When I started weaning Jupiter (he is 2.5 now), along with the onslaught of weaning information you get thrown at you, I encountered the NHS guideline that a 6-month-old baby’s RDA of salt is 1g (as in, should not be exceeded). When you put 1g of salt on the scales it looks like a lot. When you start looking at the salt content in all the regular food you buy and eat, 1g is not very much indeed and is easily consumed (even by a baby).
Salt is often a ‘hidden’ ingredient, added to make things more flavoursome. Something without salt will taste bland, and with salt tastes nice (but not necessarily salty). Especially processed foods have much more salt in them than you realise. I wasn’t planning to wean Jupiter on pizza and ready meals, but even if I cooked my own meals without any added salt, there were plenty of other things in which it occurred. For example a single slice of bread has 0.8g of salt.
Often on packaging salt content isn’t listed, but instead you will find sodium. Sodium ? salt. To find out the salt content you need to multiply the sodium content by 2.5. So if something has 0.2g sodium, it really has 0.5g salt in it. It’s annoying because misinterpreting the sodium content can easily make you think you’re consuming less salt than you are.
When weaning it’s easy to get completely salt obsessed, which is tiresome and not much fun. I try to keep an eye on the quantities of foods with added salt (bread, cereals etc) that I give my children and in situations where I am in control (i.e. dinner cooked from scratch) I don’t add salt.
I do still add things containing salt to my cooking such as cheese, soy sauce or capers but only if it makes sense (I don’t cover every meal in cheese… honest). However, now that Zephyr is starting solids (we started at 6 months and follow the baby led weaning route) I will leave those things out for a while.
Some tips for reducing salt in your cooking:
- if you must use salt, use lo-salt
- don’t add salt as a matter of course, taste your dish first
- buy unsalted butter
- get low salt stock cubes
- when you buy tinned goods go for the low/no added salt option (this goes for fish, vegetables, beans etc)
- use ground black pepper, fresh herbs or lemon/lime to add flavour to your food