What foods should I avoid if I'm on a low sodium diet?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Sodium is in most foods including fresh vegetables grown in your garden. The best strategy to reduce sodium in your diet is to first look at the higher sodium foods. You can then make adjustments to a lower sodium alternative. Canned foods, cured or smoked meats, foods soaked in brine like pickles, broth or bouillon, frozen dinners, snack foods that you can see salt on them, and fast food are some of the higher sodium foods. Suggestions to lower the sodium include: purchase no added salt canned foods as well as bouillon and broths, choose fresh meats instead of cured or smoked meats, purchase no added salt snack foods, and cook at home more often than eating out. 

Here is a list of foods that you should avoid if you are on a low sodium diet:

Bread, cereals, and grains:
  • salted crackers/snacks
  • instant individually packaged hot cereals, preseasoned rice, noodle, or potato mixes
  • stuffing mixes
  • frozen waffles/french toast
  • cultured buttermilk
  • condensed or evaporated milks
  • all cheeses and cheese spreads
  • milk and dairy products in excessive quantities (> 2 cups/day)
Desserts and snacks:
  • salted potato chips and pretzels
  • salted nuts
  • salted popcorn
  • commercial instant pudding
  • commercial cake mixes
  • minced and pumpkin pies
  • individual "mini" pies
  • regular tomato juice
  • V8
  • vegetable juice cocktails
Fruits and vegetables:
  • fruits dried with a salt solution
  • regular canned vegetables
  • frozen vegetables with a cream or seasoned sauce
  • frozen fried potatoes
  • packaged dried potatoes
  • pickled vegetables
  • canned beans
  • baked beans
  • tomato puree/paste
Meats and poultry, fish, and meat substitutes:
  • canned tuna, shrimp, salmon, and sardines
  • canned pasta, ravioli, and macaroni and cheese
  • frozen and commercial pizzas
  • many frozen entrees
  • most fast food restaurants
  • Kosher meats
  • smoked, cured, or dried meats (ham, bacon, sausage, cold cuts, Spam, corned beef, hot dogs)
  • canned chili, stews, beans and franks
Soups and stews:
  • regular canned, packaged, and dehydrated soups, bouillon cubes and granules
  • canned gravy and sauces, barbecue, steak, tomato, chili, and soy sauces
  • canned or bottled spaghetti sauces, seasoning mixes for tacos, meatloaf, etc.
Herbs and spices:
  • prepared horseradish, ketchup, mustard, tartar sauces
  • meat tenderizers
  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • relish
  • seasoning with salt (garlic salt, cream of tartar, some lemon peppers, onion salt, etc.)
  • pickles
  • olives
  • seasoned bread crumbs
  • bacon bits
  • most salad dressings
  • regular baking soda
  • ready-to-serve dips
  • many ethnic dishes such as Chinese and Italian

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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.