Did you know that most children eat as much salt as adults? This bad habit can lead to health problems, like hypertension, later in life. In fact, many young people are already being diagnosed with hypertension or pre-hypertension. As a parent, it’s your job to take the lead, change your child’s diet and move away from restaurant and processed foods.

Children’s diets should not exceed 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, so parents need to be extra careful about reading labels and choosing the lowest sodium options. It takes the whole family to get involved and move away from processed foods, which are surprisingly high in salt.

Magnesium and potassium, on the other hand, are inversely related to sodium intake, and are protective in blood pressure. A great way to try to decrease the salt – and increase these important nutrients – in your diet is to try to eat natural foods, like fruits and vegetables, which are high in magnesium and potassium.

To paraphrase Michael Pollan, who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food and eat nothing that wouldn’t rot. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Of course, the challenge is time. Most families are juggling work, school and extra-curricular schedules and it’s difficult to buy fresh foods that take longer to prepare. Changing your diet takes some commitment, and fresh food is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be as expensive as many people fear. Brown rice, beans, fruits and vegetables bought in bulk, vegetables bought in season and even frozen vegetables are just as good.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Michele Mietus-SnyderMichele Mietus-Snyder, MD, is a preventive cardiologist, clinical research scientist and director of the Children’s National Bioenergetics Significant Interest Group.

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