Can I add salt to my baby food? that’s a very common question that I receive on my blog.
The reply is simple and without doubts: no!
I’ve been reading and trying to keep me updated about the latest medical researches and trends on baby food and baby diet. A lot of things changed through the years, but the NO added sugar, NO added salt rule has not changed, not even a bit 😉
Salt should never be used to flavor your baby’s food (homemade or store bought), simply because your baby’s body doesn’t need a lot of salt to function. The amount of sodium (that’s the mineral contained in salt that our body needs in moderate quantity) naturally present in food is more than enough. Breastmilk and baby formula contain sodium, just the right amount. Too much salt can only damage. From a culinary point of view, any added salt to your baby food will only distract your baby from the real flavor of the food. Seasonal, fresh organic food has plenty of flavor, it doesn’t need any added salt to pop up.
1 – Too much salt will hurt your baby.
Try to imagine what happens when we eat something. The food gets in. Our body picks all the good nutrients that he needs from the food. Whatever is left goes through the blood in the wonderful “recycling factory” that are our kidneys. Our kidneys will filter the blood from the waste and give it back to our body nice and clean. A very salty food is a lot of “cleaning” work for our kidneys. In order to do that they need to be strong and fully developed. Babies’ kidneys are not only, not fully developed, but very fragile. Too much salt in baby food will weaken their kidneys and in the worst scenario, bring to kidney failure and even brain damage.
The sodium that is naturally contained in breast milk, baby formula, fruit and vegetables is fine, the added salt is too much.
2 – Your baby doesn’t know (and so desire) salted food.
If you do not know about something, you do not desire it. Babies are new to any food flavor, they never tasted any!! They have a very delicate and clean palate. The simple healthy baby food that you will prepare them with natural fresh ingredients will already have tons of flavor for them.
In addition to that a very salty diet will cause dependency, creating a salty palate that will be very difficult to reverse in the future.
Babies need only a very small amount of salt: less than 1g (0.4g sodium) a day until they are 12 months. Your baby’s kidneys can’t cope with more salt than this.
Before 6 months: all the needed sodium will come from breast milk or baby formula.
6/12 months: less than 1g salt a day (0.4g. sodium) from breastmilk, baby formula and baby food (without added salt)
1/3 yrs: nothing more than 2g a day (0.8g. sodium), a tiny pinch of salt. nothing more.
That being said the pinch of salt that you are adding in the family meal that you might want your baby to taste will not hurt him/her. If you are preparing a nice meal for the whole family and your baby (older than 6 months) looks at you with an “give me tooo!!” expression, you can let him try a pinch/a teaspoon/a tiny bite without worrying too much 😉
GIVING AN EXTRA TOUCH OF FLAVOR
Remember that there are many ways to make your baby food flavorful without adding salt.
1 – herbs. Basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, mint, rosemary,dill…they will all give to your baby food an extra touch of flavor in a natural way. A tiny amount, nothing more.
2 – spices. Paprika, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, nutmeg, curry. Just a tiny amount will be a lovely addition to your baby food
3 – aged Parmesan cheese. All Italian moms know 😉 Being the Parmesan aged, the amount of lactose is reduced to minimum and one teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese in a baby meal will only give an extra touch of calcium…and flavor 😉
WHAT ABOUT AFTER 12MONTHS?
If before 12 months of age added salt is a big NO, it doesn’t mean that you sprinkle added salt on your toddler food as much as you like. For two reasons:
- your toddler or kid kidney are still very delicate and you do not want them to overwork
- also you do not want your kids to develop a salty taste so that they will want to add an extra pinch of salt to their meals for the rest of their lives.
A moderate use of salt is always better, at any age. Just a pinch, nothing more.