Sodium and Children

heartConcerns about sodium and its link to high blood pressure and heart disease are most commonly found among people who are middle age and older. However, according to the CDC, about 90% of US children ages 6-18 eat too much sodium daily and 1 in 6 children has high blood pressure (source).

When we think about the foods that kids tend to be most fond of this all makes sense. Pizza, cheese and chicken nuggets often include a great deal of sodium. So what can we do? Here are some tips that will help reduce the amount of sodium everyone in your family eats:

  1. Cook at home as much as possible. Visit the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipe site for great home cooking ideas. Restaurant dishes are typically very high in sodium and in most restaurants you can’t see the nutrition information when you order. Many restaurants do have nutrition information on their websites, so you can compare dishes before you go.
  2. When cooking at home, try different spices and herbs instead of salt.
  3. Check the Nutrition Facts labels when you buy foods at the grocery store. Choose brands and types with lower sodium. Many will even be marked ‘low sodium’ or ‘no salt added’.
  4. Eat more foods that are naturally low in sodium like fruits and vegetables.
  5. Model healthy eating for your family. If you choose healthy foods and tell your children why you make those choices, it is likely they will follow your lead in time.

If you are interested in more detailed information about sodium in children’s diets, the CDC has a helpful website. Visit http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/children-sodium/.

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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The Salty Six: Part II

saltEating too much sodium can cause health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Most of us consume around 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily—more than double the 1500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association and well above the 2,300 milligrams the CDC recommends for the general population. More than 75% of our sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods. Putting down the salt shaker isn’t enough. Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label on packages—keep the sodium content below 5% whenever possible. Or, even better, cook more meals at home and be careful about the Salty Six:

1. Breads and Rolls: Most bread will have 100 to 200 milligrams of sodium per slice. If you are eating a sandwich, those numbers can add up quickly. Find whole-grain bread that has less than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving (usually only 1 slice). Consider switching to whole-grain pita pockets, English muffins or bagel thins, all of which have fewer than 150 milligrams per serving.

2. Cold Cuts and Cured Meats: Just six thin slices of deli meat can add up to half a day’s worth of sodium intake. Ham is especially high in sodium. If you are fond of lunch meats, choose a reduced-sodium variety and eat a small amount. Add veggies to your sandwich to bulk it up.

3. Pizza: Pizza brings together a melting pot of high sodium ingredients: cheese, pepperoni, sausage, tomato sauce and crust. Ask for light cheese and opt for veggie toppings instead of meat. Enjoy 2 small slices, and fill out the meal with salad or steamed vegetables.

4. Poultry: This one can be sneaky! What looks like a natural fresh or frozen piece of chicken could actually be injected with broth or sodium solution preservatives that boost sodium content up to 200 milligrams per serving. Read the label to find a product with low sodium levels. When purchasing chicken, avoid prepared or processed products, which are packed with seasonings and sodium and are often fried. Consider choosing fresh fish once per week to bake or grill as a lower-sodium alternative.

5. Canned Soup or Packaged Soup Mixes: Many prepared soups are a hidden bunker of salt. You can easily blow an entire day’s worth of your allotted sodium intake just by eating a single serving which may contain 600 to 1,000 milligrams per serving (usually only 1 cup). Choose a lower-sodium variety or make your own at home using recipes from Spend Smart. Eat smart.

6. Sandwiches: Burgers and sandwiches are another hidden trove of salt, particularly if the meal comes from a restaurant. It’s extremely difficult to follow a low-sodium diet if you dine out, particularly if you eat at fast food spots where a single sandwich can contain a day’s worth of sodium. Request the burger grilled not fried, without cheese and with condiments on the side (BBQ sauce and ketchup, in particular add sugar and sodium). A better way to go is to share a sandwich and order a fresh side, such as a salad, fruit or low fat yogurt.

 

Terry Meek
Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Coordinator
Iowa Department of Public Health

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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The Salty Six

February is often associated with valentines, sweets and all things lovey dovey. It’s also Heart Month which makes it a great time to think about your own heart health and the health of those you love. For the next three weeks, we will be blogging about sodium, its role in heart health and how you can protect yourself and those you love.

Your body needs sodium to work properly, but too much is bad for your health. It can raise your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease and stroke. People often think of putting down the salt shaker when they are trying to reduce their sodium, but in fact most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and dishes from restaurants.

This week we are proud to share the American Heart Association’s campaign called “The Salty Six”. This infographic highlights some of the common foods where large amounts of sodium hide. Next week we’ll hear from an expert on heart disease and stroke and her recommendations for eating well while reducing sodium.

the salty six

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Are Valentine’s Day and National Heart Month Related?

I wonder if it is coincidence that Valentine’s Day, National Heart Month, and National Wear Red Day are all in February. Probably not, but it would be great if the hype around Valentine’s Day reminded us to eat heart healthy. What is a better way to show your love than preparing healthy, delicious food for your family and friends? Here are a few facts:

  • Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the US even though we tend to hear more about cancer.
  • We can’t change some of the risks factors for heart disease such a family history, gender, and age. However, many of the risk factors for heart disease are related to diet and physical activity which we can influence, they include: cholesterol level, high blood pressure, diabetes, overweight, smoking and lack of physical activity.

The American Heart Association has a list of Tips for Heart-Healthy Grocery Shopping that provides a good start for anyone one who wants to improve the quality of their diet. Their list highlights the types of fats and oils to choose and avoid as well as how to avoid excess sodium in the diet.

Perhaps you have already made changes in your diet. If you would like to check out your knowledge about sodium, fats and nutrition take their three nutrition quizzes:

Fats and Sodium Explorer- What are your daily calorie needs? Recommended range for total fats, limits for the “bad” fats:  saturated and trans fats.

Test Your Sodium Smarts-Test your sodium smarts by answering 10 questions about which food products are higher in sodium.

Test Your Fats IQ Do you know your fats by heart? Test just how knowledgeable you are.

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