“Taste for Salt May Be Shaped During Infancy,” by Amanda Gardner, HEALTH magazine, and published on CNN.com, 12/21/11.
ADULTS AND SODIUM INTAKE
By now most of us have learned to watch our salt intake. This means choosing the “Low Sodium” options at the grocery store, the “Heart Healthy” options on the restaurant menu, and leaving the salt shaker off of the dinner table. Those of us obsessed with nutrition, health, and wellness have also learned to read the list of ingredients on everything we buy to identify what is known as “hidden salt,” the salt added to the bread, crackers, etc. by the manufacturer. We choose lower salt options because we have learned the health consequences of excess sodium.
RESEARCH ON SALT PREFERENCES IN BABIES
Recent research reveals the importance of monitoring the salt content of baby’s diet as well. Recently, researchers from the Monell Center for Advancing Discovery in Taste and Smell reported the results of a study regarding babies and salt. The researchers found that babies fed starchy table foods such as crackers, bread, and cereal, had a much higher preference for salty foods than infants of the same age who were not fed these same foods. The study also reveals that when children reach preschool age, those fed starchy table foods during infancy prefer salty snacks such as potato chips and french fries. The conclusion is that the preference for salty foods may be formed during infancy.
BABY SNACKS AND ADDED SALT
Common table foods such as cereal, bread and crackers are often popular food to give infants when they are learning to eat. They are easy for baby to pick up with her thumb and first finger, developing her pincer grasp, and place into her mouth to chew. Chewing these highly processed foods is quite easy for baby, so they are a popular snack option. However, most of them contain added salt. It is important to choose the healthy options. And of course, ask your pediatrician if you have any questions regarding food choices for your baby.
TIPS FOR KEEPING BABY”S DIET HEALTHY
The researchers found that babies who stayed on a diet of baby food for the first six months, or who received snacks of fruit only in addition to the baby food, were indifferent to the flavor of salt as they grew older. Many parents today make homemade baby food rather than buying it in the stores so they can eliminate added salt and sugar. Many websites and books are available for guidance on this topic. Another tip for parents is to read the ingredients listed on the packaging of bread, crackers, and cereals to locate some with no added salt. Today, one can find salt-free brands in each for these food products. Always carry these healthy options with you, as babies get hungry frequently.