Too Much Salt for Toddlers

Sodium content of prepackaged toddler and baby food too high

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It may be convenient to pick up prepackaged meals designed for babies and toddlers at the grocery store. Yet these meals may contain higher than recommended amounts of sodium.

At a recent conference on heart health, a study was presented that looked at the sodium content of a wide range of toddler and baby meals.

The researchers found that many prepackaged meals for toddlers and babies contain sodium levels well above what the American Heart Association recommends per serving.

"Feed children low sodium foods."

The study, led by Joyce Maalouf, MS, MPH, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, first involved identifying major baby and toddler food brands using a nutritional database.

The database includes nutrition information from manufacturers' websites and from grocery stores that sell their own in-house products.

The researchers analyzed the nutritional content of 572 different food products using a standard, consistent measurement for the serving size across all products.

Then the researchers compared the sodium content in each product to the total number of calories in the product and the weight of the product. Products that contained more than 210 mg of sodium per serving were regarded as "high" in sodium.

The pre-packaged food for toddlers tended to be higher in sodium than the baby food. The researchers found the average amount of sodium in the foods to range from 6.4 mg in fruits and mixed grains to 284 mg in toddler meals.

Out of 76 toddler meals analyzed, 47 of them (62 percent) had sodium levels over 210 mg. The researchers found that, on average, more than 2 mg of sodium per calorie were in each meal or snack.

Some toddler meals contained as much as 530 mg of sodium per serving. This amount equates to about 40 percent of the American Heart Association's daily recommended intake of 1,500 mg.

"Toddler meals and savory snacks had the highest sodium content," the researchers concluded. "Parents and caregivers can read nutrition labels and select lower sodium products."

The researchers also noted concerns about whether giving children high-sodium foods when they are young might contribute to a taste preference for higher sodium foods later.

“Our concern is the possible long-term health risks of introducing high levels of sodium in a child’s diet, because high blood pressure, as well as a preference for salty foods may develop early in life," Maalouf said in a prepared statement.

"The less sodium in an infant’s or toddler’s diet, the less he or she may want it when older."

Past research has shown links between high blood pressure and high amounts of sodium in individuals' diets.

The study has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal where other researchers have been able to review its quality or findings. Therefore, the results should be interpreted cautiously.

The study was presented March 21 at American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions. The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 21, 2013
Last Updated:
August 16, 2013