Ways to Reduce Sodium in Your Diet

Ways to Reduce Sodium in Your Diet

Make no mistake: Our world is a salty one! Salt is everywhere, even in foods you probably wouldn’t expect it. From soups to salsas to hot dogs to salad dressings to nut butters, salt is a major part of the average American diet. Even breads, breakfast cereals, pizzas, deli meats, cottage cheese, and frozen vegetables can be high in sodium! If you are trying to cut back on sodium, it can be challenging.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the United States federal government, people should not have more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. For individuals who are over the age of 50, are African American, or have certain conditions such as hypertension, kidney disease, or diabetes, the number is even lower—approximately 1,500 milligrams per day. Many Americans contain 50% more sodium than their recommended daily intake.

If your doctor has advised you to reduce your sodium intake, you may be wondering just how and where to begin. You may experience a slight learning curve as you get used to your new way of eating. Give yourself room to figure out the dietary changes that are best and most practical for you! But here are a few of the best ways to get started.

  1. Read the labels. Examine the labels of the foods you buy. Reassess your usual packaged products. Make sure to choose packaged products that are low in sodium, or sodium free.
  2. Make your own. Whenever possible, make your own food as opposed to purchasing packaged products, which typically contain exorbitant amounts of salt.
  3. Fresh is best. Since salt is a preservative, canned, frozen, and otherwise prepackaged foods are often heavy in salt. By purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables and other perishables, you’ll be consuming less sodium in your diet.
  4. Research the best brands. Take some time in the grocery store to compare labels and discover the brands of your favorite food items that have the least sodium. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the low sodium or sodium free product with the best taste and texture. Remember that some foods can be unexpectedly high in sodium, such as cottage cheese and bread.
  5. Find alternatives. Challenge yourself to discover new seasonings, spices, and flavors that don’t utilize salt. For example, try garlic powder instead of garlic salt for the flavor you love. Other spices to avoid include lemon pepper, onion salt, meat tenderizer, flavor enhancers, and bouillon cubes. Sauces that are high in sodium include teriyaki sauce, oyster sauce, BBQ sauce, and soy sauce. Some healthy substitutes to try include fresh garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, onion powder, dry mustard, and fresh onion.
  6. Check ahead when dining out. Going out to dinner? The secret is to prepare. Check the restaurant’s online menu ahead of time if applicable to review sodium content.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. Of course, it is not always practical to research menus ahead of time. Don’t hesitate to ask your server to prepare your meal without salt.
  8. Avoid packaged meats. Processed meats are a major source of sodium for many Americans. Switch to fresh cuts of chicken, pork, and beef for less salt.
  9. Find healthier snack options. Some of America’s most popular snack foods are dangerously high in salt. Make a point of keeping salty snack foods out of your house, including crackers, pretzels, sunflower seeds, popcorn, nuts, and potato / corn chips. Instead, look for low-sodium versions of your favorite snacks, or opt for fresh selections including fresh fruits and vegetables.
  10. Rinse! Rinsing canned foods before eating can help cut out some sodium.

Remember that salt is a learned taste, and it is one that you can detoxify your body from with time. Soon, you’ll be naturally gravitating toward smarter swaps without a second thought, and your health will improve as a result.

Learn more about sodium intake and your health when you schedule an appointment at Garfield Medical Center.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician.

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.