6 Ways To Eat Less Sodium
Sodium is a critical part of good health. The mineral helps contract muscles, balance fluids and send nerve impulses throughout the body.
But as with many things in life, moderation with sodium is key. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, uncomfortable swelling (edema), dehydration and may exacerbate existing medical conditions.
If you’re trying to eat less sodium for health reasons, here are some great tips to get started!
- Eat fresh, whole foods as much as possible – You’ve probably heard it before: when you go grocery shopping, stick to the outer perimeter of the store. That is where most of the fresh, whole foods like fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy live. The middle aisles are packed with processed foods like canned soups, cookies, chips, frozen dinners and boxed “instant” meals – all of which are loaded with sodium. Choosing foods in their natural, whole state as much as possible will greatly cut down on sodium intake without really trying.
- Read nutritional labels – The general recommendation is about 2,300mg of sodium per day (less if your doctor has recommended you follow a low-sodium diet). One way to ensure you’re staying within your assigned range is to divide it by the number of meals you eat per day. For example, if you eat three meals a day, you should aim for around 800mg of sodium at each meal, using the standard recommendation. Carefully reading the nutritional labels for the serving sizes of all foods you buy will help you stay within your daily limit.
- Stir in the spices and herbs – We love sodium because it adds flavor, plain and simple. But so do spices and herbs, without any sodium at all! Once you begin to incorporate herbs and spices – dried or fresh – into your meal preparation, you may notice a new appreciation for depth of flavor that you never had before. And when herbs and spices are the focal point of your meal, you’ll be inclined to add less sodium as you cook, as it is already so flavorful.
- Swap the salt shaker for salt substitutes – Most salt substitutes use potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride for flavor. Unless your doctor has identified excess potassium or another medical condition as a health risk for you, these salt alternatives are considered safe for use. Some good salt substitutes that fall into this category are Nu Salt and Mrs. Dash.
- Use natural marinades for tart or hot flavors – Looking for the perfect fruity marinade for your grilled fish, chicken or meat? Skip the bottled marinades, which are loaded with sodium, and instead try fresh-squeezed orange, lemon or lime – or pineapple juice or vinegar – to add the tart burst you’re after. If you want heat, add dried cayenne pepper, chopped jalapenos or diced habaneros. You can also choose a low-sodium hot sauce that will kick your spice level up a notch.
- Beware of sneaky sodium snacks – While it may seem obvious that processed snacks like chips and crackers deliver a lot of sodium, be careful – some of the “healthy” snack alternatives can be just as bad, if not worse! Foods like deli meats, reduced-fat cheese, olives and pickles may be relatively low in calories, but most are extremely high in sodium. This goes for nuts and seeds as well. Pepitas, sunflower seeds and almonds are heart-healthy, but only when they contain no added salt.