Everyday foods making toddlers eat too much salt

More than half of toddlers are eating salt beyond the recommended daily upper limit.
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01.Salt intakes excessive for toddlers

A toddler eats a piece of bread

More than half of Australian toddlers are eating excessive amounts of salt due to high salt content in everyday foods such as bread, cheese, breakfast cereal, soup, processed meats and yeast spreads.

New research from Deakin University found 54% of 18-month-old children had salt intakes higher than the upper level of 2.5gms per day recommended for one- to three-year-olds. The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, looked at the diets of around 300 children over a nine-month period and found that salt intakes doubled from ¼ teaspoon (1.2gms) at nine months of age to ½ teaspoon (2.7gms) at 18 months.

Co-author of the report, associate professor Karen Campbell, says a diet high in salt, even at an early age, can increase blood pressure and put them at risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease later in life. 

The study also found that the foods responsible for the salt intake in kids under the age of two were the same culprits responsible for contributing to the high salt intake in adults diets.   

CHOICE investigated hidden salt in kids' food last year, and found that out of 240 aimed at kids, 49 products were high in salt, 140 had moderate levels and only 48 were low in salt. 

“Parents naturally want to do the best by their children, however because salt is added to many of our daily basic foods, they are unintentionally feeding them diets too high in salt,” Campbell says.

Parents are unintentionally feeding their children diets too high in salt
- Associate professor Karen Campbell

She argues the findings highlight how important it is to reduce the amount of salt in our everyday foods. “Most children’s salt intakes are high and the lion’s share of the salt comes ‘hidden’ in everyday family foods.

“After reducing smoking, reductions in our salt intake are likely to be the most effective way to reduce heart disease across the population.”

How to reduce your child’s salt intake

Swap out foods high in salt for their lower-salt counterparts:

  • High-salt breakfast cereals for low-salt cereals (should have less than 300mg of sodium per 100g)
  • High-salt breads for lower salt bread (should have less than 400mg of sodium per 100g)
  • Processed cheese slices for cheddar cheese
  • Processed meats such as sausages or ham/chicken slices for fresh meats such as grilled or roasted meats/chicken/fish
  • High-salt yeast and cheese spreads on breads and biscuits for low-salt toppings such as no-added-salt peanut butter, tomato, avocado or cooked lean meats/chicken/fish
  • High-salt bread or biscuit-based snacks for snacks of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in salt.

Read more about Nutrition and Children's Foods.



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