This week (14-20 March) marks Salt Awareness Week – and too much salt (or sodium) can put your family’s health at risk. We spoke to a doctor who revealed five ways to spot the signs that your family is consuming too much salt.
Whilst we all need a little bit of salt each day to help our muscles function properly – but the amount that we need is minimal and the limit is different, depending on your age.
However, eating too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure in later life and even cause children’s palates to change – so it’s crucial to learn more about your family’s overall salt intake and how to lower it.
Salt Awareness Week: 5 Ways Your Family Can Consume Less Salt
Although many of us are getting better at reducing the amount of salt we eat, for lots of us there’s still room for improvement. Here Dr Helen Hartley, Medical Director from Bupa UK, shares five warning signs your family may be consuming too much salt.
How much salt should my family be consuming?
The maximum adults should have per day is 6g, which is the equivalent to around one teaspoon, while children aged 7-10 shouldn’t eat more than 5g of salt per day, children aged 4-6 should aim to have no more than 3g per day and children aged 1-3 should have no more than 2g of salt per day.
Babies should keep any salt intake to an absolute minimum, as their kidneys aren’t fully developed to be able to process it – keep their intake under 1g per day and remember that formula milk and breast milk contains the right amount in it.
Excessive amounts of salt can creep into your diet in several ways, so it’s important to do what you can to make sure that you and your family aren’t eating over your recommended daily allowance.
5 Signs Your Family Could be Eating Too Much Salt
According to Bupa’s Dr Helen Hartley, these five signs may indicate you, your children or whole family is eating too much salt.
If you find that you or your children are feeling especially thirsty and this can’t be explained by exercise or being recently poorly, it could be due to eating too much salt, as it leads to dehydration. Other signs of dehydration to look out for include your child’s mouth becoming dry, or they complain of feeling tired or dizzy.
Make sure that you review what you’ve recently eaten to identify any high-salt foods or drinks that could have led to dehydration, then cut back on these and be sure to drink more fluids for several days.
Adults should be drinking between 2 to 2.5 litres of fluid each day, whilst children should drink between 1 to 1.5 litres per day, depending on their age – and the fluid should be mainly water. It’s worth remembering that drinks containing caffeine or alcohol can be dehydrating because they cause you to pass more urine.
If you’re eating too much salt, it can affect the frequency and colour of your urine. Eating lots of salt puts extra pressure on your kidneys to process and clear it out of your system, which can lead to you peeing more often than usual.
You can test whether you’re eating too much salt and not drinking enough by simply looking at the colour of your pee or if you notice your child’s pee colour is dark. If you’re well-hydrated, it should be a light yellow colour. The darker your pee is, the more dehydrated you are.
Think about what your children are eating and if there’s anything that’s particularly salty that could be making you pee more. Be sure to keep an eye on nutritional labels, swap out to low-salt alternatives where possible and reduce how much salt you’re adding to cooking to keep you within your recommended daily allowance.
Craving salty foods
If you find your child is craving foods like crisps, cheese and pizza, it could be a sign that they have been eating too much salt. Although salt can cause dehydration, our bodies can crave more of it when we’re in a dehydrated state.
Review your family’s diet to see what you can swap out to help you top-up your hydration levels. Along with drinking more water, incorporating foods like fruit, vegetables, and nuts into your diet to help balance your body’s fluid levels.
If you notice that you or anyone else in your family is gaining weight, despite not eating more sweet or fatty foods than usual, it could be a sign that your salt intake has increased.
Be sure to monitor your child’s salt intake and set a good example with your own salt intake to keep your blood pressure and weight within the healthy range.
Some foods are naturally saltier than others – whilst it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy them, it’s better to eat smaller amounts of them, more infrequently and on days where your salt intake is otherwise very low.
Foods like cheese, bacon, ham, gravy granules, prawns, salted and dry-roasted nuts, stock cubes and pickles all contain high amounts of salts, so make sure that these are enjoyed as a treat to avoid exceeding your daily limit. You could opt for something like Knorr’s Low Salt Stock cubes to make it easier to enjoy certain meals without the added salt.
Other foods that tend to be high in salt are those that are pre-packaged or processed. Keep an eye on the nutritional labels on your favourite foods and opt for low-salt alternatives to help keep your daily intake down.