Salt for Babies and Children

salt

Babies and children only need a very small amount of salt in their diets. High salt intake can cause dehydration, is linked with various chronic diseases including high blood pressure and may give a “taste for salt” which can cause health problems in later life.

Salt is also called sodium choride. Sometimes food labels provide information on sodium content rather than salt content. If so, this simple equation can be used to convert the figures: sodium x 2.5 = salt.

 

Recommended Daily Intakes of Salt

Age group Salt Sodium
Less than 1 year Less than 1g Less than 400mg
1 – 3 years No more than 2 g Less than 800mg
4 to 6 years No more than 3g Less than 1200mg
7 to 10 years No more than 5g Less than 2000mg
11 years and above No more than 6g Less than 2400mg

 

Salt in foods may have been added during cooking or at the table, or may be already present in foods. Foods that are high in salt include processed and cured meats (e.g. ham, salami, sausages and other processed meats), packet soups, sauces, stock cubes, instant gravy, “ready-meals”, frozen pizza, chicken goujons, burgers, potato waffles, potato croquettes, savoury snacks such as potato or corn chips, salted crackers, salted nuts etc. Lots of everyday foods such as bread and breakfast cereals also contain “hidden salt”.

  • Babies who are breastfed get the right amount of salt through breastmilk. Infant formula milk contains a similar amount of salt to breastmilk.
  • Salt should not be added to babies’ or children’s food. During cooking, herbs, spices, lemon juice and vinegar can be used instead to flavour foods.
  • Avoid (or avoid large amounts of) foods that are high in salt. Rather than using ham, salami, sausages and other processed meats, instead use lower salt protein sources e.g. fresh meats such as roast chicken, turkey or beef, either fresh or tinned fish (tinned in water, vegetable oil or tomato sauce, not in brine), eggs – boiled, scrambled or poached, or pulse vegetables such as beans (e.g. baked beans) or chickpeas (e.g. hummus).
  • Do not give salty snacks such as crisps, salted nuts (nuts are also a choking risk) and salted corn snacks. Instead use fresh fruits such as apple, mandarin, banana, kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, peach, apricots, etc, dried fruit such as raisins, sticks of raw vegetables such as carrot, celery or cucumber, rice cakes, unsalted crackers, breadsticks or unsalted corn snacks.
  • For soups, sauces and other processed foods, check the nutritional label of foods to gauge the salt content. But do consider also the amount of the food consumed. For example stock cubes may contain 2.7g salt per 100g and so are high salt foods. However if one stock cube contains 1g salt and this produces 10 portions, each portion contains 0.1g. Potato chips may contain 1.3g salt per 100g which is medium salt content. However a 40g packet will provide 0.5 g of salt.

 

Label Reading for Salt and Sodium Content, per 100g of food

Low Medium High
0.3g salt or less 0.3g – 1.5g salt 1.5g salt or more
0.1g sodium or less 0.1g – 0.6g sodium 0.6g sodium or more
120mg sodium or less 120mg – 600mg sodium 600mg of sodium or more

 

Click here for the British Dietetic Association Food Fact Sheet on Salt and Health.

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