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For Your Child

For Your Child

U.S. Kids' Diet Too Salty for Their Health

The average child or teen in the U.S. consumes nearly 3,400 mg of sodium each day - or more than 1,000 mg above the recommended maximum. Some researchers say that high salt intake is what's driving an increase in high blood pressure among kids.

Photo of a girl in a party outfit with tray of cupcakes

In a recent study, researchers found that normal-weight kids ate the most salt, followed by obese and then overweight kids. Among the study participants, 37 percent were overweight or obese.

Eating a lot of sodium/salt raises systolic blood pressure and increases the risk for pre-high blood pressure and high blood pressure in children and teens, says researcher Quanhe Yang at the CDC.

Less is better

The latest government dietary guidelines recommend that most Americans not consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, although most people would be fine with significantly less sodium. In general, the minimum amount of sodium recommended for most Americans is 1,500 mg daily.

The current study included data on more than 6,200 U.S. children between the ages of 8 and 18 gathered from 2003 to 2008.

Michael Moritz, M.D., at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, says it's not yet clear what impact, if any, the high-salt trend will have on children's future health.

"It was interesting that for kids who are of normal weight, the sodium intake didn't have as big an impact on blood pressure as it did for children who were overweight and obese," Dr. Moritz says.

"We know that being overweight predisposes you to high blood pressure and [that] sodium can also increase the risk of high blood pressure, but the question is, what happens when they occur in relationship to each other?"

No benefits

Pediatric dietitian Lauren Graf, R.D., of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City, says eating a lot of salt isn't good for anyone, in the long term.

She says parents should avoid buying heavily processed foods - those that come in cans and boxes - because they have the highest levels of sodium.

Graf recommends giving kids more fruits and vegetables and whole-grain foods that haven't been overly processed. "The more you buy fresh foods, the less you have to focus on counting sodium milligrams."

The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

CDC - Sodium and Food Sources

CDC - Where's the Sodium?

National Kidney Disease Education Program - High Blood Pressure and Children

November 2012

Tips for Healthy Eating

Here are ideas to help your child develop and maintain good eating habits:

  • Offer your child a wide variety of foods. Include grains, different vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat or beans.

  • Snacks should be healthy: fresh fruit, dried fruit, vegetable sticks, low-fat yogurt, air-popped popcorn.

  • Let your child decide whether and how much to eat of new foods. Keep serving new foods even if your child doesn't eat them at first.

  • Limit the amount of sugar in your child's diet. Choose cereals with low or no added sugar. Serve water or low-fat milk instead of sugar-sweetened sodas and fruit-flavored drinks.

  • Choose and prepare foods with less salt. Keep the saltshaker off the table. Have fruits and vegetables on hand for snacks instead of salty snack foods.

  • Involve your child in planning and preparing meals. Children may be more willing to eat the dishes they help prepare.

  • Have family meals together and serve everyone the same thing.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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