Is the salt shaker a permanent fixture on your table? Do you automatically reach for it in restaurants? For many of us, it’s an automatically ingrained behavior. We don’t even taste food before we salt it. However, you may hear from your doctor and other sources to monitor your sodium or salt intake. What does that mean?
Dietary guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 2,300 mg (about a teaspoon) per day for most adults. While not everyone follows a low-sodium diet, experts often say that the typical American is generally consuming more sodium than they should. However, the problem is less often the salt shaker and more often the sodium in packaged and processed foods. (Example: when was the last time you checked the sodium in your bread?) If you have medical or other reasons to reduce your sodium intake, here are some tips.
1. Rinse canned goods. Rinsing canned beans and vegetables can remove about 35% of what’s listed on the label. Speaking of canned foods, look for varieties with no added salt.
2. Reduce or omit spices. Mustard, hot sauce, salad dressings—they’re all high in sodium. You can look for low-sodium varieties or use substitutes like chili powder and vinegar.
3. Watch your deli meat! These are heavily processed and often contain well in excess of your daily allotment. Perhaps it’s better if you skip those and opt for fresh meat that you cook yourself.
4. Tomatoes to the rescue. For any recipe that calls for salsa in a jar, try fresh pico de gallo or a DIY mix of chopped tomatoes, onions, and herbs. Instead of pizza sauce or pasta sauce, you can also use canned tomato passata. Simply season (without salt) and you’re good to go.
5. Check out these labels. Spend some time in the store flipping through packages and finding your best bets! The numbers might surprise you…
And here’s a reminder of what some of those claims on food packaging mean.
n Reduced/Less Sodium: Compared to the regular version of this food, this contains at least 25% less sodium. (Just because it’s LESS doesn’t mean it’s LOW in sodium.)
n Light in Sodium: Similarly, it contains at least 50% less sodium than the original.
n Low Sodium: Typically 140 mg or less per serving. Very low = 35 mg or less.
n No Added Salt: This really depends on how high the sodium content of the food itself is. Still, it generally signals that something is fairly low in salt.
n Sodium Free: The lowest of the low; 5 mg or less per serving.