(KYTX) - Too much salt... That pretty much summarizes research presented to the American Heart Association this month.
The first study showed nearly 75% of pre-packaged meals and snacks for toddlers have too much salt.
Health experts say about half a teaspoon of salt has nearly an entire day's worth of recommended sodium for kids.
Shanna Muigai works hard to give her daughters healthy food.
"I read labels all the time." she says.
But it's not always easy.
"It is tough to avoid... It's in everything."
Researchers looked at 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% of the daily recommended allowance.
"Keli, where do you go to school?"
Seven-year-old Keli McAnally says she enjoys the fresh, healthy meals her mom prepares.
"I just like salad, ranch and strawberries."
And so do her siblings.
"My sister- she likes tomatoes."
Dr. Valerie Smith with St. Paul Children's Foundation in Tyler has three children of her own.
"Taking the time to make something yourself means you get to control how much salt is in it."
She says preparing fresh meals rich with fruits and vegetables for our children is important.
"I go straight to the vegetable aisle." says Muigai. "That way, when I'm preparing my food, I know exactly what's going in it."
Prepackaged, processed foods may be easier, but they are usually loaded with sodium and can raise children's blood pressure.
"Heart disease is the number one killer of people in the United States." says Dr. Smith. "So, this is something that will affect these children for the rest of their lives."
That's why Dr. Smith says it's important to get kids started on healthy eating habits while they're still young.
"By starting kids out with healthy foods, and limiting the amount of sodium or salt that they take in, they're more likely to spend their whole lives eating less sodium."
And, have less risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. That's something every parent wants for their children.