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10 Ways to Lower Sodium Intake10 Ways to Lower Sodium Intake


Ways to Lower Sodium Intake

Taste first.

If you reach for the salt shaker the second your plate hits the table, set it down and start tasting your food first. Most foods have plenty of salt added during cooking and they taste delicious once served. Break the habit and train yourself to taste your food before adding excess sodium.

Use herbs and spices.

Go overboard on basil, cilantro, mint, cumin, and curry. The more herbs and spices you add to your food, the less salt you will need to bring out the flavors in the dish.

Cut a little at a time.

A love of salt is something that grows over time, and loving it less takes time, too. Begin by reducing how much salt you use by 1/8 teaspoon per day. Over the next week, cut it by another 1/8. Continue this process until you find a reduced level that still tastes good.

Cook more.

Packaged foods and restaurant meals are notorious for being loaded with sodium. By cooking dinner just two nights per week and controlling the amount of salt and packaged foods used, you can greatly reduce your sodium intake.

Take care when eating out.

When you do eat out, look for low-sodium options on the menu. Don’t assume that healthier options like salads and steamed vegetables have reduced salt. Sauces, toppings, and dressings can make the sodium content skyrocket. Ask your server how foods are prepared and ask for the amount of salt to be reduced.

Rinse it away.

When using canned foods, such as beans and vegetables, rinse and drain the contents before adding them to your recipes. Tests show that rinsing and draining canned beans can reduce sodium by up to 40%. Also, always select no-salt-added varieties whenever possible.

Go easy on instant foods.

Instant foods like hot and cold cereals, bars, and boxed kits like rice and potatoes dishes are already seasoned, often with lots of sodium. Look for low-processed forms of cereals and other grains, and experiment with making your own bars and side dishes. You can add your own herbs and spices for flavor without so much salt.

Watch out for low, light, and reduced.

When packaged foods are made lower in calories, carbohydrates, or fat, companies have to find a way to boost the flavor. Unfortunately, this is often done with additives that spike sodium content. Don't assume that terms like low-calorie or low-fat mean the food is a healthy choice.

Pick plain.

Order restaurant foods like fish, steamed vegetables, and baked potatoes plain. Skip sauces and other toppings or ask for these on the side. You can then add an appropriate amount for flavor without excess salt.

Careful with condiments.

Often the foods we eat don’t have a lot of sodium, but the toppings we choose do. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, relishes, cheeses, sour cream, salad dressings, and salted nuts can be loaded with sodium. Cut back on how much you use or select low-sodium versions.

Additional Resources

To learn more about sodium and other nutrients, please visit our nutrient resources.

Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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