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Low Salt Snacking: Grades 5-8

Learn all about low-salt snacking with SNAP-Ed Senior Nutritionist, Wanda! By the end of this video you will be able to identify low-sodium and high-sodium foods.

How much is too much salt and why limit salty snacks?

Let’s talk science.

Salt is made up of two elements – sodium and chlorine. When the two elements come together, they become sodium chloride. It’s better known as salt. When we limit salty snacks we limit sodium, but we need some sodium in our diet for some very important reasons. We need sodium so the fluids in our body stay where they’re supposed to be and not travel to places that can make us unhealthy. Our nerves help our whole body function and without sodium our nervous system would stop working. Also, those nerves help our muscles move. Without sodium, our muscles don’t move. The problem with sodium is getting too much sodium in our diet.

How much sodium do you need?

Let’s start by looking at how much sodium is in salt. For every quarter teaspoon it’s 500 milligrams. We need 1500 milligrams a day. If you have too much sodium it can lead to high blood pressure which leads to heart attacks and strokes.

One way to tell how much sodium is in the food you eat is to read the Nutrition Facts label. This label will tell you everything that is in the food you are eating. The best way to read this label is to start at the top with the serving sizes. To tell if a snack is high sodium or low sodium depends on how processed the food is. Processed foods are prepared and packaged by food companies and are more likely to have more sodium than other foods.

Thinking of “go, slow, and whoa” foods is a good way to think about food processing. “Go” foods have very little processing. “Whoa” foods have a lot of processing, and “Slow” foods are someplace in between. In short, the closer food is to the “woah” food side the more likely it is to have a lot of sodium because it’s more processed. According to the CDC, over 70% of the sodium in our diet comes from processed and prepared foods.

When we compare a cucumber and it’s sassy cousin the dill pickle, we can see the difference processing makes. The cucumber is picked, washed, and eaten and the dill pickle that started out as a cucumber, has been soaked in a salty brine and canned. Remember, 1500 milligrams of sodium is the most we should have in a day. A cucumber only has two milligrams of sodium, but after it is processed it becomes a dill pickle and it has 1631 milligrams of sodium! The dill pickle has more sodium than you are
supposed to have in a day.

How about popcorn?

Let’s compare two cups of cheese popcorn with two cups of air-popped popcorn. Cheese popcorn is really processed. It has 250 milligrams of sodium. Air-pop popcorn is only popcorn, so it only has 2 milligrams of sodium. Popcorn is a great whole-grain food. The problem is when we add too much salt.

It pays to read labels and know what we are eating. Try to avoid processed foods and remember to add up the sodium in your meals and snacks to keep your sodium to 1500 milligrams per day.

Next time you are looking for a snack, consider grabbing nature’s fast food which is low in sodium.

Bonus question from Wanda:

Do you know why a shark swims in salt water? Because pepper water makes them sneeze.

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