High-Sodium Food Shockers

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Prepackaged Foods: Rice, potatoes, and pasta in their natural forms are low in salt. But if you get the convenient “all-in-one” box and add the flavor packet, you may end up eating more than half of your daily allowance of sodium in just one serving.

Tips: Choose a bowl of plain, fast-cooking rice and add your own seasonings. Or microwave potatoes to serve with your choice of fixings.

Condiments Count

If you think those little extras you add to your food aren’t a source of salt, think again.

Ketchup (1 tablespoon) = 154 milligrams

Sweet relish (1 tablespoon) =  122 milligrams

Capers (1 tablespoon) = 202 milligrams (drained)

Tip: Go for low- or sodium-free versions. Or get creative with substitutions: Try cranberry relish or apple butter for a naturally lower-salt choice.

Watch Serving Sizes

The amount of sodium you see on a nutrition label isn’t for the whole package. It’s for one serving. Check to see how many are in each container.

Food Label Claims

They can be confusing, but you can figure them out with this cheat sheet:

Sodium-free: Less than 5 milligrams a serving

Very low-sodium: 35 milligrams or less per serving

Low-sodium: Less than 140 milligrams per serving

Reduced sodium: 25% less sodium

Unsalted, no salt added, or without added salt: Made without the salt normally used, but still has the sodium that’s a natural part of the food itself.

What’s in a Name?

When you’re scanning a food label, don’t just look for the word “salt.” Watch out for various forms of sodium or other names for the same thing:

Sodium alginate

Sodium ascorbate

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

Sodium benzoate

Sodium caseinate

Sodium chloride

Sodium citrate

Sodium hydroxide

Sodium saccharin

Sodium stearoyl lactylate

Sodium sulfite

Disodium phosphate

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Trisodium phosphate


Check Your Medicine Cabinet

Surprise! Some headaches and heartburn medications have sodium carbonate or bicarbonate. Read the ingredient list and warning statement to be sure.

Restaurant Pitfalls

When you eat out, some menu choices can be a huge source of hidden salt. Soups, appetizers with cheese or meat, casseroles, and rice pilaf are some dishes to watch out for. If you ask, most restaurants will prepare your food without added salt.

Better Choices

Fish can be a lower-sodium option, as long as you pay attention to how it’s seasoned. Steamed veggies, prepared without salt, are another smart choice. Also, try a salad with dressing on the side. Low-sodium desserts include fruit, ice cream, sherbet, or angel food cake.

Dining Out ‘Dos’

Ask how the cook prepares your meal.

Choose a restaurant where dishes are made to order.

Ask the chef to make your dish without any type of sodium, then add a dash of salt-free seasoning from home or a squeeze of lemon or lime.

When You’re Eating Fast Food

Try these helpful tips:

Get rid of the toppings except for veggies like lettuce and tomatoes.

Skip the cheese, go easy on condiments, and don’t add salt.

Don’t supersize. Order off the children’s menu for smaller portions.

Eat a low-sodium diet for the rest of the day.

Ask for a nutrition fact sheet at the restaurant, or find it online before you go, to help you make the best possible low-sodium choices.

Who Should Go Low-Sodium?

U.S. guidelines call for about half of Americans to limit sodium to 1,500 milligrams or less per day, including:

People ages 51 and older


People with high blood pressure, diabetes, or long-term kidney disease

Cutting back on salt can cut blood pressure in some people. It can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage in those who have high blood pressure.

Track Your Salt

Don’t know how much you get every day? Keep a daily tally of what you eat and drink. Then look up how much sodium is in each item. You may be surprised at what you find. The average American takes in 3,592 milligrams of sodium each day, well above the limits recommended for good health 🙂 🙂

Sharing for a healthy society.

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