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Sodium and Children

Bar graph comparing recommended sodium intake for the general population (2,300 milligrams per day) with actual average intake levels for different age groups. For children ages 6 to 10, the average daily sodium intake is 3,051 milligrams. For children 11 to 13, the average daily intake is 3,117 milligrams. For teens age 14 to 18, the average daily intake is 3,565 milligrams.

Source: What We Eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012.

Nearly 9 in 10 U.S. children eat more sodium than recommended1 and about 1 in 9 children has raised blood pressure,2 a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Lowering sodium in children’s diets can help lower blood pressure and may prevent heart disease later in life.

Tips for Lowering Sodium at Home and On the Go

At the grocery store:

  • Teach your child how to read and understand Nutrition Facts labels, including what to look for when shopping for lower sodium foods.
  • Look for versions of products that are low in sodium, have reduced sodium, or have no salt added.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables. Look for fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables with no salt or sauce added. 

When cooking at home:

  • Use alternative spices or flavors, such as garlic or onion powder, citrus juice, or salt-free seasonings, to replace or reduce the amount of salt you use.
  • Prepare rice, pasta, beans, and meats from their most basic forms when possible. If buying canned beans, look for versions with no salt added.
  • Prepare healthy meals and snacks in advance so that they are ready to eat during the week. Chop and pre-portion fruits and vegetables.

Encourage your children to eat more healthful, lower sodium snacks by making it fun:

  • Have your kids help you freeze fresh fruit for popsicles.
  • Create a low-fat or nonfat yogurt and herb dip for vegetables.
  • Make trail mix using unsalted nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain cereal.

Top 10 Sources of Sodium for People Ages 6–18

  1. Pizza
  2. Mexican-mixed dishes
  3. Sandwiches
  4. Breads and rolls
  5. Cold cuts and cured meats
  6. Soups
  7. Savory snacks (e.g., chips, popcorn, pretzels, snack mixes, and crackers)
  8. Cheese
  9. Plain milk
  10. Poultry

 When eating out:

  • Ask for nutrition information before you order, and select a lower sodium meal.
  • Ask that no salt be added to your meal.
  • Split a meal with your child or another family member.
  • Make takeout and fast food—such as burgers, fried chicken, and pizza—an occasional treat, not a regular event.

Additional Resources

From CDC

From Other Organizations

References

  1. Cogswell ME, Yuan K, Gunn JP, Gillespie C, Sliwa S, Galuska DA, et al. Vital Signs: Sodium intake among U.S. school-aged children—2009–2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014 Sep 12;63(36):789–97.
  2. Kit BK, Kuklina E, Carroll MD, Ostchega Y, Freedman DS, Ogden CL. Prevalence of and trends in dyslipidemia and blood pressure among U.S. children and adolescents, 1999–2012. JAMA Pediatr. 2015 Mar;169(3):272–9.
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