Reduce the Salt In Your Diet — Painlessly

by Nindo Mom on February 1, 2011

According to the CNN report Federal Dietary Guidelines Target Salt, Saturated Fats, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that:

“. . . people over age 51, African-Americans and people with a history of hypertension, diabetes or kidney problems limit their daily salt intake to a little over a half a teaspoon. For everyone else, the daily recommendation remains at 2,300 milligrams — about one teaspoon of salt.”

Since processed foods contain disproportionately large amounts of salt, compared to home-made foods, eliminating some of these premade items from your diet is an excellent way to start off, when you’re trying to lessen the amount of salt you and your family consume.

The trouble is, processed foods–such as frozen meals; canned veggies; canned pastas like ravioli, canned soup, processed meats such as hot dogs, sausage, ham, bacon, and corned beef, and especially fast food–are so much a part of many peoples’ lives, reducing salt from these sources can be sometimes be difficult.

For an idea of how much sodium some of your favorite fast foods contain, here are a few examples:

Sodium in Popular Fast Foods (in mg)

Angus Chipotle BBQ Bacon–2070
Medium French Fries–270
Chicken McNuggets (6 pce)–600
Egg McMuffin–820
Hot Fudge Sundae–180
Milk Jug, white, 1% milkfat–125

Chicken Sandwich–1300
Char-grilled Chicken Sandwich–1000
Chicken Strips–570
Chicken Nuggets–1090
Spicy Chicken Wrap–1150
Waffle Fries, small–105

BMT sub, 6″–1900
Steak and Cheese sub, 6″–1210
Seafood and Crab sub, 6″–1280
Turkey Breast sub, 6″–1010

You may not be surprised by the salt content for some of these items, because you can taste the saltiness when you bite into them. But for other foods and beverages, it may surprise you to learn that they can contain salt even if you can’t taste it. That’s why, when trying to reduce your salt intake, it’s a good idea to read the packaging carefully (or check menu information) to find out how much sodium each food or beverage contains.  In a world where even some bottled waters contain sodium, there’s really no other choice.

How to Reduce the Salt in Your Diet

1. Log What You Eat (and Drink)

In a notebook (or other safe place where you can easily keep track of it), log each item you eat or drink and add up the total at the end of each day. (If you add salt to your food, be sure to record, in teaspoons, exactly how much you use.) Do this for a week. For items like fresh veggies or meats, there may be a nutrition label printed on the packaging–but in some cases, you may need to look the information up on the Internet or at the library. You may be surprised at how much sodium you’ve been consuming.

2. Pick a Starting Place – And Start Reducing!

The most difficult part of making a change in your life is starting–so pick a spot and give it a try. Look at your food log and see what makes the most sense. If you eat out a lot, try substituting side salads for french fries. Or, start cooking more fresh or frozen veggies instead of canned when cooking meals for your family. If you’ve been adding salt to your food, cut back on the amount by 25 percent–or 10 percent, if you prefer. Even cutting back on the number of sodas (even diet) that you drink can help reduce your salt intake, because most sodas contain salt.

Each week, reduce the amount of salt you consume in some small way, while continuing what you were doing before. Salt is an acquired taste–and it’s something that you can change. Once you get used to having less salt in your food, it won’t bother you–and you may likely discover (as I did) that you like it better. Salt does tend to cover up the other flavors of the food.

3. Cook More Food At Home – From Scratch

Since prepared foods are almost always the high-sodium culprits, cooking foods at home from fresh and frozen meats and veggies will go a long way to helping you to reduce your  salt intake. Drinking water instead of sodas and drink mixes will go a long way, too. (Nindo Mom’s  ever-growing section of homemade recipes can be a great place to start!)


Download the complete Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010


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