How can I reduce my salt or sodium intake?

Most Americans have too much sodium in their diet. A healthy diet should include no more than 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Certain foods contain more sodium than others. The following are a number of easy ways to reduce your sodium intake:
  • Cook with herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Read food labels and choose those foods low in sodium.
  • When eating out, ask for meat or fish without salt. Ask for gravy or sauce on the side; these may contain large amounts of salt and should be used in small amounts.
  • Limit use of canned, processed, and frozen foods.
Caution: If you are told to limit potassium, be very cautious about using salt substitutes because most of them contain potassium. Check with your doctor or dietitian before using a salt substitute.
Being overweight and consuming too much dietary sodium are both correlated with higher blood pressure. Try the following advice to help reduce your sodium intake and also help prevent high blood pressure:

Pump up the Potassium-Rich Foods in Your Diet: A diet adequate in potassium lowers blood pressure by causing the kidneys to excrete excess sodium from the body. Ridding the body of sodium will help lower blood pressure. Potatoes, orange juice, yogurt, bananas, and beans are all potassium powerhouses. For a list of more potassium-rich foods and tips on how to get more of them in your diet, please read a previous blog post.

Eat at Least 4.5 cups of Fruits and Veggies Daily: Mother Nature's finest are naturally low in sodium and rich in potassium, making them a dynamic duo. Because fruits and veggies are also rich in fiber and water, they will "fill you up before they fill you out" and help cut back on the calories typically eaten at a meal. Cutting calories in your diet can reduce pounds around your waist. If overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can reduce a person's blood pressure and may actually prevent high blood pressure in many folks even if they haven't yet reached a healthy weight. Devote half of your plate at every meal to fruits and vegetables otherwise you'll never reach the 4.5 cup minimum quota daily. Have a piece of fruit at breakfast, load your lunchtime sandwich with layers of tomatoes and lettuce, and accompany it with a side salad. Grab a seasonal apple (this is the sweet season) for dessert. At dinner, beef up the veggies that you make. If fresh veggies are not available, reach into the freezer for easy-to-prepare, plain frozen vegetables.

Pass the Milk, Please: Low fat and skim milk, as well as soymilk, are not only rich in potassium but also calcium and magnesium, other minerals that can help lower blood pressure. Start your day with a bowl of whole grain cereal smothered in skim or low fat milk or soymilk. Cook your hot oatmeal with milk rather than water, and order your morning latte with low fat milk rather than cream.
Janis Jibrin, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
How can I reduce my salt or sodium intake? Use these tips to help reduce your sodium intake:
  • Read labels; sodium shows up in surprising places.
  • Compare labels and buy products with less sodium. Pay particular attention to staple items, such as bread and cereal; there's a wide range of sodium content in these products. Beware of canned soups -- most are loaded with sodium. Buy those with no more than 500 mg per cup.
  • Whenever possible, buy "low-sodium" or, even better, "no-salt-added" foods, such as beans and frozen and canned vegetables
  • Buy raw fish, poultry, and meat instead of cooked, processed versions.
  • Make 700 mg of sodium your cutoff for frozen meals; the lower the sodium content, the better.
  • Remember: Sea salt and kosher salts are still salt. Buy them if you like them, but use them as sparingly as regular salt.
  • Gradually reduce the amount of salt you use to season your recipes so your taste buds can adjust.
  • When cooking foods that need some salt, use this rule of thumb: 1/8 teaspoon (250 mg sodium) for every four servings. Let people salt to taste at the table.
  • Rely on lemon juice and vinegar to add flavor to salads, marinades, and sauces.
  • Use fresh and dried herbs, pepper, and citrus peel to season cooked and fresh dishes.
  • Make plain rice or other grains and add your own spices instead of using sodium-filled spice mixes.
  • Rinse salt from canned food, even tuna.
  • Serve food unsalted or very lightly salted. If you need a little salt, add a few grains to the food just before eating.
  • Keep fresh lemon or lime wedges on hand -- a squirt on chicken, meat, fish, salads, and soups can add enough flavor that you might not need salt.
  • Balance high-sodium items with foods lower in sodium. When you do have a high-sodium food (for instance, soup), balance it out with low-sodium items such as grilled vegetables and plain rice.
The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

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The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Bob Greene has helped millions of Americans become fit and healthy with his life-changing Best Life plan. Now, for the first time, Oprah's trusted expert on diet and fitness teams up with a leading...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.