Can I put salt in my baby's food?
You should not add salt to your baby's food in the first year as this may damage her kidneys. In the first six months of life your baby needs less than 1g of salt per day, which she will usually obtain from breastmilk or formula milk. Between seven and 12 months this increases slightly to around 1g. Toddlers aged one to three years need less than 2g (this is the equivalent of 0.8g sodium per day).
To stay within these recommendations you should aim to:
. limit salty foods in your baby's diet
. don't add salt during cooking
. Limit processed foods, such as ready meals, pies, biscuits, crackers, soups, gravies, sauces, pizza, tinned vegetables, cheese, bacon and crisps, which are all very high in salt, and offer low-salt alternatives.
Foods made specifically for babies, such as jar foods and infant cereals, have a low salt content, as salt is not added during processing. These should not be confused with foods aimed at older children. These can be highly processed and have a high salt content and are therefore not suitable for your baby.
If you do choose to offer your baby or toddler high-salt foods, it is recommended that you only offer small amounts occasionally.
Salt is usually labelled as sodium on food labels: 1g of sodium is equivalent to 2.55g of salt. Read food labels carefully and aim to choose those foods with a sodium content of no more than 0.1g of sodium per 100g.
Suitable low-salt foods for your baby include fruit, vegetables and salad, plain meat, poultry and fish, eggs, pulses and milk. Whether they are fresh, tinned or frozen shouldn't make a difference as long as they have no added salt (tinned vegetables often have salt added so be especially careful to check these). Rice and dried pastas are also low in salt provided they have had no salt added during cooking. Make a habit of reading food labels, and you will soon get to know which are the most suitable foods to buy.
Babies and children under 11 years old should have less salt than adults, because they are smaller.
How much salt should babies have?
Babies need only a very small amount of salt - less than 1g a day up to 12 months. Their kidneys can't cope with larger amounts of salt.
Babies who are breastfed will get the right amount of salt through breast milk. Infant formula contains a similar amount.
Remember not to add salt to food you give to your baby. And be careful not to give him/her processed foods that aren't made specifically for babies, such as breakfast cereals and pasta sauces, because these can be high in salt.
How much salt should children have?
The daily recommended maximum for children depends on their age:
* 1 to 3 years - 2 g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
* 4 to 6 years - 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
* 7 to 10 years - 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
* 11 and over - 6g salt a day (2.5g sodium)
These are the recommended maximums for children. It is better for them to have less.
If you're buying processed foods, even those aimed at children, remember to check the information given on the labels so you can choose those with less salt.
Remember there is no need to add salt to your child's food.
If children have too much salt, this could affect their health in the future. And it could also give them a taste for salty food, which means they're more likely to continue eating too much salt when they grow up.