Is feta too high in salt or saturated fat for toddlers?
Emily absolutely loves feta cheese (just like her mom). I like to put in on her plate when I am introducing a new foods as I know she will at least eat that if she doesn't try the other foods. Recently I have found myself offering it to her a little too often. I know feta is high in salt but I thought I would have a look at some of the brands on the market to see how the salt in feta contributes to her daily salt intake. I compared a few brands to find the lowest salt containing option so I could give her the healthiest option when I do offer it to her.
In South Africa most nutritional tables on products refer to sodium and not salt. They are not interchangeable. Salt is made up of Sodium Chloride so 1g of salt contains 400mg of sodium. This is important to remember when reading food labels.
Here is a guideline to decide if a products in low, medium or high in sodium.
Low in sodium: <120mg per 100g (0.3g salt)
Medium in sodium: Between 120-600mg per 100g (0.3-1.5g salt)
High in salt: >600mg per 100g (more than 1.5 g salt)
After checking out a few of my local feta brands, I was once again reminded of how high in salt Feta was. Cheese was not included in the recent salt legislation that was implemented in South Africa two years ago to help reduce to salt intake of South Africans so we must be mindful of the amount of sodium in salt.
Lets see how feta contributed to Ems overall daily salt intake.
When it comes to portion sizes I try offer her no more than a matchbox size portion (30g), which is the upper range of a cheese portion for a toddler (15-30g for cheese). I looked at 7 different types of feta on the market and I chose the highest and lowest containing feta products I could find. I focused purely on the sodium content listed in the table and none of the other nutrients as I was just looking at Emily salt intake for the days.
Saturated fat is also high in feta cheese due to the fact it derived from animal origin and range from 8-20g per 10g
Product A: ( lowest) 983 mg sodium per 100g
Product B: (highest) 1845mg odium per 100g
What does this mean?
As you can see from the table above both of these products are considered high sodium containing food as they contain over 600mg of sodium per 100g but what does this mean for Emily?
I worked out that A 30g serving of the highest brand contained 553mg sodium whilst the lowest was 294mg per 30g
According to the American Heart association and other organisation, children aged 1-3 years should have no more then 1500mg of sodium a day (Upper level i.e maximum) . A scientific advisory committee in the UK states no more than 800mg per day and other organisations state an adequate intake of 1000mg per day . Adults should consume no more than 2300 mg of sodium a day.
A 30g serving of the highest sodium containing feta can provide more than a third of the maximum limit for sodium for a toddler for the day. This doesn’t include of other foods like bread , rice, pasta, and cereals that contain sodium already that toddlers may eat. Whilst I don't give Emily many processed and packaged foods it is very likely she will go well over the maximum level on the days I give her feta. Just by choosing the lowest sodium containing feta I cut her sodium intake from a 30g portion feta by almost half. See how important food label reading is especially when it comse to feeding our children. Alot of emphasis nowadays is put on sugar but consuming too much salt can also have damaging effects on our children’s health later in life
So how does this affect Emily and what can I do to ensure I am not overdosing her on feta? She loves it and enjoys it eating it so I don’t want to take away a food that she does enjoy.
1.When I offer Emily feta, choose the one with the lowest sodium content
2. On the days I do offer it , try offer fresh foods the rest of the day as much as possible
2. Crumble it up so it appears a bigger portion on her plate and hence I use less
3. Try alternating with other cheeses like mozzarella and cottage cheese which contain lower amounts of sodium
I want Emily to be able to enjoy all foods but where possible I want to be able to offer her the best option of that food possible and nourish her body as much as I can