Quick tips to a daily healthy habit: Eat Less Sodium


Nine out of 10 Americans eat more sodium (salt) than they need. Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
The good news is that cutting down on sodium can help lower your blood pressure or keep it at a healthy level.
To eat less sodium, you don’t have to make lots of changes at once. Use these tips to help lower the amount of sodium in your diet.

Know your sodium limit.

Ask your doctor how much sodium is okay for you. The general guidance is:
  • Healthy adults and teens age 14 and older need to limit their sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg a day.
  • For people with high blood pressure – and people with blood pressure that’s between normal and high – limiting sodium to 1,500 mg a day may be helpful.
  • Children under age 14 need no more than 1,500 to 2,200 mg a day of sodium, depending on how old they are.

Shop for low-sodium foods.

Most of the sodium we eat doesn’t come from our salt shakers. Sodium is in almost all the processed and prepared foods we buy – even foods that don’t taste salty, like bread or tortillas.
When you are shopping, limit these items that are high in sodium:
  • Processed meats, poultry, and seafood – like deli meats, sausages, and sardines
  • Sauces, dressings, and condiments
  • Instant foods, like flavored rice or noodles.
Find a shopping list which contains lower-sodium foods at the end of this article!

Check the label.

Use the Nutrition Facts label to check the amount of sodium in foods and compare different options.
  • Try to choose products with 5% Daily Value (DV) or less. A sodium content of 20% DV or more is high.
  • Look for foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.” But keep in mind that some low-sodium foods don’t have those labels. Check the Nutrition Facts label to be sure!

Make healthy shifts.

Swap out foods that are higher in sodium for healthier options. You can:
  • Snack on unsalted nuts instead of salted pretzels or chips.
  • Choose skinless chicken and turkey, lean meats, or seafood instead of deli meats or sausages.
  • Go for vegetables that are fresh, frozen, or canned. Pick frozen vegetables without sauce and canned vegetables with the least amount of sodium.

Cook more at home.

Making your own meals is a great way to eat less sodium, because you are in control of what goes into your food.
  • If you use canned foods, rinse them before eating or cooking with them. This will wash away some of the salt.
  • Use condiments and spreads that are unsalted or lower in sodium. If you use regular spreads, use less.
  • Don’t add salt to the water when you cook pasta or rice.
  • Try different herbs and spices to flavor your food, like ginger or garlic, instead of salt.
  • Take the salt shaker off your table.

Get less salt when you eat out.

  • Ask if there are any lower-sodium dishes on the menu.
  • When you order, ask that salt not be added to your food.
  • Get dressings and sauces on the side so you can add only as much as you need.

Add more potassium to your diet.

Replace high-sodium foods with high-potassium foods. Eating foods with potassium can help lower your blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include potatoes, cantaloupe, bananas, beans, milk, and yogurt.


Lower-Sodium Foods: Shopping list


Most people eat much more sodium (salt) than they need. This can lead to health problems like high blood pressure. To lower the amount of sodium in your diet, follow these tips when you go food shopping:
Choose fresh instead of processed foods when you can.
Use the Nutrition Facts label to check the amount of sodium. Compare labels to find products with less sodium.
Look for foods labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added.”
Take the list below with you the next time you go food shopping to help you choose foods that are lower in sodium.

Vegetables and Fruits

Buy plenty of vegetables and fruits.
  • Any fresh fruits, like apples, oranges, or bananas
  • Any fresh vegetables, like spinach, carrots, or broccoli
  • Frozen vegetables without added butter or sauce
  • Canned vegetables that are low in sodium or have no salt added
  • Low-sodium vegetable juice
  • Frozen, canned, or dried fruits with no added sugars
If you choose canned vegetables, rinse them off to remove some of the sodium.

Breads, Cereals, and Other Grains

Compare labels to find products with less sodium. Look for foods with 5% Daily Value (DV) or less for sodium. A DV of 20% or more is high. 
  • Whole grains like brown or wild rice, quinoa, or barley
  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta and couscous
  • Whole-grain hot or cold breakfast cereals with no added sugars, like oatmeal or shredded wheat
  • Unsalted popcorn or low-sodium chips and pretzels
  • Whole-grain breads, bagels, English muffins, tortillas, and crackers
When you cook grains like brown rice or whole-grain pasta, don't add salt. 

Protein Foods

Choose fresh or frozen seafood, poultry, and meats instead of processed options. Some meat, poultry, and seafood has added sodium. If the package has a Nutrition Facts label, look for 5% DV or less.
  • Fresh or frozen fish or shellfish
  • Chicken or turkey breast without skin or marinade
  • Lean cuts of beef or pork
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Dried beans and peas – like kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, and lentils
  • Canned beans labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium” 
  • Eggs
If you buy canned beans, rinse them off to remove some of the sodium. 

Dairy

Be sure to check the label on cheese, which can be high in sodium. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt
  • Low-sodium or reduced-sodium cheese
  • Soymilk with added calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D

Dressings, Oils, and Condiments

When you cook, use ingredients that are low in sodium or have no sodium at all.
  • Unsalted margarine and spreads (soft, tub, or liquid) with no trans fats and less saturated fats
  • Vegetable oils (canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, or sunflower)
  • Low-sodium salad dressing – or oil and vinegar
  • Low-sodium or "no salt added" ketchup
  • Low-sodium salsa or picante sauce

Seasonings

Try these seasonings instead of salt to flavor your food.
  • Herbs, spices, or salt-free seasoning blends
  • Chopped vegetables, like garlic, onions, and peppers
  • Lemon and lime juice
  • Ginger

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