With Salt Awareness Week on 14-20 March 2022, we discuss with an expert the importance of a no-salt or low-salt diet and why it’s crucial for babies and toddlers, as well as some top tips on how to be aware of salt levels in foods and reduce the amount of salt your baby consumes.
Future proofing your tiny tots’ precious palates and helping them be appreciative of the flavours, textures, shapes and tastes of food like fruits and veggies, rather than foods with added or hidden salt, is a really important journey.
Introducing salt to your baby’s diet too early can change their palates and impact their relationship with food in later life.
Why a Low or No Salt Diet is Best for Babies & Toddlers
With Salt Awareness Week this week, we spoke to Emily Day from the Product Development & Innovation Team at Organix, who explains why a no/low salt diet is crucial for babies and toddlers.
Why is it important to avoid adding salt to a baby’s foods and avoid products with added salt?
There is absolutely no reason for salt to be added to any baby or toddler foods. A developing baby’s palate is precious and what we feed our little ones in the early months of weaning can have a lifelong impact on their palate.
At Organix the foods are suitable for a developing babies needs, using high-quality organic ingredients and never adding anything unnecessary. For example, Organix Veggie Mini Mix Ups are packed with organic veggies and provide a perfect finger food or toddler snack for babies and toddlers over the age of nine months.
They are baked not fried and come with the No Junk Promise with no added salt and no artificial colours or flavours. It’s important for parents to feel good about giving foods to their little ones.
Why is it important to help children enjoy natural flavours?
It’s important children grow up tasting and learning about natural flavours of a variety of ingredients so they can develop a healthy relationship with food.
The first 1,000 days of life are pivotal in the development of a child, and it’s important to acknowledge the vital role that nutrition plays in determining long-term health.
How can the foods we choose to feed our babies impact their relationship with food in later life?
When a baby hits the six-month mark, and begin their weaning journey, they are developmentally ready to start discovering new tastes and textures. Setting good foundations from the start will help set little ones on a path to having a healthy relationship with food later on in life.
Whilst being fed with breast or formula milk, their palates will be used to plain flavours with a hint of sweetness, although breastmilk is more variable in its taste as it will have slight hints of some of the foods mum has eaten. So, when a child is first introduced to solids (either through baby-led weaning or spoon-feeding), the introduction of new flavours can be met with surprise and even reluctance – especially foods with a more challenging taste, e.g. bitterness.
To ensure babies grow up accepting a wide range of flavours and different foods, it is important to give them lots of variety from the start. It’s also important that the flavours are not masked with salt or sweetened to make the savoury flavours more acceptable.
As they grow, their food habits become more entrenched as they identify the foods they do and don’t like, so it’s important to get them on the right track from the initial stages of weaning and give them a healthy diet into adulthood.
Top Tips for Being Salt Aware
We also spoke to leading dietician and nutritionist, Dr Frankie Philips, on understanding what is in your child’s food, how to read product labels and how to spot the nasties that are best off avoided where possible. She recommends:
- Look at the list of ingredients – it’s not ideal if it’s lengthy e.g. has ten or more ingredients with names of ingredients you don’t recognise
- Added salt and refined sugar is not necessary for babies and toddlers, so it’s worth checking the ingredients for these
- Stick to natural flavours so your little one learns to love the real taste of food and look out for artificial flavourings listed
- The nutrition panel, which is usually found on the back of pack, is also key to determining whether anything is in excess. For young children, the key indicators are sugars, salt and saturated fat (for example, children under 12 months shouldn’t have more than 1g of salt per day in total)
- Remember introducing foods with added salt, a flavour that is naturally palatable to babies, whose palates are just starting to develop, can also lead to an unhealthy liking for saltier foods
“But it’s not just about the salt, fat and sugar in our food,” explains Dr Philips. “Having a snack is about giving some good nutrition too, so look for nutritious foods in the snack – things like oats, dried fruit and lower salt cheeses, as these provide essential nutrients too.”