Reduce your sodium intake with small changes this summer


In this article: 

  • Most Americans eat too much salt every day. 

  • Salt is often hidden in foods that don’t taste salty, like bread, pizza or cheese. 

  • Making small changes to your food choices and cooking habits can make a big difference in your health.  

Even if you never pick up a saltshaker, chances are you’re eating too much salt. Salt is made of sodium and chloride. And when you eat too much salt, you eat too much sodium, too.  

While your body needs some sodium to work, too much can lead to health problems. It can lead to high blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.  

Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the Food and Drug Administration recommend consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, most people actually consume an average of 3,400 mg daily. But you can take steps to lower your lower the amount of sodium you eat just by making small changes to your diet. 

Hidden salt in your common foods 

Most foods contain some amount of salt – even foods you wouldn’t think of. Foods with lots of salt may not even taste salty.  

The top high-salt foods that Americans eat include: 

  • Bread and rolls 
  • Pizza 
  • Processed food such as smoked or cured meat, deli meat, hot dogs, bacon, ham and bologna 
  • Anchovies, pickles, olives and sauerkraut 
  • Most cheeses 
  • Worcestershire and soy sauces 
  • Many bottled salad dressings and salad dressing mixes 
  • Most packaged snack foods, including chips and crackers 
  • Soups 

Limiting your exposure to these foods is a top way to reduce how much sodium you eat every day. That doesn’t mean you need to stop eating these foods altogether; it just means you should eat less of these foods.  

When you do purchase these types of foods, you should look for labels that say: 

  • Low-sodium or lower sodium 
  • Sodium-free 
  • No salt added 
  • Sodium-reduced 
  • Unsalted 

Take small steps to reduce your sodium intake 

You don’t need to make a lot of changes to your diet and eating habits at once. You can take small steps to lower your salt intake. Some of the best things you can do include: 

  • Cook more meals at home. Start with cutting out one restaurant meal at a time and build up slowly to a mostly home-cooked eating plan. 
  • Replace salt with savory herbs and spices to cut back on sodium but not on flavor. 
  • Practice portion control. Check labels to find out the right portion to eat of your favorite foods. 
  • Read the label and choose low-sodium options. Generally, 5% daily value or less per serving is considered low sodium and 20% or more is considered high sodium. 

Pick one of these practices that seems easiest to you and start with that. Once it is part of your daily life, pick another practice to try. Over time, you’ll be eating much less salt. 

Navigating salty foods at summer BBQs and picnics 

Summer get-togethers often come with a table full of salty and high-sodium foods like chips, pretzels, and cold cuts. This summer, try changing up the foods your serve or bring to events.  

You may even be able to bring your favorites by replacing a few ingredients and following these tips: 

  • Use fresh or frozen veggies with no added sodium where you can. Rinse canned vegetables before use to remove surface sodium. 
  • Grill fresh meats with low-sodium marinades, sauces and rubs. Avoid processed meats like hot dogs or bratwurst.  
  • Choose low-sodium sides like fruit salads, unsalted corn on the cob, unsalted pretzels or a fresh salad. 
  • Don’t set yourself up for failure by attempting to skip your favorite annual treats. Instead, take smaller portions of the foods you look forward to every summer. 
  • Limit desserts. Large amounts of sodium are often hiding in grain-based choices such as pie, cake and cookies. Try providing ice cream, popsicles or sorbet instead.  

Remember, you don’t need to stop eating salt altogether. Just finding ways to cut back here and there can make a huge difference in reducing your risk for hypertension, heart attack and heart disease. 


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Related resources 

Heart to start: Eating to win

How food can become your 'fuel for the future'

Eating healthier: Be kind to yourself when making diet changes

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions. 





About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

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