I’d like to thank everyone for their comments and helpful suggestions for cutting back on sodium over these past few weeks. We can only hope that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will take a stronger stance on requiring food manufacturers to cap the amount of sodium they add to their products. But don’t hold your breath on this for too long, as the FDA sometimes moves slowly!
So, how many of you took a closer look at the sodium content of your foods this past week? Were you surprised at what you saw? I know I’m always surprised when I look at the sodium content of most canned soups. (Even though I know they’re high in sodium, I keep looking anyway!) But what continues to just amaze me is the amount of sodium in SUBWAY’s 6-inch Double Meat Italian BMT sandwich—2,850 milligrams!! (Not to mention the fat, which is 35 grams.) Just thinking about it makes me thirsty.
Yes, it’s challenging to limit sodium. Some of you have shared that you pretty much eat only fresh foods. Others are using salt substitutes or relying on herbs and spices for flavor. All great suggestions, by the way. Here are some other things to try:
- Read labels. We talked about this last week (“Shaking the Salt [Part 2]“), but I wanted to reinforce this idea. Try to aim for no more than 400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving for a single food and no more than 800 mg of sodium per serving for an entrée. Another tip is to choose foods with less than 5% of the Daily Value (DV) for sodium per serving (the total DV for sodium is 2,400 mg). A DV of 20% or more is high. Look at the ingredients list for a product, too. You may not always see “salt,” but you may find other high-sodium ingredients, such as baking soda, baking powder, monosodium glutamate, or disodium phosphate.
- Go for low-sodium foods. If you used canned foods, try to choose those that say “no salt added” on the can, or look for “reduced sodium.” The food won’t be sodium-free, but it will be lower in sodium than the regular version.
- Fresh is best. While less convenient, fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and chicken, are much lower in sodium than their canned or packaged counterparts. Plus, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure, as they’re high in potassium.
- Rinse it off. If you can’t always get no-salt-added or reduced-sodium canned foods, empty the contents of the can into a colander and rinse with water for several minutes.
- Cook without. In most recipes, you can greatly reduce or even eliminate the salt. While salt adds flavor, there’s an abundance of herbs and spices you can choose from instead. (Don’t reach for garlic salt or celery salt, either!) Be careful of lemon pepper blends—they may contain salt. And if you tend to put salt in the water when boiling water for pasta, for example…don’t. While adding salt can shorten the cooking time, it’s not crucial, so leave it out if you can. Otherwise, add a small amount toward the end of cooking. Some salt is typically needed in baked products for both flavor and for texture, so leave a little bit of salt in your baking recipes.
- Hide the salt shaker. Out of sight, out of mind. Keep a pepper grinder within arm’s reach instead.
Over time (usually a few weeks), your taste buds will adapt to the lack of salt and you’ll appreciate the natural flavors of foods even more.
Next week, we’ll wrap things up on sodium by looking at different kinds of salts (including sea salt) as well as salt substitutes.