One of the great things about starting your baby off on solids is that they aren’t aware of the flavour of salt, so your baby won’t think their food is too bland if it doesn’t have salt. Rather, many babies enjoy the “natural” flavour of food – whether spicy, earthy, fresh or tart. If you repeatedly offer salty foods to your baby, they may start to prefer these foods, including processed foods, over more natural produce.
And, as with adults, too much salt is bad for babies because it can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease later in life. In fact, salt is even worse for little ones because their kidneys can’t filter high levels of sodium. In rare cases, excess salt could even result in your baby landing up in the emergency room.
How much salt is safe for your baby
Healthline recommends that you don’t add any salt before your baby is 12 months old. Before then, your baby will receive enough sodium (the core mineral in salt) from breast milk or formula and complementary foods.
Your baby may also consume small amounts of salt when they taste from your plate and paediatric dietitian and co-author of Weaning Sense Kath Megaw says that’s perfectly fine. When it comes to “how much” salt you should allow your child after one year of age, she says that rather than focusing on a number, focus on reducing the amount of salt your family as a whole consumes so that your child can share your meal. “As your baby grows and they eat more volumes of family foods, they will naturally get more salt in,” she explains.
Use herbs and spices to add flavour
Low salt doesn’t have to mean boring. Feel free to add other spices and herbs to your baby’s food to entice their palate and add interest. You may think your baby isn’t ready for such adventurous flavours, but the Weaning Sense team reminds us that your baby will already have started to experience tastes and flavours in your womb, through your breast milk. In addition, introducing your baby to herbs and spices early on could help to prevent picky eating later on in life. Start with “gentle” flavours such as cinnamon, garlic, nutmeg, rosemary and cumin.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Puréed carrots with tahini and nutmeg
Tips for limiting salt in your baby’s diet
Here’s some additional advice from Meg Faure and Kath Megaw, co-authors of Weaning Sense:
- Fresh is best, but when using frozen or tinned food, be sure to look for brands that don’t include added salt (or sugar, for that matter).
- If you do use salt, wait until your baby is a little older and then stick to sea salt, which contains additional minerals and less sodium than regular table or kosher salt.
- Avoid buying salted nuts – rather choose raw nuts and seeds.
- Check the label when buying premade baby food. Many jars contain added ingredients, including salt. The ingredients list identifies the ingredients in order of how prevalent they are in the food – so the more of a certain ingredient, the higher up it will be on the ingredients list. If you do choose a food with added salt, make sure that it is only a tiny amount, and beware of other names of salt, such as sodium, on the label.
- To be extra cautious, choose single-ingredient foods. Premade “dinners” are usually more likely to contain salt.
For more advice on weaning, listen to episode 19 of the Sense podcast – Weaning with Sense.