5 Simple Ways To Reduce Your Salt Intake

Tips to scale back on all that sneaky sodium.

January 23, 2018
bowl of salt
Irina Vodneva/ Getty

It’s incredibly easy to overdo it on salt. But people with high blood pressure, anyone who is middle-aged or older, and African Americans should really try to limit their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day. Others should hold their sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams, equivalent to about a teaspoon of salt. Yet it's also incredibly difficult to scale back, especially if you're eating out frequently. Plus, salty foods (much like sugar) are just plain addictive, so it can take time for your tastebuds to adjust to a low-salt way of life. Luckily, there are some simple strategies to scale back on sodium without compromising taste. Here’s how:

1. Reconsider your dining-out options.

Restaurants usually don’t spare any salt. So at the very least, avoid other salt sources on days when you’re planning to eat out (maybe the next day, too). Ask about low-sodium options, too, as more restaurants are adding these to their menus. Check the Web sites of your favorite chain restaurants and fast-food places for nutritional information or get a pamphlet at the restaurant, so you can ID the least salty edibles. 

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2. Take note of the top offenders.

So you’re cooking at home more? Good for you. Studies have shown that eating home-cooked meals can promote better health and family life. But unless you’re cooking everything from scratch (and let’s face it, who can do that all the time?), you should be wary of certain high-sodium items you’ll encounter at the grocery store. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, these foods and ingredients are most prone to having sky-high sodium content, so check the labels to be sure you’re not overloading:

• Soups, especially dry mixes, miso, and onion
• Dry, grated, or seasoned bread crumbs
• Cornmeal
• Many prepared supermarket meal items, including breaded and fried shrimp and subs and sandwiches made with cold cuts
• Flour
• Sauerkraut
• Piecrusts
• Potato salad
• Canned tomatoes

Related: 5 Foods That Secretly Contain A Scary Amount Of Salt

3. Distract your taste buds.

Can’t imagine trading in sodium-spiked canned soup for a lower-salt, homemade version? It’s herb time. If you’re hooked on salt, drastically cut your sodium intake for one to two weeks, and you’ll lose your taste for it. Keep your food flavorful by replace salt with herbs like thyme and rosemary, or cayenne and cumin. Before serving, grind pepper and squeeze some lemon juice onto your food, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t swap salt for healthier alternatives sooner. (Here are 9 spices that could boost your immune system.)

4. Don’t always trust sodium-free labels.

Don’t let flashy “sodium-free” labels fool you: Those foods can still contain up to 5 milligrams per serving. “Reduced” or “less sodium” means 25 percent less sodium than the usual form of the food. For accurate sodium information, look past the claims made on the front of the package and check the “Nutrition Facts” panel. If you’re shopping at the supermarket, consider checking out products on the Fooducate website or app, which gives packaged foods a letter grade based on how nutritious they are, to make all-around better choices for you and your family.

 

Related: 6 Times You May Need To Eat MORE Salt

5. Say “no thanks” to food industry manipulation.

The food industry takes advantage of our biological wiring and loads food with the three things our bodies can’t easily resist: sugar, fat, and salt. In his best-selling book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, former FDA commissioner David Kessler, MD, talks about how foods are fried, salted, and sweetened to the point where water and nutrients are replaced with fat. Beat the system by eating and cooking with whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible. Come spring, a local farmers’ market is a great place to find super fresh, local food. Better yet, look for a local farmer who sells organic produce and meats, which is better for you and for the environment.