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We Don't Need to Add Salt to Food

Table salt is made up of sodium and chloride, 2 chemicals that are essential for health but only in very small amounts. Sodium and chloride occur naturally in many foods and it’s not necessary to add them to prepared foods. A balanced diet based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans ( contains more than enough sodium to meet our daily requirement.

  • Americans on average eat about 1 to 3 teaspoons of salt a day (adding up to between 2,300 and 6,900 mg of sodium).
  • The average daily sodium requirement is much less, ranging from 1,200 g of sodium for 4- to 8-year-old children to 1,500 g for 9- to 18-year-olds. This amounts to about half a teaspoon of salt a day.

We add salt to food from force of habit or because we’ve learned to like a salty taste. Adding moderate amounts of salt to food for taste is acceptable, but excessive amounts of salt should be discouraged as the child’s taste preferences are formed early and large quantities of sodium may lead to high blood pressure later in life. So it’s a good idea to train children to avoid unnecessary salt. One way is to keep the saltshaker off the dinner table. Taste food before you add salt and other seasonings. At the same time, keep in mind that most of the sodium in our diets does not come from salt added at the table or while cooking. Almost 80% of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods like bread, soups, salty snacks, fast foods, canned foods, or processed meats.


 High Sodium Packaged Foods

Serving Size Sodium (mg)
Maruchan Instant Lunch Ramen Noodles with Vegetables, 1 package  1,120
Progresso Classics Hearty Tomato Soup, 1 cup  1,110
Celeste Pizza for One, Original Cheese, 1 pizza  1,090
Giant Spaghetti Rings, 1 cup  970
Oscar Mayer Lunchables Deluxe Ham & Swiss & Cheddar, 1 package  930
Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine Macaroni and Cheese Frozen Dinner, 1 package  630
Item Sodim (mg)
Cheese fries with ranch dressing 4,890
House Lo Mein 3,460
Denny’s Meat Lover’s Scramble (2 eggs scrambled with bacon,
ham, sausage, and cheddar cheese)
Beef with broccoli with rice 3,150
Buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks 2,460
Spaghetti with sausage 2,440


Adapted from Center for Science in the Public Interest, and, accessed June 2, 2011.


Last Updated
Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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