Cutting sodium from your diet requires more than skipping the salt shaker at dinner time and avoiding fast food. Plenty of everyday foods are also packed with blood pressure-raising sodium.
But by reading labels and adjusting your eating style, you may be surprised how much sodium you eliminate from your diet, says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, with Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic.
A healthy person should have less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily, but if you have heart disease risk factors, that number should be more like 1,500 mg or less daily.
“Start by reading labels,” Zumpano says. “Choose foods with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving. Avoid processed meats and cheeses, and choose fresh and frozen foods whenever possible. Avoid or limit canned foods unless they are low-sodium.”
Eating In/Eating Out
You have more control over sodium content when you’re cooking. But you can still take smart steps when dining out, too.
When cooking, eliminate added salt in the form of table salt or salt-containing seasoning, Zumpano advises. “Limit condiments, and choose low-sodium varieties when available. Use fresh or dried herbs and seasonings, fresh garlic, onions, peppers, or garlic and onion powder, paprika or red pepper flakes to enhance the flavor of foods instead of salt. Use low-sodium broth or gravy.”
As for eating out, Zumpano suggests planning ahead by cutting back on the sodium you eat that day to make up for the extra sodium in the meal eaten out that night. Look up the menu ahead of time or ask the server for low-sodium options. “Ask for your food to be prepared without added salt and all condiments and sauces on the side,” she says. “Avoid fried and breaded foods, soups, gravies, casseroles, and cream or cheese sauces.”
Cheese is a notoriously sodium-rich product. “Choose low-sodium cheese, when available, and avoid processed cheese,” she says. “Choose fresh, such as fresh mozzarella, feta, ricotta, Swiss and farmer’s.”
As for a little crunch at snack time, Zumpano suggests plain, no-salt crackers, unsalted tortilla chips or popcorn. “Make your own pita or corn chips, popcorn, and dips and salsas to control or limit sodium,” she says. With bread, check the label. There are lower-sodium options out there. Also, limit your intake to one piece, make open-faced sandwiches, and avoid bread with cheese or garlic topping; use plain breads.