Scoop on sodium: Some of the easiest foods to serve kids are also the salties

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Soup, pizza, sandwiches -- these are some of the easiest foods to serve kids -- but they're also the saltiest. Registered dietitian, Erica Cleven, joins Real Milwaukee with the scoop on sodium.

“Kid Food” with the Highest Sodium Content

Recommendations: No more than 2300mg of sodium per day

Facts per CDC:

Children get most of their sodium from processed foods and meals eaten away from home (restaurants)

More than 90 percent of U.S. children aged 6-18 years eat more sodium than recommended, about 3,300 mg per day. Puts them at risk for developing high blood pressure and heart disease later in life

Almost half of sodium comes from the 10 foods they eat most often: pizza, breads, processed meats, salty snacks, sandwiches, cheese, chicken patties/nuggets/tenders, pasta mixed dishes, Mexican mixed dishes, and soups.


  1. Worst:
    1. American – 330-460 mg
    2. Parmesan – 450mg
  2. Better choices:
    1. Mozzarella – 105 mg
    2. Swiss – 75 mg


  1. Worst:
    1. Frozen plain cheese pizza – 550-730mg
    2. Restaurant plain cheese pizza – 520-760mg
  2. Better choice:
    1. English muffin pizza at home – 330 mg (will have samples with me)


  1. Worst:
    1. Progresso chicken noodle soup (1 cup) – 690mg
    2. Applebee’s soup of the day – 690-1860mg
  2. Better choice
    1. Homemade – chicken Mexicali soup – 350mg (will have samples with me- see recipe below)
    2. Buy low- or no-sodium soups and add own seasoning

Chicken nuggets

  1. Worst:
    1. Chicken McNuggets 4 piece – 360 mg
    2. Purdue frozen – 490mg
  2. Better choice:
    1. Homemade chicken Tenders – 150 mg (will have samples with me – see recipe below)

Chicken Tenders

1 lb.                Boneless skinless chicken tenders

1 large           Egg

¼ cup            Whole wheat bread crumbs

¼ cup            Grated parmesan cheese

¼ tsp              Paprika

¼ tsp              Garlic powder

Pinch             Salt

Cooking spray or olive oil mister


  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Place a cooking rack (you can use a heat-resistant cooling rack) on top of the aluminum foil and spray generously with cooking spray or olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Lightly beat the egg in a shallow bowl.
  4. In another shallow bowl mix together the breadcrumbs, cheese, paprika, garlic powder and salt with a fork.
  5. Dip the chicken tenders in the egg mixture until they are coated on both sides. Then drop them on top of the bread crumb mixture and sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top of the chicken. Flip the tenders over a few times until the pieces are coated.
  6. Put the coated pieces on the rack.*
  7. Coat chicken tenders generously with cooking spray on both sides.
  8. Bake the chicken tenders for 12-15 minutes, until they are golden brown and no longer pink in the middle.
  9. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. A good one to try is homemade honey mustard sauce (equal parts honey, mustard, and mayonnaise).

**Placing the chicken on a rack allows heat to circulate underneath it, making the breading crispy, not soggy, on the bottom.

Chicken Mexicali Soup

1 teaspoon canola oil

½      cup chopped onion

1       clove garlic, minced

1       can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1       can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1       cup frozen corn

1       can (4.5 ounces) green chilies

1       can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed

2       tablespoons dried cilantro flakes

1       tablespoon chili powder

1       tablespoon cumin

2       cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped

1       cup cooked brown rice

1       tablespoon lime juice

Optional toppings: Guacamole, plain non-fat Greek yogurt, reduced-fat shredded Mexican blend cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes

  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir for 5-7 minutes or until tender.
  2. Add tomatoes, broth, corn, green chilies, beans, cilantro, chili powder and cumin; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in chicken, rice and lime juice. Simmer 10 minutes or until heated through.
  4. Serve in bowls with desired toppings.