What Is High Sodium for a Toddler?
Toddlers have many developmental milestones to navigate as they transition from infancy to childhood. One important step toward self-sufficiency is graduating from blended baby foods to the kind of everyday fare enjoyed by the whole family. Given that the standard American diet is relatively high in sodium, however, many toddlers – like their parents and older siblings – end up consuming far more than the recommended amounts of sodium.
The adequate intake for sodium for 1-to-3-year-old children is 1,000 milligrams a day. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, this amount is enough to replace any sodium a toddler loses through perspiration. These guidelines are partially determined by other nutrient needs, as well – because sodium occurs naturally in a wide range of foods, a healthy diet that meets the nutritional needs of the average toddler is also likely to deliver about 1,000 milligrams of sodium a day. Like adults, children who consume too much sodium have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure. The American Heart Association therefore recommends limiting your toddler’s daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams or less.
Amount Per Serving
A food that provides more than 210 milligrams of sodium per serving is considered high in sodium relative to a toddler’s daily needs. This means that a ready-to-eat boxed cereal that delivers 220 milligrams of sodium per 1-cup serving counts as a high-sodium food, even if your toddler typically eats less than the standard serving in one sitting. Likewise, crackers that supply 110 milligrams of sodium per four-cracker serving don’t qualify as high in sodium. Such crackers can still represent a significant source of sodium, however, for a toddler who routinely eats two or more servings in one day.
Processed foods – especially canned goods, frozen meals, cheese and deli meats – are notoriously high in sodium. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 1-cup serving of canned, ready-to-eat vegetable soup delivers more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium, while 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains about 460 milligrams of sodium and a toddler-sized snack of five salted pretzels has about 400 milligrams of sodium. Even sweet treats can make a significant contribution toward a child’s daily sodium intake – an 8-ounce glass of whole or low-fat chocolate milk has about 150 milligrams of sodium, as does a 1/2-cup serving of ready-to-eat chocolate or vanilla pudding.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American toddlers get an average of about 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, or roughly 35 percent more than the maximum recommended amount. Children who take in too much sodium – especially if they’re overweight – are more likely to have high blood pressure. Since a high-sodium diet cultivates a preference for sodium-rich foods, children who over-consume sodium are likely to become adults who over-consume sodium, and adults that develop high blood pressure have an increased risk of heart disease. To keep your toddler’s sodium intake under control, choose fresh fruits and vegetables over the canned variety as often as possible and limit his intake of frozen and commercially prepared meals.
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Sodium
- American Heart Association: Most Pre-packaged Meals, Snacks for Toddlers Contain Too Much Salt
- American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide; Roberta Larson Duyff, M.S., R.D.