Children's Health and Wellness

Sodium and Fluid Restriction for Children

Sodium restriction for children with renal failure

A low-sodium diet or salt restriction may be used to help prevent or reduce fluid retention in your child's body. The amount of sodium or salt allowed in your child's diet depends on your child's medical condition. Your child's doctor or dietitian will determine the amount of sodium allowed in your child's diet. This is usually expressed in milligrams (mg) per day. Some common sodium restrictions include 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 mg per day. With most sodium-restricted diets, high-sodium foods are limited and salt is not allowed in food preparation or at the table.

Foods high in sodium

  • Canned foods (vegetables, meats, pasta meals)

  • Processed foods (meats such as bologna, pepperoni, salami, hot dogs, sausage)

  • Cheese

  • Dried pasta and rice mixes

  • Soups (canned and dried)

  • Snack foods (chips, popcorn, pretzels, cheese puffs, salted nuts)

  • Dips, sauces, and salad dressings

Foods low in sodium

  • Plain breads, cereals, rice and pasta

  • Vegetables and fruits (fresh or frozen)

  • Meats (fresh cuts; not processed meats)

  • Milk and yogurt (these tend to be moderate in sodium)

  • Beverages such as juices, tea, fruit drink/punch, and soda, sports drinks have sodium so these may need to be limited

Low-sodium seasonings

The following low-sodium seasonings may be used more freely than those that are high in sodium:

AllspiceBay leafBasilChili powderChivesCinnamonClovesCurry powderDillExtracts (vanilla)Vinegar

Garlic (fresh)Garlic powderGingerHorseradish sauceLemon juiceLime juiceMaceMarjoramDry mustardNutmegMrs. Dash

Onion (fresh)Onion powderOreganoPaprikaPepperRosemarySageTarragonThymeTabasco

The following seasonings are high in sodium, but can be used in limited amounts.

Limit to 1 tablespoon per meal:

  • Barbecue sauce

  • Cocktail sauce

  • Ketchup

  • Mustard

  • Hot sauce

  • Low-calorie salad dressing

  • Steak sauce

How to reduce your child's salt intake

The following recommendations may help to reduce the amount of salt in your child's diet:

  • Don't use salt in cooking or at the table.

  • Cook with herbs and spices or, if permitted by your child's doctor, use salt substitutes like Mrs. Dash, Nu-Salt, NoSalt, or Morton's Lite Salt.

  • Seasonings with the word "salt" in the name, like garlic salt, are high in sodium. When seasoning foods use fresh garlic or garlic powder, use onion powder instead of onion salt, and try celery seed rather than celery salt.

  • Eat home-prepared meals, using fresh ingredients, instead of canned, frozen, or packaged meals. When dining out, request dressings and sauces on the side. Ask the chef to hold the salt in food preparation.

Type of food


Foods to avoid

Milk, yogurt, cheese

  • Whole, 2 percent, or skim milk

  • Cottage cheese, regular hard cheeses, tofu

  • Puddings, custards, ice cream

  • Processed cheese, cheese spreads

Meat, fish, poultry

  • Fresh or frozen meats, poultry, fish

  • Low sodium canned tuna or salmon

  • Dried beans and peas

  • Soybean or vegetable protein

  • Peanut butter

  • Salted or canned meats, fish (sardines, herring, anchovies), or poultry

  • Lunch meats (bologna, ham, corned beef)

  • Cured meats (ham, bacon, sausage)

  • Hot dogs, dried beef, jerky

  • Commercially frozen entrees

  • Kosher-prepared meats


  • Fresh, frozen, or canned fruits, fruit juices

  • None


  • Fresh, frozen, or low-sodium canned vegetables

  • Sauerkraut, salted or pickled vegetables

  • Vegetables cooked with salted meats

  • Regular vegetable juices

Starches, breads, cereals

  • Potatoes, macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, rice

  • Unsalted potato chips, low sodium pretzels, unsalted crackers, unsalted popcorn, and nuts

  • Whole-grain and enriched breads

  • Pancakes, muffins, French toast, waffles, biscuits, cookies, cakes

  • Whole-grain and enriched cooked or commercially prepared dry cereals

  • Potato chips, slated snack foods or pretzels

  • Commercially prepared rice and noodle mixes

  • Salted breads, rolls and crackers

  • Salted popcorn and nuts


  • Chocolate, cocoa, horseradish, herbs and spices, such as onion powder, fresh garlic, garlic powder, celery seed

  • Flavorings such as vinegar, lemon juice, Tabasco

  • Low-sodium condiments and seasonings, such as Mrs. Dash, Nu-Salt, Morton's Lite Salt, NoSalt

  • Ketchup, chili sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, gravy (limit to 1 Tbsp per day)

  • Low-sodium canned soups, homemade soups

  • Commercially prepared meat sauces

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

  • Onion salt, garlic slat, celery salt, seasoned salt

  • Olives, pickles

  • Relish, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce

  • Dehydrated soup or bouillon, canned soups


  • Butter, margarine, lard, shortening, vegetable oil, mayonnaise

  • Salad dressing (limit 1 Tbsp per day)

  • Salt pork, bacon fat, fat back

  • More than 1 Tbsp. salad dressing per day

Sample plan for 3,000 mg sodium restriction




Orange juice (1/2 cup)Dry cereal (1/2 cup)Toast (1 slice)Margarine (1 tsp)Jelly (1 Tbsp)Low-fat milk (1 cup)

Beef patty (3 oz)Hamburger bun (1)Mustard (1 Tbsp)Ketchup (1 Tbsp)Sliced tomato and lettuceLow-fat milk (1 cup)

Baked, breaded chicken strips, homemade (3 oz)Oven-baked french fries, homemade (1/2 cup)Green beans (1/2 cup)Dinner roll (1)Margarine (1 tsp)Apple juice (1 cup)Frozen yogurt (1/2 cup)

Morning snack

Afternoon snack


BananaCereal fruit bar

Oatmeal cookies (2)Lemonade


Definitions for sodium claims on food labels

The food label reads

What this means


Less than 5 mg sodium per serving


Meets requirements for sodium-free

Low sodium

140 mg sodium or less per serving

Very low sodium

35 mg sodium or less per serving

Reduced sodium

At least 25 percent less sodium when compared to the same product without reduced sodium

Light in sodium

50 percent less sodium per serving when compared to foods with more than 40 calories per serving or more than 3 gm of fat per serving

Unsalted; no added salt; without added salt

  • No salt is added during processing

  • The product it resembles and substitutes for is normally processed with salt

Online Source: Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide, Food and Drug Administration
Online Source: Sodium in Your Diet: Use the Nutrition Facts Label and Reduce Your Intake, Food and Drug Administration
Online Source: KDOQI Clinical Practice Guidelines for Nutrition in Children with CKD, 2008 Update, National Kidney Foundation
Online Source: Low Sodium Foods: Shopping LIst, US Department of Health and Human Services
Online Source: Nutrition for Children with Chronic Kidney Disease, National Kidney Foundation
Online Source: Sodium and Your CKD Diet; How to Spice Up Your Cooking, National Kidney Foundation
Online Source: Caring for a Child with Kidney Disease, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Online Editor: Metzger, Geri K.
Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora, C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Brown, Kim, APRN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2017
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