No doubt you know that salt isn’t great for your family’s health. It’s true that we need a little bit of it to keep blood pressure stable and help nerve and muscle impulses to travel properly but too much can have very negative effects on the body. For kids, it can set the scene for health problems later on in life and can even be a factor in childhood asthma.
With salt added to so many processed foods, it’s no great surprise that the average child eats a lot more of it than they should and that’s without adding it to meals ourselves. Cutting your family’s salt intake may mean that you need to make some changes to the way that you eat but it’s not as hard as you might think to eat less salt.
But should all salt be avoided? Unrefined salt like Himalayan Salt and Celtic Sea Salt is a vital substance our bodies require to function optimally. The issue is that most processed foods contain refined salt which does not contain minerals and it leads to the depletion of minerals in the body. Refined salt is harmful and needs to be avoided.
Here are some top tips for making sure that your kids eat less refined salt, including some of the less obvious sources of hidden salt.
1. Cook meals from scratch
It might be more effort but cooking from scratch is one of the best ways to control how much salt your family consumes. According to research, kids take in a good chunk of their salt during lunch and dinner and this is often due to the salt levels in processed foods.
Making your own meals means you can decide what goes in your family’s food, rather than being dependent on what has been added. You can get your kids involved in this and help them to learn about the health impact of too much salt and choose unrefined salt in small amounts.
2. Reduce salt gradually
For kids that are already used to the taste of salt and like it, you can replace it with unrefined salt and you may need to reduce salt gradually rather than suddenly cut the amount of salt in their diet.
If their salt intake is decreased slowly, it’s likely that they won’t even notice the difference in salt and you can work towards the ultimate goal of drastically cutting the amount of salt your family eats.
3. Be wary of fast foods
Pizza contains a lot of salt, some pizzas can contain as much as 10g of salt. When you think that children aged 1 to 3 years are advised to have under 2.5g, 4 to 8 years 3.5g and 9 to 13 years under 5g of salt per day, you can see how bad this is!
It’s a lot simpler than you might think to create a pizza from scratch and you can make it super healthy by making your own tomato sauce for the base and veggies for the topping. Cheese can be part of the problem where salt is concerned so use sparingly; go without, or you could even make your own cheese sauce from cashews or even potatoes. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even try creating a really nutritious pizza base from cauliflower to cut down on salt even further.
Other processed foods that may also contain a lot of salt include savory snacks (potato chips and pretzels in particular), burgers, deli meats, pasta based ready meals, and even bread.
Swap salt heavy processed foods for lower salt alternatives or remove them from your family’s diet altogether and replace them with something healthy.
Potato chips can be swapped for roasted sweet potato chips and pasta can be made healthier by making your own veg based sauces, for example.
4. Be Aware of Hidden Salt
Some of the foods that contain salt can be a bit more surprising. Breakfast cereals can fall into this category. They may not seem very salty but they can often contain an average of 0.3g of sodium per serving and some cereals can have over 1g of salt in just one serving.
Sauces are another big candidate for salt and it’s usually much better to make your own. Cheese based sauces are often high in hidden salt but tomato based sauces can also contain a surprising amount of salt.
Even milkshakes can contain 0.5g of sodium – pretty surprising for something so sweet! On top of everything else your family may be eating, this can add up. If your kids are milkshake fans, try making healthy milkshake type smoothies instead to avoid the added salt.
5. Don’t forget about snacks
A lot of snacks are salty too, especially the processed kind. Cheese and ham lunchbox snacks are an example of this and can contain almost 3g of salt. That’s a huge part of the recommended daily intake for kids before they have even eaten anything else. Swap these kind of convenience snacks for healthier options such as raw veg, fruit or homemade healthy bakes.
In summary not all salt needs to be avoided, we need unrefined salt to achieve optimal health. At home use unrefined salt and reduce refined salt intake as much as possible.