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Does Your Child Eat Too Much Salt?

photo (2)The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that nine out of ten American children have too much salt in their diet, making it more likely that they will suffer from circulatory disease as adults.

Authors of the study used information from over 2000 kids who participated in the CDC’s 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Survey.

Ileana Arias, Deputy Principal Director of the CDC, said “These high salt consumption levels are already affecting kids’ health. One in six children already has raised blood pressure, which can result in high blood pressure in adulthood, as we know a major cause of heart disease and stroke.”

The study shows that almost half of the dietary salt comes from the ten most popular foods kids eat — pizza, bread, sliced and cured meats, savory snacks, sandwiches, cheese, chicken patties and nuggets, pasta, Mexican food and soups.

Dr. Erica Brody, a pediatrician at the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai in New York City, said, “The foods our children eat now affect the choices they will go on to make as adults. This includes excessive sugars, fats and, of course, salt as well.”

It’s important for parents to note that most of the salt is already in the food when the child gets it. Parents can help their children by carefully reading the labels on products they buy, and by requesting nutritional information at restaurants. Paying attention and making a few simple decisions can reduce your child’s salt intake significantly.

That’s one reason it’s better to prepare food at home whenever possible – you can moderate the amount of sugar and salt you use, as well as the quantities your family eats. Serving more fresh fruits and vegetables improves overall nutrition, and tastes great, too.

Major restaurant chains like Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A have committed to reducing salt in their food, in response to the call from government agencies and officials. Companies like these will be rewarded for their responsiveness, since the people who have decided to eat better will be their best customers.

School cafeterias will be required to observe new national standards, dropping the salt in school meals by 25-50% over the next decade. And the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is already reducing salt content of foods they provide to schools, according to Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.  Two-thirds of the products offered through the USDA Foods now to schools have no salt added in their formulations,” he said.

Schools are also being encouraged to put lower sodium alternatives in their vending machines and school stores.  It’s easy to see that it will take parents and schools working together to guide the children toward better food choices. They are constantly bombarded by marketing designed by experts to get them to eat salty and sugary snacks – you can look out for them by not buying these foods too often, and eating them in moderation when you do buy them.

Your kids’ future health may depend on the habits you establish with them at the present time – take responsibility, be a good role model and help them to be healthier starting right now.
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