A certain amount of sodium is good for us, even essential to our health. Too much sodium, however, is an ingredient responsible for high blood pressure – a contributing factor for strokes and heart disease. Most Canadian adults consume more sodium than is necessary and our children are no exception.
Many dietary surveys indicate that children are increasing their risk of developing high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease through the amount of processed foods they consume. Processed foods can have high sodium content and account for a high percentage of our daily sodium intake.
Not all processed foods are bad choices, though. Some of Canada’s restaurants, retailers and processors are tackling this health issue by offering consumers healthier choices. New easy-to-read labels and icons indicating lower sodium alternatives have become a sign of an emerging corporate-consumer responsibility foh health.
But, if you are a busy parent juggling work and family schedules, it can be hard to keep an eye on sodium content. This is particularly true when deciding what to put in those brown-bag lunches. With so many lunches to pack throughout the week, it can be tempting to load them with convenient, pre-packaged food. Planning ahead, and involving our children, can be a fun way to eat healthier and eat more fresh food. Here are some tips:
- Use a calendar or weekly menu planner to jot down your ideas.
- Have fun preparing your grocery list by having children identify foods as close to the farm as possible (i.e. fresh vegetables, meats, dairy, etc).
- Take your children grocery shopping and encourage them to read the labels. Most packaged foods have a “Nutrition Facts” panel which will identify the sodium content. Have children pick out the brands with the lowest sodium content.
- Get your children involved in making their brown-bag lunches. The more involved they are, the more likely they are to eat it.
One sodium reducing tip is to cook more! Roasting two whole chickens for a Sunday dinner provides extended options for meals the next day, as well as control over their sodium content. Skinless, non-breaded chicken strips with a few tablespoons of home-made hummus are low in sodium and a great source of protein. A yummy choice for a brown-bag lunch!