Freshman year of college, I was introduced to a snack that should have been disgusting but was oddly addictive and tantalizing: saltines and vanilla icing. The overly sweet spread balanced the mounds of salt on each cracker, creating a salty sweet combination few college coeds could resist. Now before you wrinkle your nose, dismissing the treat with the haughtiness of an unbeliever, think about the chocolate covered pretzels you can’t turn down and the other cloyingly sweet temptations that can only be paired with a hearty dose of sodium. Salt and sugar go together. Our taste buds link the two extremes naturally. So it’s logical to assume that reducing one would reduce the other. In fact, it’s so logical that it’s not an assumption; it’s fact.
A study of 1,688 boys and girls between the ages of four and 18 found that those who consumed the least amount of salt also consumed the least amount of sugary soft drinks. Those who consumed the most drank the most. Therefore, researchers concluded that a reduction in salt would equal a reduction in sodas, which, in true domino fashion, would equal a reduction in obesity. Cutting salt intake in half would eliminate two soft drinks per week from the diet and thus about 250 calories. Added up over the course of a year, that’s 13,000 calories. 3,500 is a pound.
So if you want to eliminate a few needless calories from your and your child’s diets, cut back on salt. Choose the low-sodium products, resist the urge to sprinkle a little extra salt into the pot and take the saltcellar off the table. You’ll find that the household sweet tooth will have been quieted and that the weekly weigh-in won’t be quite as traumatizing. And if you think that you can’t do it, know that it only takes a small change to make a large difference, a change that your taste buds will probably never notice.
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