As a followup to my "Cooking Healthy for Kid" post, a critical study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on children's over-consumption of salt raises red flags for me. This study, which was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics, profiled 6,200 kids ages 8-18 and focused on the sodium content of the foods they ate. The kids were asked twice over several days to detail all the foods they'd eaten the previous day, and the researchers then calculated salt intake from their answers. Not too dissimilar from adults, many of those with a high consumption of sodium (overall, 15 percent) had prehypertension or, worse, high blood pressure. The alarming thing for these children is that this more likely than not will continue and worsen in adulthood.
I am extremely sodium-sensitive, and consequently use very little salt when preparing my daughters' meals. Instead of salt, I use fresh-ground pepper and fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley, oregano, and -- when appropriate (turkey burgers, grilled chicken breast) -- a bit of Dijon mustard. Where sodium is essential for normal body function, like many things in life, if some is good, more is not better!
It's easy enough to limit your sodium consumption when you're preparing your meals and your snacks. Read the nutrition facts on packaged foods before you buy them. Often, the "healthy options" -- organic chicken hot dogs, or even turkey bacon -- are loaded with sodium (300-400 mg sodium).
That doesn't mean avoid them, rather use moderation when serving it to your children. The problem really arises for kids that eat a lot of fast food and snack on chips, pretzels, and most crunchy, tasty snacks. The quintessential American fast food meal, McDonald's Big Mac and fries, has almost 1300 mg of sodium! Consider this, that's just for one meal which is often accompanied by large soft drinks, chips, candy, etc. In a "nutshell," this is the reason that childhood obesity rates in America are dangerously on the rise. Salt is the cheapest way to enhance flavor. Our grandparents and some of our parents subscribed to this method of enhancing the flavor of their meals.
The message is clear. Parents need to lead by example. Make smart choices when it comes to what both you and your family eat. I have taught my daughters how to eat healthfully as well as the importance of exercise -- be it dance, walking, soccer, scooter or swimming. With all that we know, and all that is easily available to us, striving to be healthy and live balanced lives should be attainable to all.
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