Parents! Rise in Kiddie Kidney Stones Due to Salty Foods

Attention Parents!

A Rise in Kidney Stones in Children Due to Salty Processed Foods?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

As if we needed another reason not to feed our children processed foods.

We’ve talked about the rise in cholesterol, weight, and now…kidney stones in children.

“I thought older men get kidney stones, not kids,” Mother of 11 year-old Tessa Cesario, aspiring ballerina, who was diagnosed with kidney stones last February

Why kidney stones when you thought that it was a middle-age problem? No surprise here. The high salt content in processed and fast foods is contributing to kidney stones in children as young as 5 or 6 years old. As parents, how can we be responsible?  Are we responsible?

What’s going on? Though much of the research is on adult patients, experts believe that kidney stones in children are due to dietary factors. Kidney stones are crystallizations of several different substances in urine. When these substances become increasingly concentrated, kidney stones form.

Major factors? High salt intake and low fluid intake. These risk factors increase the amount of calcium and oxalate in the urine, the culprits in the formation of 40-65 percent of kidney stones.

Where’s all the salt coming from? Salty foods like chips and French fries as well as common lunchbox stuffers; processed sandwich meats, canned soups, pre-packed meals, and energy drinks like Gatorade.

“What we’ve really seen is an increase in the salt load in children’s diet,” –Dr. Bruce L. Slaughenhoupt, co-director of the pediatric kidney stone clinic and the pediatric urology at the University of Wisconsin

Remember our discussion from Fast Food Flops For Tots? Besides being almost always too high in calories, 45 percent of the kids’ meals at the 13 chains studied by CSPI are too high in saturated and trans fat, and 86 percent are too high in SODIUM. And what the salt in these common lunchbox stuffers?

  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Deluxe Turkey and Ham with Swiss and Cheddar, 1 package= 1940 mg of sodium
  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Megapak Pizza Deep Dish Extra Cheesy, 1 package= 1240 mg of sodium
  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Megapak Deep Dish Pepperoni, 1 package= 1250 mg of sodium

*Recommended salt intake for children? Everyone needs some salt– but not a lot!

  • Less than 1g per day from 0-6 month;
  • 1g per day from 7-12 months;
  • 2g per day from 1-3 years;
  • 3g per day from 4-6 years;
  • 5g per day from 7-10 years.

* These are maximum levels– aim for less.

Why the problem with fluid intake? Children aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day—especially not in school. They only drink when thirsty and by that time it may be too little water too late.

    “They don’t want to go to the bathroom at school; they don’t have time, so they drink less,” said Dr. Alicia Neu, medical director of pediatric nephrology and the pediatric stone clinic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

Any other contributors? Soda. Evidence shows that sucrose, found in sodas, can also increase risk of kidney stones in children. In addition, high-protein weight-loss diets, popular with teens, can also contribute to a higher incidence of kidney stones.

Median Age for Kidney Stones in Children: 10 years old

Possible description? While some have mentioned “obesity” as a possible factor, most doctors admit that children with healthy weights can suffer from kidney stones as well.

    “Of the school-age and adolescent kids we’ve seen, most of them appear to be reasonably fit, active kids,” Dr. Nelson said. “We’re not seeing a parade of overweight Nintendo players.”

    “There’s no question in my mind that it is largely dietary and directly related to the childhood obesity epidemic,” Dr. Pope, Nashville

Family History Connection? Yes, 60% of the time. If a child has a family history of kidney stones, it’s very important to recognize their risk, curb high salt consumption, and increase hydration.

How will I know? Children with kidney stones may complain of stomach aches, severe pain in their side or stomachs, feeling sick to their stomach, or even have blood in their urine.

What can I do now? Encourage your children to drink more water both at home and in school. Stay away from processed foods, read the labels on canned soups and look for low sodium varieties or make your own and freeze them in small amounts. Switch soda for more healthful options—some of which are listed here. Get your children on board and teach them the components of a healthful lunch and how to take care of their bodies so that they stay healthy for a long, long time.

What do you think? Do you believe our children are eating too much salt? Is this just the beginning? Are our children’s diets getting worse? Do you have any tips or ideas? Changes you’ve made? Share your story below.

Hey Sugar, Sugar! How much sugar is in my child’s juice?

