Tips for Cutting Back on Sodium Consumption
Do you find yourself craving salty foods? You’re not alone! Salt and salt-based seasonings are some of the most popular ways Americans “spice up” food. And although some sodium in our diet is okay, the hard truth is that many Americans are eating 3-4 times more than the recommended amount per day.
How much is too much when it comes to salt?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, healthy individuals should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. That is about one teaspoon. While that’s the daily recommended intake, the American Heart Association says the ideal for many adults is closer to 1,500 mg per day. This is especially critical for those with certain dietary restrictions or chronic health conditions.
Over time, eating too much sodium may increase your risk for health concerns like:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
Where is all this salt coming from?
It may come as a surprise, but most of our sodium intake doesn’t come from the salt shaker. The biggest contributors to high-sodium diets are processed and convenience foods, as well as frequently dining out. This is because many processed foods, as well as restaurants, add extra salt to food for added flavor. Some high-sodium foods include popular grab-and-go snacks like potato chips, popcorn or pretzels. Some other high-sodium foods to be aware of include frozen meals, canned soups, canned vegetables, pre-packaged meat, some dairy products and salad dressings.
To get an idea of how fast sodium can add up in your diet, check out the sodium content in these popular foods. Nutrition information varies based on brand, but below are some approximations per serving:
- Ranch salad dressing: 405 mg
- Hot dog: 467 mg
- Slice of American cheese: 468 mg
- Plain bagel: 430 mg
- Frozen lasagna dinner with meat sauce: 730 mg
- Cream of chicken soup: 750 mg
- Frozen pizza slice: 780 mg
- Instant cup of noodles: 1,200 mg
Tips for reducing sodium intake
To help cut back on the amount of sodium you consume, try out these six ideas, provided by Bronson registered dietitian, Karen Grainger.
- Read food labels. Knowing what’s in your food is one of the easiest ways to make a change. When grocery shopping, take the time to read food labels and compare different items. For example, 20 regular mini pretzels have about 250 mg of sodium. 20 unsalted mini pretzels have 75 mg of sodium.
- Watch portion sizes. At first glance, some foods might not seem to have a lot of salt. However, if you’re eating mindlessly and consume more than the recommended serving size, it doesn’t take long for that seemingly small number to skyrocket.
- Choose fresh herbs and vegetables (or grow your own). Add fresh herbs to your food for lots of guilt-free flavor. You can also plant your own herbs like dill, thyme, parsley, basil or cilantro. If you have lots of space, consider growing flavorful veggies like onions, green peppers or tomatoes. Adding these items to any food will make it taste great without having to reach for the salt shaker.
- Eat out less. With the average fast food cheeseburger having around 745 mg of sodium, it’s easy to see how quickly eating out can send our daily sodium consumption into the red zone. By preparing meals at home with fresh ingredients, you can manage the amount of salt added. Experiment with fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meats, whole grains and healthy fats. These are naturally lower in sodium than many of the packaged and processed foods.
- Prepare your own food. Sodium hides in many grocery store staples. Instead of buying pre-packaged foods, try mixing up your own herb seasonings, prepare a homemade salad dressing or slice your own roasted chicken breast for sandwiches.
- Rinse canned products before using. This can cut up to 40 percent of the added sodium!
Make the swap
Making small changes can make a big difference. Try swapping out high-sodium items for lower-sodium options. Remember, nutrition information varies based on brand, below are approximations. Also, adjusting portion sizes may allow products to be used in your diet.
- Instead of canned green beans (1 cup): 354 mg
Try fresh, frozen (without sauces) or no salt added canned green beans (1 cup): <7 mg
- Instead of store bought ranch dressing (3 tbsp): 405 mg
Try homemade dressing with olive oil, vinegar and herbs (3 tbsp): 0 mg
- Instead of French onion dip (2 tbsp): 170 mg
Try plain non-fat Greek yogurt with fresh herbs: 27 mg
- Instead of a hot dog: 467 mg
Try grilled chicken breast (3 oz): 183 mg
- Instead of jarred tomato sauce (½ cup): 480 mg
Try homemade tomato sauce with onion and herbs (½ cup): 60 mg
- Instead of a plain bagel : 430 mg
Try an English muffin: 264 mg
- Instead of 98% fat-free cream of chicken soup (1 cup): 750 mg
Try reduced sodium cream of chicken soup (1 cup): 410 mg
Low-sodium snack ideas
When you need a lower sodium snack, Karen suggests trying one of these:
- Unsalted nuts
- Fresh fruit or veggies with a Greek yogurt with fresh herbs as a dipping sauce
- No-salt chick peas roasted with olive oil and spices such as paprika, curry or cumin
- Sherbet, sorbet or Italian Ice
- Carrots/celery and hummus
- English muffin with Jif Natural® peanut butter
- Apples or celery with Jif Natural® peanut butter
- Salad with oil and vinegar dressing or balsamic vinegar
- Veggie quesadilla made with an unsalted tortilla with natural Swiss, cheddar or provolone cheese, and your favorite veggies
- Angel food cake with fresh berries
- Homemade strawberry banana smoothie
Season your food with a spice rub or marinade
When flavoring protein, like chicken, beef, pork, fish or tofu, try a homemade marinade or dry rub. This is an easy way to add lots of flavor to your meat with little to no added salt. Try this recipe from Bronson Methodist Hospital Executive Chef, Jason McClellan.
Basic Chicken Marinade
Makes 1 quart
- 3 cups olive oil
- 2 lemons
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch basil
- 6 cloves garlic
- Combine all ingredients into a food processor. Leave out 1 cup of olive oil. Puree all ingredients.
- Once pureed, slowly add in the 1 cup of olive oil that was set aside. Continue to puree until fully mixed.
- Use immediately as a marinade for chicken. Or, store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Looking for some new spice blends? Try these mixtures:
- Blend #1 for meat and poultry:
- 3 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 3 tsp onion powder
- 1 ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp thyme
- ¼ tsp basil
- 3 tsp paprika
- Blend #2 especially for meat:
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp paprika
- Blend #3 for potatoes and vegetables:
- 4 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 3 tsp basil
- 4 tbsp paprika
- 4 tbsp parsley flakes
- Blend #4 for meat, poultry and vegetables:
- 2 tsp thyme
- 2 ½ tsp savory
- 1 tsp sage
- 2 tsp rosemary
- 2 ½ tsp marjoram
Do you want to learn more about nutrition services available through Bronson? Visit bronsonhealth.com/nutrition. Our team of registered dietitians are here to provide you with nutrition advice and support to help you live a healthy life.