SALT – bigger problem than SUGAR in children

November 2012

Salt is playing havoc with our children’s health, the effects of salt in a child’s diet has been revealed by the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health. Too much salt in childhood produces a serious rise in blood pressure that progressively worsens with age. We all know that salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack in adults, but the effects of salt in children hasn’t sent alarm bells ringing until now.

With childhood obesity becoming a big problem throughout Australia, it would be no surprise that the salt intake in a child’s diet plays a big contribution to this.

Levels of salt were tested in the urine of a group of Victorian children aged 5 – 13 by the research department at Deakin University as part of the Salt and other Nutrient Intakes in Children study, and it revealed these children were having an average of 6g of salt a day. This is extremely high as the maximum daily limit is 6g for adults, 4-8 year olds maximum limit should only be 3.5g, one child’s level reached 18g of salt, which is 3 times the maximum adult level – this is alarming.

Salt is in nearly everything, just like sugar, you can find salt in most processed foods. Pasta with cheese sauce has a whopping 1.65g per serving, 2 slices of white bread contains 1.04g of salt, not to mention the huge numbers that are contained in children’s snack foods, the main culprit for excess salt intake in children.

An Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that children aged 2-16 years are consuming amounts of salt well above the recommended maximum levels. Boys were found to be consuming up to over 9 grams of salt, and girls up to over 6 grams of salt.

How much salt should children eat?

The National Health and Medical Research Council has recommended the following maximum daily levels:

Age                        Daily Salt Limit (grams of salt)

1-3                        2.5

4-8                        3.5

9-13                        5

14-18                        5.75

Salt Tips for Kids

  • Eat Fresh Food for every meal
  • Avoid processed foods and snacks with high salt content
  • Check food labels and choose low salt options where possible
  • Avoid adding salt to meals and food – don’t put a salt shaker on the dinner table.
  • Replace salt for herbs and spices as flavoring or lemon and garlic.
  • Cheese, stock cubes, vegemite and soy sauce contain very large amounts of salt, avoid or limit intake of these food items where possible.

Source: Australian Division of World Action on Salt & Health

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