Has your doctor told you you’re eating too much salt or you just want to watch your sodium intake? Switching to a lower-sodium diet can be an adjustment, but there are many easy steps you can take to make the transition as easy as possible.
According to the American Heart Association, the recommended sodium intake is 1,500 mg to 2,300 mg per day. The average American consumes over 3,400 mg per day, according to the CDC. The American diet often contains lots of processed and prepared foods that contain high amounts of salt.
These 10 tips for a lower-sodium diet are simple ways to reduce your salt intake without completely changing your entire lifestyle. Even just incorporating one or two of these tips can make a huge impact!
1. Cook more often
Restaurant food can be high in sodium, and you don’t know exactly what goes into the dish that ends up on your plate. Cooking most of your meals rather than eating out allows you to control the salt content that goes into your food.
2. Buy whole foods
Whole foods are single-ingredient items like fruit, vegetables, unseasoned meat and fish, and simple grains like rice and quinoa. Processed or prepared foods often contain lots of extra ingredients, including high amounts of sodium. Preparing meals using mostly whole foods is a simple way to reduce the sodium in your diet.
3. Check the labels on packaged foods
If you are going to use packaged foods, be sure to check the labels to make sure there isn’t too much sodium. You can specifically look at the % daily value to get a sense of the recommended amount of sodium you should consume per day. And don’t forget to check the portion size, too!
4. Use herbs and spices for seasoning
Salt is only one way to bring flavor to a dish. There are countless herbs and spices you can use to make food that has complex flavors without too much salt. Dried or fresh herbs like basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, dill, thyme, and so many more add tons of flavor (and nutrients!). Spices come in many different flavor profiles to make any dish more exciting, like cumin, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, and ginger. Just be sure that you aren’t buying a spice blend that has salt in it. And remember, you don’t have to completely eliminate salt; a pinch or two will hardly affect your sodium levels.
5. Avoid salt-heavy foods
When you’re at the grocery store, look out for these foods that often contain high amounts of sodium:
- Cured or canned meats and fish like bacon, sausage, and anchovies
- Frozen or prepared meals
- Canned foods with added salt
- Salted nuts
- Processed cheese
- Salted breads
- Baking mixes
- Pickled vegetables
- Jarred or canned sauces
- Prepared soups and noodle cups
- Salad dressings and condiments
Although these items are commonly salt-heavy, be sure to check the labels, as not all brands are the same.
6. Find a lower-sodium brand you trust
Some brands like Right Foods are designed with a lower-sodium diet in mind. Here at Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods, we’re here to help you feel your best – that’s why we make a wide variety of organic, gluten-free, and lower-sodium options to fuel your needs. From our noodle cups to our organic lower sodium ready-to-serve soups, we make something for everyone. We have an entire lower-sodium collection here.
7. Switch to unsalted snack foods
Snacks like salted nuts, pretzels, and chips can go from a little salt when you eat a handful to a lot when you finish the entire bag. It should be easy to find unsalted versions of your favorite types of snacks at the store, so you can snack as much as you want without worrying about your sodium intake.
8. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side
When you’re eating out at a restaurant, salt can be hidden in sauces and dressings. Asking for them on the side allows you to control how much you consume. Plus, you might be surprised by how little you need.
9. Add high-potassium foods to your diet
Foods containing significant amounts of potassium may help manage blood pressure. Here are some high-potassium foods:
- Meat + fish
10. Give time for your tastebuds to adapt
Your tastebuds will adjust to your new diet over time. You might become more sensitive to salt, and what once tasted totally normal to you could become super salty. Don’t worry if it takes some time; food may taste more bland as you transition into a lower-sodium diet, but your tastebuds will eventually catch up and food will taste more flavorful in no time.
Switching to a lower-sodium diet doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds. Start small with one or two changes, and eventually they will become part of your daily habits. Though processed foods can often be the culprit in a high-sodium diet, some brands – like Right Foods – make it easy to follow a lower-sodium diet for those who have less time to cook or want a quick meal or snack.
For recipe inspiration using Right Foods products, check out this blog post on low sodium vegan soups and the ideas below: