If they’re eating packaged baby food, toddlers may be getting their total recommended daily intake of salt in a single meal, according to research by Australian nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton and parenting advocacy group, Parents’ Voice.
The brands investigated by the Parents’ Voice are familiar to most parents of young kids: Only Organic, Annabel Karmel, Heinz and Rafferty’s Garden.
According to Dr Stanton, “Latest health advice discourages parents from adding salt when they’re cooking at home for toddlers. Adding salt to products marketed to children is unwise and unnecessary.”
She was particularly concerned with sodium content in Only Organic Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese, Annabel Karmel Cheeky Chicken and Pumpkin Risotto, Heinz Little Kids Ravioli Bolognaise and Annabel Karmel Beautiful Bolognese Pasta Bake.
Most of these meals contain between 200 mg and 300 mg of sodium per serving. According to Dr Stanton, “The Nutrient Reference Value for sodium consumption for Australian children aged one to three years is 200 mg to 400 mg per day. It would be hard for parents to keep their children’s sodium consumption to recommended levels if these types of products are consumed regularly.”
Of the eight products reviewed, Rafferty’s Garden Moroccan Lamb has the lowest level of sodium with 34 mg.
It’s well known that excessive salt can cause high blood pressure in adults, but there’s also evidence that it can affect kids’ blood pressure as well. In addition, feeding children too much salt creates a preference for salty foods, sets them up with bad eating habits, and places them at higher risk for heart disease and stroke in the future.
While it’s quick and easy to grab a prepared meal for a toddler, Dr Stanton recommends encouraging kids to eat what the family is eating. She says, “These meals are not difficult to prepare and could feature as regular family meals.
“It is not a good idea to encourage … children … to consume food that’s different to the family’s normal diet. This can result in the development of poor eating habits.”
Parents’ Voice is calling for Only Organic, Heinz and Annabel Karmel to reformulate their products to include less salt.