Salty Dogs Walk the Plank

Send those salty dogs off the plank!Watching your school lunch change? Here’s a list of everything that you need to know about the scurvy scallawags that are getting the boot from your menu, especially the salty dog known as sodium.

What is Sodium?

Sodium is a key ingredient in table salt. Many health officials label salt as the blackest pirate that ever sailed the seas of your health, and it is the sodium part of salt that gives it this bad reputation. Sodium acts as a flavor enhancer and a preservative, and you’ll find it in most canned and frozen foods. Of course, it’s also lazing about in the salt shaker, but most of the sodium in people’s diets comes from frozen and canned foods. Too much sodium can throw your system out of whack, which is why it’s walking the plank.

What Makes Sodium a Salty Dog?

Sodium is a scurvy scallawag that can affect your health. Its biggest impact is on your heart. Not in the lovey-dovey way, but in the way that can make you sick. You see, eating too much sodium can increase your blood pressure. When your blood pressure gets too high, it makes your heart work too hard, and could affect your memory later in life. According to the CDC, “preventing the gradual rise in blood pressure during childhood and adolescence through dietary interventions such as sodium reduction could result in substantial health benefits as children enter adulthood.”* Less salt is good for your health -- especially your heart and brain.

Make Salt Walk the Plank!

Sodium reduction is a key part of the new school lunch guidelines, but sodium will still be removed from the lunch menu crew gradually, so that the rest of the mateys can get used to the changes. Here’s the official timeline...

  • By July of 2014, school lunches must contain...
  • < 1,230 mg sodium in meals for grades K-5
  • < 1,360 mg sodium in meals for grades 6-8
  • < 1,420 mg sodium in meals for grades 9-12
  • By July of 2017, school lunches must contain...
    • < 935 mg sodium in meals for grades K-5
    • < 1,035 mg sodium in meals for grades 6-8
    • < 1,080 mg sodium in meals for grades 9-12
  • By July of 2022, the final targets will be in place and school lunches must contain...
    • < 640 mg sodium in meals for grades K-5
    • < 710 mg sodium in meals for grades 6-8
    • < 740 mg sodium in meals for grades 9-12
  • Will the Crew Miss Sodium?

    While the absence of so much sodium from the crew may feel a bit odd at first, lunches might actually taste better without it. There are plenty of other ways to add flavor to foods, like with fresh herbs, dried herbs, fruit zest, flavored vinegars, etc. Try them all, then pick a favorite first mate to keep on your lunch plate.

    * From https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/sodium/docs/school.pdf, accessed 1/3/13

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