Are we with our kids, or against them? David Beasley explains what parents, pediatricians, and our children are up against:

American kids are eating far too much salt, mostly from processed foods sold in stores, putting them at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease later in life, federal health officials said on Tuesday.

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 90 percent of American children ages 6 to 18 consume too much sodium daily.


90%!  Yikes! That’s practically everyone. What and who’s responsible for this health “time-bomb” include the usual suspects: processed (packaged) foods, people in the food industry who promote them, and parents who allow their children to eat these “food products” regularly, as if they are “real” food.

The daily nutritional requirement of sodium has been established at less than 2,300mg per day for children and young adults. That’s equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of salt per day. For adults 51 and older, for African Americans (of all ages), and for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, sodium should be restricted further: 1,500mg per day. And yet this CDC study says that the majority of Americans, including 90% of children, are eating 3,300 mg of sodium per day!

The American Heart Association points to the “Salty Six” foods that people need to be particularly aware of:

  1. Breads and Rolls — multiple servings throughout the day add up.
  2. Cold cuts and cured meats — salami, ham, and pepperoni all have a lot of salt.  So does the next meat:
  3. Poultry — the amount varies depending on preparation — especially how much the meat is processed.
  4. Pizza — tomato sauces tend to have a lot of added salt.  Adding meat toppings increases the sodium even more.
  5. Canned soups — the more a food is processed, the more sodium.
  6. Sandwiches — “A sandwich or burger from a fast food restaurant can contain more than 100% of your daily suggested dietary sodium.”


The CDC report adds a few more foods to consider:

The report found that 43 percent of the sodium came from 10 popular types of foods, including pizza, sandwiches like cheeseburgers, cold cuts and cured meats, pasta with sauce, cheese, salty snacks like potato chips, chicken nuggets and patties, tacos and burritos, bread and soup.

“Most sodium is from processed and restaurant food, not the salt shaker,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Reducing sodium intake will help our children avoid tragic and expensive health problems.”

Dinner was the largest single source of sodium, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the daily intake, the study found.

The report said 65 percent of the sodium intake came from foods purchased in stores, with most of the sodium already in the products when purchased. Fast food restaurants including pizza places accounted for another 13 percent, the CDC said.


The AHA says it’s not just heart health you should worry about:

Sodium doesn’t just affect your heart health, but your physical appearance as well. Excess sodium consumption may make your face feel puffy, give you bags under your eyes, increase swelling in your fingers and make your jeans look, and feel, tighter. In fact, from an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association consumer poll, 75 percent of respondents stated that their pants feeling too tight is their least favorite effect of bloating which may be associated with excess sodium consumption.


Eliminating salt from the diet is both impossible and ill-advised — a healthy body needs some sodium for its cells to function properly. But there are a lot of things we can do to decrease the amount of salt we ingest, including:

  • Read food labels (!) and remember the limits listed above.
  • Eat more fresh foods — especially fruits and vegetables. Remember: if you can’t identify where a food came from (an apple came from a tree; a carrot came from the ground; a hot dog — do you really know where that came from?), then it is, by definition, processed, and most likely loaded with sodium, sugar, and chemicals that belong in a chemistry lab, not in your “food.”
  • Limit sodium-laden sauces and condiments like soy sauce, salad dressings, tomato sauces, and dips.
  • Use less salt in homemade recipes.  Don’t add salt to food once it is prepared.  (Remove the salt shaker from the table!) Use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to food.
  • Rinse canned vegetables before using, or buy frozen vegetables (no sauces added) instead.
  • Don’t eat out as much.  (Get handy in the kitchen!)  While some restaurants post nutritional information about the food they serve, they really don’t care about the sodium, sugar, or calories you are consuming at any given meal.
  • Reduce portion sizes.  (What a concept!  Yet many Americans struggle with this.)


More PediaBlog on sodium here and here.