Sunday, 9 March 2014

Low-Sodium Diet

Eating a diet that is low in sodium is harder than one might think. We don't keep a salt shaker on the table and I don't add salt to my cooking. I use mostly dried herbs for seasoning, and most of what we eat is homemade--much easier to control salt intake. I read food labels and do my best, almost all the time, to have my kids eat fresh fruit and vegetables rather than packaged, ready-made snacks.

As a new mom, sugar was my biggest concern when feeding my kids. Until my eldest son was diagnosed with childhood nephrotic syndrome, I worried more about sugar and barely glanced at the sodium content on food labels. While I still avoid sugary snacks for my kids, salt has become equally as unwanted for my family. The trouble is, food doesn't have to taste salty to actually be loaded with the unhealthy stuff.

Let me backtrack and explain why we attempt a low(er) sodium diet in our home. Salt leads to fluid retention, a symptom of nephrotic syndrome. When protein leaves my son's body in his urine, his organs and tissue begin to swell with fluid. As it was explained to me by our specialist, salt exacerbates the problem during a relapse of the syndrome. Currently, we are fighting off a relapse and may have to resume prednisone  treatment. Just reading the list of side-effects from this life-saving medication makes me panic inside. Panic inside. But if it turns out that he goes on it again, we resume our calcium and vitamin D supplements, maintain our healthy lifestyle, and be grateful that there is a treatment for this syndrome. And we hope he outgrows it soon. In the meantime, eating as little salt as possible while he has protein in his urine is a no-brainer. But, like I said, it's harder than you think.

The other day, searching for a snack for the boys, I reached for salted peanuts. I checked the label. In one third of a cup (about what I would have given them each) there is 6% of an adults daily sodium. Not bad, I thought, but spied some butter toffee nuts left over from Christmas. 13% of an adult's daily salt intake in the same amount of nuts. And they don't taste salty. Where I am headed with this, you can probably guess, is we have to really check the labels on everything we feed our families. Since that day I have looked for more information on low-sodium diets. I read on one site that for a snack to be considered "low-sodium" it should have fewer than 140 mg salt/serving. Back to the nuts. A third cup of salted nuts has 150 mg of salt, while a third cup of butter toffee nuts has 320 mg of salt. Blow my mind. They had an orange instead.

I am very interested to hear from parents of children with nephrotic syndrome. If you would like to start a conversation, please comment and we can email from there. We are less than a year into this and quite possibly relapsing now. I am grateful that there is a treatment, so grateful, but I would like to hear your experience with prednisone. My thoughts very often turn to those families that might not find such a simple treatment for a sick child, and my heart breaks for them. Go hold your babies close.


  1. You're right, those hidden ingredients can be really shocking. Processed breakfast cereal is often quite high in salt, and things like bread as well. I do hope you son's condition improves soon without the need for medication. It sounds as though you are doing exactly the right things for him.

    1. Thank you for the comment, CJ. I enjoy your blog so much; thanks for stopping by :) Unfortunately we did have to start prednisone--but he is responding well and this will be a much shorter duration than the last. I confess I'd never thought to check the salt in bread, but I will now! Have a great day!

  2. maggie.danhakl@healthline.com4 April 2014 at 21:10


    Healthline just published a visualization of your daily value of sodium. In the chart, you can see what half of your DV of salt looks like for 30 foods:

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    If you do not believe this would be a good fit for a resource on your site, even sharing this on your social communities would be a great alternativeto help get the word out.

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    Maggie Danhakl • Assistant Marketing Manager
    p: 415-281-3124 f: 415-281-3199

    Healthline • The Power of Intelligent Health
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  3. Thank you, Maggie--I'm so glad you stopped by! I have checked out the chart...shocking how much sodium is in foods that we eat. I think it will be be helpful visually to show my son how much salt is in what he would like to eat. Perhaps it will help him decide noodles are not "his favorite food in the whole wide world!". Thanks again for the information!