A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week, revealed that most children are eating as much salt as adults and this bad habit could lead to health problems, like hypertension, later in life.
WTOP caught up with Children’s National’s pediatric outpatient dietician Megan Barna, MS, RD, this week to discuss the sodium issue. In the interview, Barna said Children’s is already seeing an increased number of young people with hypertension or pre-hypertension. She said parents really need to take the lead to change their children’s diets and move away from restaurant and processed foods.
"Whenever we are eating those foods, they are not always going to taste salty," Barna said in the interview. "It is not always going to be obvious to you that they are very high in sodium. So you are really going to want to try to take a look at that label."
Children’s diets should not exceed 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, so parents need to be extra careful about reading labels and choosing the lowest sodium options. It takes the whole family to get involved to move away from processed foods, which are surprisingly high in salt.
We also talked to Children’s Michele Mietus-Snyder, MD, one of the co-directors of the Obesity Institute, who is more interested in what is not going into kid’s diets, since so much sodium is going in.
“Magnesium and potassium intake, which can be assumed to be inversely related to sodium intake, are protective in blood pressure,” Dr. Mietus-Snyder said.
A great way to try to decrease the salt – and increase these important nutrients – is to try to eat natural food, like more fruits and vegetables, which are high in magnesium and potassium.
“To paraphrase Michael Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma, ‘don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food and eat nothing that wouldn’t rot. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,’” Dr. Mietus-Snyder said.
Of course, the challenge is time. Most families are juggling work, school, and extra-curricular schedules and it’s difficult to buy fresh foods that take longer to prepare. Dr. Mietus-Snyder said that changing your diet takes some commitment, so she also offered some tips on how to get started.
“Fresh food is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be as expensive as many people feared. Brown rice, beans, fruits and vegetables bought in bulk, vegetables bought in season, and even frozen vegetables are just as good,” she said.
Do you have any quick, low sodium go-to recipes for your family? Share them in the comments below!