Are you serving your baby the same meal the rest of the family is enjoying?
But it is important to watch its salt content until your baby turns one. Too much can overload the developing kidneys. In fact, recent research confirmed that up to 70% of babies get too much salt in their diet.
Salt in baby food may not be a problem if you are following the traditional way to start solids and prepare or buy purees for your baby. However, if you are curious about Baby Led Weaning or plan to use the mixed approach to solids, it is worth learning more about the salt guidelines for babies.
Can babies tolerate some sodium?
In a nutshell, yes.
Babies can tolerate small amounts of sodium it is required for a healthy balance of minerals in their bodies. So do not be worried about the sodium listed on the nutritional label of your formula box.
Before they start solids, babies get some naturally occurring sodium from breastmilk and formula and it’s perfectly healthy for them.
How much salt is too much for babies?
First, let’s look at what is salt made of, so we can make proper use of food labels and health recommendations.
Table salt is a mixture of sodium (40%) and chloride (60%). Food labels list sodium or salt on their ingredient list, depending on where you live. Babies under 1 should not consume more than 1g of salt or 0.4g of sodium per day.
Now, let’s flex our math muscles :).
If a 30g (1oz) serving of cheddar contains 190 mg/0.19g of sodium, it equates to 480mg/0.48g of salt. And this amount makes almost half of the daily allowance for babies!
The next thing to remember is that some foods are very high in sodium even if they do not taste very salty. Because of that, it is pretty easy to overdo salt if you are not making a conscious effort to limit it.
For example, if you serve some shredded cheese at breakfast, a ham sandwich at lunch, and just one (!) olive at dinner, it is likely that the baby will get too much sodium.
It is clear that if you share table foods with your baby every day it is very easy to add too much salt to your baby’s diet.
NOTE: always cut olives in wedges lengthwise, to prevent choking.
Some table foods thigh in sodium
Below is a list of some foods that may be high in sodium. Remember, babies can have no more than 0.4g of sodium or 1g of salt a day:
- Ham and other cured meats – up to 0.3g sodium in a 1 oz serving
- Milk – 0.1g sodium in 1 cup. The high sodium content is one of the many reasons milk is not recommended as the main drink until your baby turns one. A little milk in cereal or baked goods is ok though, so no need to cut it out completely.
- Soy sauce – 0.3g sodium in 1 teaspoon
- Certain types of bread – up to 0.2g of sodium in 1 slice
- Olives – 0.4g of sodium in 2 small olives
- Stock cubes with added salt – about 0.4g of sodium in one serving of prepared soup
- Baked beans – 0.2g of sodium in 1/4 cup
- Bacon – 0.14g of sodium in 1 slice
- Some varieties of tomato sauce – 0.2 sodium in 1/2 cup.
How to reduce salt in your baby’s diet without going back to purees
So should we say no to shared meals and dust off the blenders to start making only baby food?
It is possible to share bonding and fun family meals with your baby and avoid cooking separate meals if you follow a few simple rules to keep the sodium levels in check:
- Add little or no salt to the meals you plan to share with your family. A salt shaker on the table will keep the rest of the family happy!
- Do not use milk as the main drink, only as an ingredient in cooking.
- Cook from fresh, unprocessed ingredients as often as possible.
- If you serve high sodium food to your baby for one meal, be extra mindful of salt at other meals on that day.
- Check the sodium content on the staples you are buying for your family, like bread, stock, and sauces. If you can, find an alternative that is lower in sodium, aiming for 0.6g per 100g (3.5oz) or less. If a lower-sodium alternative is not available, keep in mind the high sodium content of these foods when planning meals.
- Do not add marinade, gravy, or sauce to the food you serve to your baby. For example, when making a stir-fry, put a small portion aside before adding soy sauce to the pan.
What other foods should you be avoiding when feeding the baby? Read my recent post about 10 Foods to Avoid in the First Year of Life.
What about older children?
Older kids can tolerate more sodium but it is still wise to keep it under the recommended amount:
- Children 1 to 3 years: Less than 2g salt or 0.8g sodium daily
- Children 4 to 6 years: Less than 3g salt or 1.2g sodium daily
- Children 7 to 10 years: Less than 5g salt or 2g sodium daily
- Children 11+: Less than 6g of salt or 2.4g sodium daily
Tell me, how do you keep salt in check for your baby? Any other foods that are are high in salt in your country?