How much salt is too much for a baby?

Babies should never be put on a diet


IS SALT REQUIRED to make a six-month-old baby’s meals appetising? Will it affect the kidneys?

A pinch of salt is okay in the absence of a congenital kidney problem. However, a six-month-old does not require as much seasoning as adults do in their sambars or sabzis. Just a pinch of salt will do.

Taste is largely a matter of cultivation. If you make it a practice to serve food without salt or sugar from the start and at every meal, then chances of your child accepting them are higher. Studies have shown that babies that are given healthy options (diets that are low in salt/sugar and high on fruits and complex carbs) at infancy go on to develop a taste for healthier meals in adult life, too. On the other hand, if meals high in salt (instant noodles), oil (chips) or sugar (cream biscuits) form a part of regular diet, chances are that your baby demands them at every meal.

Babies should never be put on a diet. But cutting out unhealthy options at a time when childhood obesity and diabetes have become common is a wise move. For underweight infants, inclusion of salt (or even sugar) might increase their intake of food and help gain some extra calories.

Elders of the previous generation added salt, sugar, spices and condiments to a baby’s meal. They believed that this helped a baby develop a mature palate quickly. However, each baby is different and may be eager or reluctant to try new flavours. Be patient in trying different flavours and textures and at the same time be consistent in offering preferred ones so that your baby’s equation with solid food improves with every passing day.

I cut salt, sugar and any kind of masala out of my child’s meals until she was one. However, by the time she was two, she had developed a wide palate and was eager to experiment all flavours. It really does depend baby to baby.

Do note that international norms recommend no more than 1g a day of salt for babies below one. It is believed that the kidneys of babies this age cannot process salt effectively. Guidelines also recommend that added sugar (other than those naturally present in food) be entirely skipped for babies as long as possible. This helps prevent tooth decay and a sugar rush in babies.

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