Eating less sodium doesn't have to be hard, but you do have to think about it. You need to do more than just not use the salt shaker. After all, almost all foods contain sodium naturally or as an ingredient.
The biggest source of sodium in the diet is not salt added at the table. In general, the biggest source of sodium is processed foods and foods from restaurants. Processed foods include canned foods, frozen dinners, and packaged foods such as crackers and chips. They also include dry mixes, such as those you add to hamburger or noodles.
You can start reducing the sodium in your diet by:
- Limiting canned, prepared, and packaged foods.
- Limiting restaurant foods.
- Not adding salt to your food during cooking or at the table.
How can you reduce the amount of sodium you eat?
Almost all foods contain sodium naturally or as an ingredient. You can use these tips to help limit the amount of sodium you eat.
- Learn how to read food labels.
Read labels to see how much sodium your foods contain. The labels tell you how much sodium is in each serving.
- Avoid high-sodium foods.
High-sodium foods include:
- Smoked, cured, salted, and canned meat, fish, and poultry.
- Ham, bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meats.
- Hard and processed cheese and some types of peanut butter.
- Frozen prepared meals.
- Canned vegetables and soups, broths, and bouillon.
- Salted snack foods, such as chips and crackers.
- Pickles, sauerkraut, seasonings high in salt, and other condiments. These include steak sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, mustard, ketchup, and especially soy sauce. Even light soy sauce is still high in sodium.
- Most restaurant food, especially fast food like french fries, hamburgers, pizza, and tacos.
- Choose lower-sodium foods.
Lower-sodium foods include:
- Fresh or frozen fruits.
- Fresh or frozen vegetables.
- Unsalted nuts.
- Dry beans or lentils, cooked without salt.
- Pasta, rice, or other grains made without salt.
- Whole-grain breads.
- Fish, meat, and poultry made without salt.
- Unsalted crackers or chips.
- Find ways to cook with less sodium.
Here are a few ideas:
- Flavor your food with garlic, lemon juice, onion, vinegar, herbs, and spices instead of salt.
- Take the salt shaker off the table to avoid adding salt to your food.
- Try using half the salt a recipe calls for.
- Keep track of your sodium.
Try counting the milligrams of it in everything you eat. This method allows more flexibility in your diet. If you eat one high-sodium food, you can balance it with very low-sodium foods during the rest of the day. If you'd like, keep a sodium record. It can show you how much sodium you eat at a meal or during the day. If you have heart failure, use a sodium record that allows you to also record your weight.
- Check your medicines.
Sodium can be an ingredient in drugs. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about whether the prescription medicines you take contain sodium. Read labels of over-the-counter medicines to see if they contain sodium. If you aren't sure, ask a pharmacist.
- Let others know you are eating less sodium.
If you don't cook for yourself, let those who help you know that you want to eat less sodium. Show this information to family members, friends, or senior centers or other organizations.
- Talk with a registered dietitian (RD).
An RD can help you find out how much salt you are eating and find ways to cut back on salt. An RD can also teach you how to choose low-salt foods when eating out and make suggestions for low-sodium recipes and meals.