I once read a book with a chapter titled “Salt: The Spice of Life or Taste of Doom” and while this made me laugh because of how “doom” seems overly extreme – SODIUM intake is actually something very important to be aware of for everyone and ESPECIALLY those of us feeding babies & starting solids
Sodium is an electrolyte that our bodies do need to help maintain fluid and blood volume within the body however it can easily be over-consumed. And there are a few reasons we want to be aware of the foods that are high in sodium.
Firstly, babies (6-12months) need to be fed very limited amounts of sodium because their kidneys are still not mature enough to filter the excess sodium. They do need some sodium and breastmilk/formula will provide all of that.
For this reason, babies under 1 should not exceed 400/mg of sodium per day (1g salt) but less than this is always best.
🔹Because I know you’ll ask:
For toddlers (1-3 years old) aim for 800/mg sodium (2g salt) or less per day of sodium.
Kids ages 4-6 try to aim for 1.2/g sodium (3g salt) per day.🔹
Secondly, salt tastes GOOD which makes it VERY easy to form a preference for salty foods. However, consuming excess sodium is a risk factor for high blood pressure and can ultimately lead to things like heart and kidney disease.
As adults, we want to be mindful of this and help to reduce/limit our baby’s exposure to salty foods by following these tips:
1️⃣ Skip the Salt while Cooking (you can always have a shaker for adults)
2️⃣ Look for Low/Reduced or No Added Sodium Products. Additionally, you can rinse canned foods under cold water to remove ~30% sodium content!
3️⃣ Avoid offering often to babies under 1 as much as possible. Foods like pickles, soy sauce, and processed meat can put a baby at the daily maximum pretty quickly- so it is best to avoid these as much as possible
4️⃣ Make balanced decisions while eating! It is also useful to become aware of foods commonly high in added salt (bread, sauces, processed foods, cheese) to be mindful of those while feeding (without having to be fearful) so that we can also offer a variety of other foods to create balance.
For more information about creating balanced meals for babies, check out this post.
Avoiding sodium altogether is a pretty unreasonable goal and nutritionally it is also not necessary. SOME salt is okay! Try your best to aim for low to no sodium but don’t beat yourself up if a meal is higher in sodium. One meal is just a drop-in bucket when you look at all the meals your child eats in a week!