When asked if one’s diet is high in salt or sodium, many people usually reply, “No, I never use the salt shaker.” Most people do not realize that 75% of the salt they eat comes from processed foods and meals eaten away from home while only 15-25% comes from the salt shaker.1
Take the quiz:
To find out if your diet is higher in salt than you may think, check how many servings of the following foods with added salt you eat in a week.
___ Bacon or breakfast sausage
___ Bread products
___ Canned broth or bouillon cubes
___ Canned fish and chicken
___ Canned soups and vegetables
___ Cheeses, especially fat-free cheeses
___ Chips, dips, popcorn, salted nuts
___ Condiments such as mustard, ketchup, soy sauce
___ Cookies, baked goods
___ Cottage cheese
___ Crackers and dry cereals
___ Deli meats
___ Entrees or side dishes made from a box (e.g. skillet meals, macaroni & cheese, stuffing, rice)
___ Frozen prepared meals
___ Hot dogs
___ Imitation seafood, veggie burgers
___ Pasta sauce
___ Peanut butter (with salt)
___ Pickles, relish, canned olives
___ Salad dressing
___ Side dish or entrée from a can
___ Breakfast in a restaurant
___ Lunch in a restaurant
___ Dinner in a restaurant
How many servings of these low-sodium foods do you eat in a week?
___ Baked potato or sweet potato
___ Barley cooked without added salt
___ Bread products with little or no added salt (preferably whole grain)
___ Fresh fruit
___ Fresh vegetables or frozen plain vegetables
___ Fresh-cooked chicken
___ Fresh-cooked fish
___ Fresh-cooked lean meat
___ Home-cooked beans or chili (with very little added salt)
___ Natural peanut butter with no added salt
___ No-added-salt canned goods
___ No-added-salt condiments (e.g. ketchup)
___ Nonfat dairy products (e.g. skim milk, lowfat light yogurt, fat-free sourcream)
___ Nuts (salt free)
___ Oatmeal, cream of wheat, shredded wheat, puffed cereals (made without salt, not instant)
___ Pasta – cooked without added salt (whole grain is preferable)
___ Rice or brown rice cooked with no added salt (not from a mix!)
___ Salt-free or low-salt crackers and chips
___ Tossed salad with only oil & vinegar
Tally the score
Do the items in number one exceed the number of items in number 2? Using this test will help you see the items you need to reduce in your diet versus the items you need to increase. Whole foods in their natural form are always your best bet. For example, a fresh, roasted chicken is always a better choice than deli chicken breast or other deli meats. If you find low-sodium food unpalatable, it is acceptable to use a little Accent®. It is lower in sodium and the sodium in this product has much less effect on blood pressure than salt.2
10 tips to decrease your sodium intake:
1) Eat salt-free cereal for breakfast: cooked (not instant) oatmeal, cream of wheat, Wheatena®, Shredded Wheat® and puffed cereals
2) Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables during the day.
3) Dress your salad with oil and
4) Limit the amount of bread/rolls/buns/bagels you eat to no more than a couple slices per day or use low-sodium bread. Brown rice, oatmeal, barley and whole grain pasta should make up the bulk of your grain foods.
5) Limit the amount of prepared foods you eat. This includes frozen, canned and boxed meals. Develop easy, fast recipes that are made from whole, unprocessed ingredients.
6) Limit the number of meals you eat away from home. When you do eat out, request that the kitchen prepare your food without added salt and put the sauce to the side.
7) Use no-added-salt versions of condiments. Ketchup and mustard do come in no-added-salt versions.
8) Purchase no-added-salt versions of canned foods, peanut butter, tuna and pasta sauce.
9) Limit the amount of cheese you consume; use small amounts of sharp-flavored cheese such as cheddar or grated Parmesan.
10) Eat fresh meat, poultry and fish instead of processed, canned, smoked or cured versions.
1. Lancet 1987;1(8530):426-9
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.