Poor nutrition is a domino effect, with one bad turn affecting the next. This is especially true for children, who don't yet understand that what they put in their mouths can affect their bodies. Take, for example, salt and soft drinks. Don't seem related? Well, a recent study by researchers at St. George's University of London says that kids who eat less salt tend to drink fewer sugar-sweetened soft drinks. This, in turn, lowers their risk of obesity and elevated blood pressure.
The relationship between eating salt and drinking sugar has been studied before, but the researchers at St. George's University are the first to study this in children. And it's about time. It's no surprise that American children get most of their calories from soft drinks, considering there's a soda machine in most schools.
The study concluded that cutting one gram of salt from a child's diet each day would reduce soft drink consumption by 27 grams per day.
The lead author of this study, Feng J. He, M.D., recommends that parents start checking food labels, reduce the amount of salt used when cooking and take the shaker off the table. Worried your cooking will taste like cardboard? He says that in developed countries, about 80 percent of sodium intake is from salt already added to food by the food industry, so adding salt wouldn't necessarily impact taste. “Small reductions in the salt content of 10 percent to 20 percent cannot be detected by the human salt taste receptors,” He says.
Here are some other simple ideas for reducing the amount of salt in your family's diet:
- Don't bother adding salt to cooking water for rice and pasta.
- Drain and rinse canned beans and vegetables fully before using them.
- Go light on condiments like pickles, salad dressing, mustard, and ketchup.
- Cook with herbs, spices, ginger, garlic and fruit juices.
Check out this herbelicious recipe that's low in salt, but high in yumminess:
Makes 4-6 servings
What You Need:
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 8-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (1 Tbsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (1 tsp. dried)
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (1/2 tsp. dried)
12 oz. dry linguine or spaghetti, cooked
What You Do:
1. Saute chopped onion and garlic in oil until transparent.
2. Add crushed tomatoes, half a tomato can of hot water, and herbs. Simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Served over cooked linguine or spaghetti.
Variation: Add 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms during last 10 minutes of cooking sauce.