checking labels of processed food for sodium or salt content

• Buying fresh or frozen food and avoiding processed meats

• Avoiding ready meals and takeaway food


Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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