Heart Smart: Sodium Reduction in Communities Program

The Rockland County Department of Health is one of four counties to receive a Sodium Reduction in Communities Program Grant from the New York State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2016 and 2021, staff in the Health Department's Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Program will provide technical assistance and program materials to participating early childhood education centers and colleges in Rockland County to improve the nutrition environment. The program aims to improve policies, practices, and environmental supports that increase access to and availability of lower sodium foods. 

Why is lowering sodium important?
While some sodium is needed for our bodies to function properly, eating a diet high in sodium (salt) can lead to health problems such a high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts individuals at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. For information on how much sodium you should eat, click here.  

Where does sodium in our diet come from?
75% of sodium that we eat comes from pre-packaged, processed and restaurant foods, not from the salt shaker. It is important to read the nutrition facts labels and compare food labels to limit eating high in sodium processed foods.  For tips on lowering sodium in your own diet, click here.

Why lower sodium at child care centers?
Lowering sodium for young children who are of child care age is important because this is a time when their palates and taste buds are forming. If children are exposed to high salt foods while they are younger, they are more likely to continue to eat these foods as they get older. This high salt habit can lead to high blood pressure and other health issues such as obesity, heart disease, and stroke. Children eat two - three meals in child care settings which makes them prime locations to provide interventions and expose children to lower salt foods along with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This early exposure can increase the chances that they will make healthier choices as adolescents and adults.

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Chefs and teaching staff from child care centers can receive training on Sodium and Heart Health, policy development and implementation, and food purchasing.

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Participating sites can  receive kitchen equipment to help lower sodium! Here is Mr. Rupert Davis from Kidsnett Child Care Program cooking ground beef in his new Instant Pot, which saves him time and allows him to cook from scratch rather than serve pre-frozen meals!

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Chef Elizabeth from the Haverstraw Head Start made dressings from scratch. Preparing foods from scratch is one way to lower sodium.



Why lower sodium at colleges?
College is a time when adolescents are exposed to a larger variety of foods and a time when they begin making their own food choices. Food offered and promoted to students in college cafeterias are often high in fat, salt, and calories. With pizzas, tacos, burgers, deli sandwiches, and desserts at students' fingertips for every meal, making a healthier choice can be tough. By collaborating with college food service staff, we can create more access to lower sodium foods, promote healthier choices, and educate students on why sodium intake is important now and later on in life.

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Colleges provide Flavor Stations featuring Salt-Free Seasonings to their students to encourage putting down the salt shaker and instead adding flavorful herbs and spices!

 

 

 

For more information about the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program call the Health Department at (845) 364 - 3864 or email guerrac@co.rockland.ny.us


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For more information, check out the American Heart Association.