One would think that baby food is probably the best nutrition for your child. But findings presented to the American Heart Association are raising questions. According to the first major study ever to look at sodium content in baby and toddler foods sold in the United States, more than 70 percent of the packaged foods parents feed their kids have too much salt in them. News about baby food was better then “toddler meals”. The study considered packaged foods, such as macaroni and cheese, pasta, pizza, chicken or turkey and rice, targeting children age 1 as “toddler meals.” The researchers also analyzed the sodium content of savory snacks, including flavored crackers, puffs and rice cakes, as well as fruit snacks, cereal bars, sweets, dairy products and juices. Researchers studied more than a 1000 food products for babies and toddlers.
“We know that children are consuming too much sodium,” said Joyce Maalouf, the study’s lead author. “This is a problem because too much sodium in a child’s diet can lead to high blood pressure, a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke.” But, Maalouf stressed that even within specific categories or brands of toddler meals, sodium content can range. “Therefore, it is important for parent and caregivers to read nutrition facts and labels and choose products with the lowest amount of sodium,” she said. Hypertension is affecting children and was once considered a condition that affected only middle-age or older adults. Estimates show that one out of every 20 children has higher-than-normal blood pressure. There are 1 in 100 that has medically significant hypertension. High blood pressure is closely tied to obesity, which now affects 17 percent of children in the United States. This is three times higher than the last generation.
There are recommendations that parents can follow to help with this. The American Heart Association recommends that children consume less than 1,500 mg per day of sodium some of the toddler meals researchers analyzed had 630 mg per serving. That amount is almost half of the daily recommendations. There is more than 70 percent of toddler meals and snacks exceeded 210 mg of sodium per serving, which is the benchmark researchers used to label something high in sodium or not. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association conference in New Orleans.
A recent CDC report found that the top 10 sources of sodium in Americans between ages 2 and 19 are pizza, breads and rolls, poultry, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, savory snacks, soups, cheese, mixed pasta dishes, and sausage and hot dogs.
Experts advise parents to read the nutrition labels on the foods to keep sodium intake under control.