A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), points to the fact that eating patterns favoring salt may begin in children as early as infancy and that this may have a serious effect in later life.
According to the HHS HealthBeat of February 27, 2012, Leslie Stein of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, PA, examined the “taste preferences” of babies fed starchy table foods which frequently contain additional salt. The infants who received the starchy foods appeared to like “saltier water” and the salt preference continued as the babies aged. http://content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/USHHS-3059d4
Children introduced to starchy table foods by six months of age had a tendency to like the taste of salt when they were in preschool.” This is significant because “eating patterns which favor lots of salt are associated with high blood pressure and heart disease in adults.” So, parents and caregivers, we are again cautioned to watch our child’s intake of salt–even in infancy. So, if you haven’t been reading the labels, be sure to check the sodium content, especially of processed baby foods. And, if your children are being fed “starchy” table foods, ensure that they are also eating vegetables, fruit, and the right amount of dairy and protein too.
An article in MedPage Today, February 7, 2012, entitled, “Baby’s First Foods Should Be Finger Foods” pointed to the fact that baby-led weaning has had a positive impact on a child’s liking for carbohydrates–foods that form the building blocks of healthy nutrition (those found at the bottom of the food pyramid). The author of the article, Nancy Walsh, noted that there has been a lot of interest and support “for baby-led weaning, which encourages a less controlling parental style and can help ease maternal worries about appropriate feeding.”
Baby-led weaning emphasizes infant self-feeding with solid finger foods from the outset, rather than parental spoon-feeding, but using the self-feeding method exclusively, worries me–parents need to make sure that not too much, nor too little, food finds its way into baby’s mouth. Meanwhile, if parents and caregivers are encouraging baby to feed himself, babies still need to be closely supervised while they eat. A very young child does not know how much they can safely put in their mouth and swallow.
Walsh notes that the study performed by research scientists, Ellen Townsend, PhD, and Nicola J. Pitchford, DPhil, of the University of Nottingham in England, concluded spoon-fed babies preferred sweets. One might say that in health-conscious America of the 21st Century, establishing this sort of pattern for a child will no longer do! This pattern of eating may contain another cause for childhood obesity–or adult Type II diabetes–by establishing a child’s preference for sweets in early life by spoon feeding. So, as parents and caregivers, we are cautioned on both accounts–the salt and sugar content of our babies’ foods. Perhaps, after all the science, it comes back to a wise grandmother’s good advice, “Moderation in everything is best!”
 “Kids on Salt”, HHS HealthBeat, February 27, 2012, http://content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/USHHS-3059d4
 “Baby’s First Foods Should Be Finger Foods”, Walsh, Nancy, MedPage Today, February 07, 2012, http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/Parenting/31059?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_ca