How much salt should children have?

Are your children consuming too much salt? Find out which foods have a high-salt intake and easy, healthy swaps from leading dietitian Emer Delaney. 

Child holding salty chips and soft drink

Sodium is an essential mineral that is required for the body to work properly and the most common form of sodium is table salt. It is well known that a high salt intake is associated with raised blood pressure in adults. Recent evidence has confirmed that a high sodium intake is associated with blood pressure in children and adolescents. This is an interesting finding as high blood pressure is linked with cardiovascular disease. It is therefore important that children minimise the about of salt in their diets to lower blood pressure and prevent the development of hypertension (high blood pressure).

How much salt should my child have?


The maximum amount of salt children should have depends on their age:

Age

 

Salt

Sodium

< 1 year

< 1g per day

 

0.4g per day

1 to 3 years

< 2g per day

 

0.8g per day

4 to 6 years

< 3g per day

 

1.2g per day

7 to 10 years

< 5g per day

 

2g per day

11 years and over

< 6g per day

 

2.4g per day

 

Foods to avoid or cut down on

Most of the salt children eat is already present in food such as bread, crumpets, cereal, and cheese. These foods also provide important nutrient such as carbohydrates, protein, calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins that are needed for growth and development so avoiding them completely is not recommended. Processed meats, including bacon and ham, takeaways, and some snack foods, such as crisps and biscuits, are the foods that should be reduced as they often contain high levels of salt. Healthy food swaps should be advised as the quickest and easiest ways to reduce your child’s salt intake:

Top tips and simple swaps

  • Limit packaged snack foods such as crisps, biscuits, nachos and cocktail sausages to once a week or special occasions. Instead, offer fruits, vegetables sticks, yoghurt, unsalted popcorn or nuts (if your child is old enough). Check out our healthy snack ideas for kids.
  • Cook meals using fresh ingredients without salt and use lemon, herbs and spices to flavour food instead. You'll find plenty of meal inspiration with our favourite family meal collection
  • Swap tinned soup for homemade options – they’re quicker to make than you think. Discover our best soup recipes for kids.
  • Limit the use of stock cubes, bottled sauces, soy sauce and marinades and cook from fresh. If time is a challenge, batch cook sauces and freeze. They can be used immediately after a busy day and you will save both time and money. You will find our top family batch cooking and freezable recipes here. 
  • Instead of a ham and cheese sandwich, try the following sandwiches: chicken with salad, egg mayonnaise or smooth peanut butter if not allergic.
  • Reduce takeaways to an absolute minimum and only have occasionally – check out our homemade family fakeaways for inspiration. 

This article was last reviewed on 18 September 2018 by Dietitian Emer Delaney.

Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of the UK's top teaching hospitals and is currently based in London.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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