Why you shouldn't give your baby salt and sugar before they turn a year old
Though they're intended to add flavor to your baby's meals, excessive salt and sugar may be posing risks to your child's growth and development. Find out more here
Once the time comes to start weaning your baby, a lot of questions will naturally arise: What are the best foods for my baby’s growth and development? What can’t I feed my baby until he or she is a toddler?
First, it could help to ask yourself why you think your baby needs a certain food or condiment and their diet? For instance, salt is often added in an effort to make food less bland, especially when a child seems uninterested in the a specific dish.
Salt is often added to make food less bland but your baby won’t be able to tell the difference
However, this is where parents are often mistaken. Most of the time, the reason why your baby doesn’t seem to find a meal appetising is because he or she has become accustomed to drinking breastmilk and doesn’t really like being fed with something unfamiliar.
So, because kids have only known the taste of breastmilk until they reach six months of age, there is no need to add salt to flavour their food, because they won’t be able to tell the difference anyway.
The harmful effects of adding salt to baby food
A baby’s daily salt requirement is less than 1 gram per day (0.4 g. of sodium)–an amount usually met by formula or breastmilk. Anything more than this amount could be too overwhelming for their little kidneys to process. This may pose risks for hypertension and even, kidney disease as your child grows.
Excessive intake of salt in childhood has also been attributed to diseases as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory illnesses.¹
The SACN ² recommends the following Salt Requirement for babies, toddlers, and children
Many parents prefer homemade baby food but if you’re planning to buy pre-packaged baby food, you need to know how to determine whether a certain type of commercial baby food has a safe salt content.
According to the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), food with more than 0.6 g of sodium per 100 grams is already high in salt. You can compute the salt content by multiplying the amount of sodium by 2.5.
Here’s the recommended maximum salt intake per age, according to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
< 1 g (0.4g of sodium)
< 1 g (0. 4g of sodium)
2 g (0.8g of sodium)
3 g (1.2g of sodium)
5 g ( 2 g of sodium)
11 years and above
6 g (2.4 g of sodium)
While some people believe adding a pinch of salt in baby food is harmless, the danger lies in the fact that what people view as a “pinch” varies.
Generally, a 1 pinch of salt is equivalent to 1/4 gram.
If you add a pinch of salt to three of your baby’s meals a day, it will result to 0.75 mg of salt, on top of the salt your baby’s getting from breastmilk or formula.
How can you add flavour to baby food without adding salt? You can try alternative age-appropriate spices, such as turmeric and cinnamon.
Many parents often misunderstand that no sugar means no sweet foods for their babies, and in so doing they miss out on introducing sweet fruits to their babies that are actually nutritious.
Sugar, in this particular context, pertains to white refined sugar and not naturally sweet fruits or natural sweeteners.
Why isn’t sugar advisable for babies below a year old?
1. Because sugar undergoes a lot of chemical refining processes, it may be harmful to babies and children.
2. Excessive sugar intake can cause tooth decay and dental caries in babies and children.
3. A high sugar intake may deplete the immune system.
4. Studies have also found that kids with a high sugar diet are more predisposed to developing heart disease, obesity, and diabetes later on in life.
What are great substitutes for sugar in baby food?
Even though it’s not necessary to sweeten your baby’s every meal, you can occasionally add natural sweeteners to their meals.
What are natural sweeteners for baby food?
1. You can add any fruit to baby food to make them naturally sweet.
2. Until your baby is about eight months old, you can use dates syrup to sweeten their meals.Dates Syrup (After 8 months).
3. After they turn a year old, you can start using honey as a natural sweetener.
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