MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CBS
Rachel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University and is also a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She works as a nutrition and wellness coach with focuses on infant and maternal nutrition, mindful eating, and weight loss.
If your baby is about to start solids, you may be concerned about the lurking salt and added sugar that’s in many foods and wondering how much is too much for your little one. Babies do need some salt in their diet, but it’s easily met through breast milk or formula.
Too much salt can actually be harmful for babies’ kidneys,
which is why it’s important to be aware of sources in your child’s diet. The
American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association recommend
children age 1-3 get no more than 1500 mg per day of sodium. And for babies
between 6 and 12 months, the recommended Adequate Intake (AI) is 370 mg sodium.
When you start serving your baby solids, aim to rely on foods’ natural flavors – such as the
sweetness that comes from roasting root vegetables – to please your baby’s
palate. As for salt, no need to sprinkle it on! To enhance the flavor of foods,
try using fresh or dried herbs and spices that add flavor without sodium.
Most pre-made foods that are marketed for infants (up to 12
months old) are low in sodium. However, this is not always the case for foods
aimed at toddlers (12-36 months old), such as pasta with sauce, dips and
dressings for veggies, crackers, pretzels, processed meats and cheese.
How can parents reduce the amount of sodium in their child’s
diet? When feeding babies, select foods that are designed for infants since
they have lower sodium levels, or prepare homemade foods that are made with no
added salt. Be cautious of “convenience foods” marketed to toddlers as they may
contain a high amount of sodium. Compare Nutrition Fact Panels to find products
lower in sodium. And whenever possible, provide
fresh, whole foods for meals and snacks, enhancing the flavor of foods using
herbs, spices and different cooking techniques.
Unfortunately, many packaged foods aimed at babies and
toddlers contain added sugar – that is, sugar that has been added to the
product and is not naturally occurring. While babies naturally gravitate
towards sweet tasting foods, that does not mean their meals and snacks need to
be enhanced with added sources of sugar.
Look at the ingredient list of kid-friendly foods such as
cereals, bars, juices or fruit snacks and you’ll likely see sugar has been
added. Added sugars to be aware of include: cane sugar, malt or corn syrup,
evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, honey, and high fructose corn syrup –
to name a few. When shopping, look for
products with minimal or no added sugars in the ingredient list.
Much like with sodium, the best way to minimize added sugar
in your child’s diet is to rely on whole, fresh foods as much as possible such
as fruit, vegetables, minimally processed dairy, beans, legumes, meat, fish,
and whole grains. Enhancing the natural sweetness of foods can be as easy as
mashing a ripe banana in yogurt or oatmeal, or roast sweet potatoes with a dash
While it’s difficult to cut out convenience foods such as
jarred sauces and canned beans, added sugar and salt in your child’s diet can
be minimized by using fresh, whole foods as much as possible. This will not
only expose your little one to a variety of delicious foods, flavors and textures,
but also set taste preferences and help children make healthy food choices for
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