Since writing several articles on how much sugar children are eating or drinking, I’ve received additional questions from POWerful Parents regarding this topic. Specifically, “how much sugar is in juice?” “how many grams of sugar are in a teaspoon?” and “how much juice can my child have in a day?” Let’s answer these questions today. Please comment directly below the article on because if you have a question other parents probably have the same question– as you can see here!


Hey Sugar, Sugar! How much sugar is in my child’s juice? How much juice can I give to my child?

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

How much sugar is in juice?

It can be confusing. After all, juice comes from fruit and fruit is good for us. It’s one of our food groups! Many juices have antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—so shouldn’t we give our kids a lot of it? In this case, too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

The amount of sugar in juice depends on the brand and type of fruit juice we’re discussing. For example;

  • Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice and Apple and Eve Clear Apple Juice contain 22 grams of sugar per 8 ounce glass. Since four grams of sugar is in a teaspoon then an 8 ounce glass of orange juice would have 5 ½ teaspoons of natural sugar in it
  • Juicy Juice has 26 grams of sugar in an 8 ounce glass, which means that it has 6 ½ teaspoons of natural sugar in it.
  • Minute Maid Fruit Medley (which does have some added ingredients) has 32 grams of sugar per 10 ounce bottle. That’s 8 teaspoons of sugar.

These juices say 100% juice and therefore do not add additional sugar—fruit is simply sweet and contains “fruit sugar” (n : a simple sugar found in honey and in many ripe fruits [syn: fructose, levulose, laevulose]).

The medical world is quick to remind us that “it’s much healthier to eat the fruit rather than drink the juice. For example, a 12-ounce glass of orange juice, which is the juice of two to three oranges, has about 180 calories . But eating one orange is only 80 or 90 calories and it does more to fill you up.” (University of California, San Francisco, Children’s Hospital)

How many grams of sugar are in a teaspoon, tablespoon, and cup?

According to the Sugar Association, these are the number of grams in a:


Teaspoon brown sugar (packed)


Teaspoon white sugar


Tablespoon brown sugar (packed)


Tablespoon white sugar


Cup brown sugar (packed)


For more information on sugar grams to teaspoons (and sugar in common children’s foods) please read my article, Pour Some Sugar on It: How Much Sugar is in My Child’s Food?

What should I look out for when giving our children juice?

First, follow the guidelines for fruit juice consumption (below), second, don’t make a habit of giving children sweetened fruit juices, and third, remember that many of these individual juice bottles contain more than one serving. As you read in my article Sugar Wars: How much sugar is your family drinking?, these drinks can have as much sugar in them as soda.

For example:

Minute Maid Cran-Grape

38 grams per 8 ounce serving/almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. High fructose corn syrup and sugar added

Tropicana Grape Juice Beverage

38 grams per 8 ounce serving/almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. High fructose corn syrup added. *Individual bottle is 15.2 ounces!

Try some alternatives such as flavored seltzer or plain old water. Other alternatives are outlined in my previous Sugar Wars article. Some fruit juice companies also provide some alternative. For example, Tropicana offers an alternative called “fruit squeeze” which is fruit juice flavored water with only 4 grams of sugar per serving.

How much juice should/could my child drink in a day?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’s Guidelines for Fruit Juice Consumption in Children:

  • Juice should not be introduced into the diet of infants before 6 months of age.
  • Infants should not be given juice from bottles or easily transportable covered cups that allow them to consume juice easily throughout the day. Infants should not be given juice at bedtime.
  • Intake of fruit juice should be limited to 4 to 6 oz/day for children 1 to 6 years old.
  • For children 7 to 18 years old, juice intake should be limited to 8 to 12 oz or 2 servings per day.
  • Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits to meet their recommended daily fruit intake.
  • Infants, children, and adolescents should not consume unpasteurized juice.
  • In the evaluation of children with malnutrition (overnutrition and undernutrition), the health care provider should determine the amount of juice being consumed.
  • In the evaluation of children with chronic diarrhea, excessive flatulence, abdominal pain, and bloating, the health care provider should determine the amount of juice being consumed.
  • In the evaluation of dental caries, the amount and means of juice consumption should be determined.
  • Pediatricians should routinely discuss the use of fruit juice and fruit drinks and should educate parents about the differences between the two.

Reference: American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Nutrition. The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics. Pediatrics: 2001; 107(5):1210-1213.

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