DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is there any problem with drinking salty soup? Our son has developed a taste for ramen and craves some every day. We know it's high in fat and salt, but since he is 14 and not overweight, should we be concerned about those issues? For a while he was using only half the flavoring packet, but lately he seems to want it saltier. What do you think? -- A.H., Watertown, Wis.
DEAR A.H.: It is not unusual for children and adolescents to develop preferences that oftentimes border on cravings. Regardless of how you try to instill balance in their diets, they insist on their favorites and you begin to wonder if they are getting the nourishment they need. Ramen-type soups provide convenience and a reliable flavor, and the flavoring packets of some brands can be high in sodium. Most, however, are relatively modest in fat.
Because there is brand-to-brand variety, you might be able to find an acceptable soup with better nutritional attributes. If he is stuck on a particular brand that offers little besides noodles and salty soup, I would take solace in the fact that your son will be eating other foods during the day and that they probably don't follow the same format. Another potential fix would be to give an OK on the ramen, but see if he would be amenable to adding some peas, corn or other vegetables to the soup. Perhaps you could strike a deal where points from the consumption of other "balancing" foods would have to be earned before the ramen is given the green light. In the end, keep in mind that these types of desires tend to pass with time.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I recently bought packages of fish fillets that contained farm-raised catfish. When I got home, I noticed that the fish contained ingredients that I am questioning, especially since I watch my salt intake. They include sodium tripolyphosate, sodium hexametaphosate, acid pyrophosate, citric acid and salt. Since when is salt put on frozen fish fillets? All those sodium compounds sound like a no-no for a person with high blood pressure. I hate to toss them, but since I read the ingredients, I have lost my appetite for them. I would appreciate your help. -- J.P. Carlsbad, Calif.
DEAR J.P.: Chemical names can sound intimidating. A fresh or fresh-frozen fish wouldn't be using these additives, but the product wouldn't have much of a shelf life. As for your ingredients, the first four are there to help maintain quality of the product during its shelf life. They are often referred to as sequestrants: To put it simply, they keep the elements involved in spoilage reactions away from each other. This has the net effect of delaying the breakdown that makes food go bad. Although it may not be what you had intended on purchasing, there is no evidence that these compounds are harmful, and having them is certainly preferable to consuming a product that has begun to spoil.
There would only be minimal sodium supplied by these ingredients, as they are only there in very small amounts. Salt is added for flavor, and the amount added would depend on the manufacturer. If this is a packaged, processed fish fillet, the Nutrition Facts label will provide the total amount of sodium per serving, regardless of source.
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