Salt Cravings in Children

Potato chips. French fries. Heavily salted foods. Does your child struggle with salt cravings? While a high intake in sodium isn’t healthy for anyone of any age, salt cravings in children may indicate more than just a taste for salted snacks – it’s sometimes an indicator of other health issues.

Children who crave salt may do so for many reasons. A diet high in processed foods, which typically contain unhealthy amounts of salt, may have just given your child a taste for the mineral, it can also be a sign of potential health issues.

  • Depleted Minerals: Deficiencies in several minerals often manifest themselves as cravings for the sodium in table salt. Children with salt cravings may suffer from fever or infection or other physical or emotional stress, and are seeking table salt as a means to replenish minerals in their body.
  • Adrenal Issues: Less likely, some children suffer from problems with the adrenal glands, organs that produce several hormones. One of these, aldosterone, regulates potassium and sodium levels in the body. With low aldosterone levels, children lose sodium in their urine, causing them to crave it.
  • Inflammatory Disease: Sometimes salt cravings are a symptom of children who suffer from asthma, food allergies or other conditions that cause inflammation. Cortisol, another hormone produce by the adrenal glands, helps regulate inflammation and, in high concentrations, can cause salt cravings.
  • Sugary Diet: Everyone knows that a high-sugar diet can lead to everything from obesity to diabetes, but it can also create mineral deficiencies. Digesting sugars requires more minerals than other types of food, so salt cravings can indicate it’s time to cut back on the sweets.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. (A McDonald’s Happy Meal has about 850 mg of sodium.) While it’s important to work to cut back on your child’s intake of sodium, it’s important to also recognize that salt cravings in children can be a sign it’s time to talk with your pediatrician.