Globally, many diets are high in sodium increasing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. This includes children. In the U.S. 90 percent of children between 6 to 18 years of age eat too much sodium. One in six has elevated blood pressure.
Most of the sodium in our diets comes from processed and restaurant foods. These types of processed foods or meals are not only high in sodium (and calories) but generally low in nutrients. Specifically, potassium, calcium and magnesium are nutrients that have been shown to aid in lowering blood pressure. These nutrients among many others are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and dairy foods.
Sure, we need to eat less processed food, but more importantly we need to eat more nutritious food. Talk to your children, especially your teens, about what nutritious foods they are willing to add to their diets.
Consider these ideas as a start to reduce the sodium and boost the nutrients in your child's diet:
- Eat at home more often. Kids are creative and tech savvy — let them find ways to make their favorites in a healthier way.
- Balance meals. Dish up smaller portions of pizza, chicken nuggets, burritos, tacos and pasta dishes, and larger portions of fresh or frozen vegetables and fruit.
- Plan for leftovers. Make sandwiches with leftover meats rather than cold cuts or cured meats. Pile on a variety of vegetables such as lettuce, bell peppers and sun dried tomatoes for crunch and flavor.
- Compare labels. When shopping, look at Nutrition Facts labels and choose lower sodium items. Ideally, choose items that have less than 200 mg a serving.
- Swap snacks. Snack on fruits and vegetables rather than chips or other snack foods.
- Try homemade. Make your own soups with homemade stocks or buy unsalted or no added salt varieties. Use vegetables, herbs, spices and a splash of vinegar to flavor soups instead of bouillon and salt.
You are your child's teacher when it comes to food and choices. It is never too early or too late to start modeling better food choices. Explore cooking with fresh foods with your children. Pack lunches, dinners and snacks rather than grabbing take-out food. How can you work some of these tips into your family's meal routine?
To our children's health,
Oct. 16, 2014
- Reducing sodium in children's diets. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/children-sodium/. Accessed Oct. 7, 2014.