Shanna Muigai works hard to give her daughters healthy food.
"I read labels all the time," she said.
But it's not easy. A new study finds that nearly 75 percent of prepackaged meals and snacks for toddlers have too much salt. It's added as a preservative and for flavor.
"It is tough to avoid," Muigai said. "It's in everything."
Researchers looked at the sodium in more than 1,000 foods for babies and toddlers. A product was considered high in salt if it had more than 210 milligrams of sodium per serving or 14 percent of the daily recommended allowance.
"The effect is probably cumulative over time where the longer you have that increased sodium level coming in, the more likely you'll end up with hypertension as an adult," said Dr. Suzanne Kaseta, a pediatrician.
A big concern is children who eat a high sodium diet may develop a lifelong preference for salty foods. As adults, another study finds most people eat almost double the recommended daily amount of sodium.
The American Heart Association says adults should have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. The average American consumes 3,600 milligrams.
Researchers in a third study found eating too much salt contributed to 2.3 million deaths worldwide in 2010 from heart-related diseases. Almost half were people 69 or younger.
Muigai knows the risks and avoids prepackaged foods.
"I go straight to the vegetable aisle," she said. "That way when I'm preparing my food I know exactly what's going in it."
A small step with big health benefits.
A half teaspoon of salt has nearly an entire day's worth of recommended sodium, so health experts says another way to cut sodium is to keep salt shakers off kitchen tables.
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