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Salt & Sodium: Tips to Help You Cut Back

Its clear that Americans have a taste for salt, but salt plays a role in high blood pressure.  Everyone, including kids, should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).  Adults age 51 and older, African Americans of any age, and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should further reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day.

Reading the label is very important for any food.  While checking for calorie, fat, carbs and sugar count, make sure to check the sodium amount as well.  There at many ways to cut down the amount of sodium you are consuming.

Think Fresh  – Most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods, such as:

  • Cheesy foods such as pizza,
  • Cured meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli/luncheon meats
  • Ready to eat foods like canned chili, ravioli, and soups

Eat highly processed foods less often. Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium.

Enjoy Food Prepared at Home – Cook more often at home.

When cooking at home, you are in control of the amount of salt added to the meal.  When dining out, you do not know how much salt and other ingredients are being added in the preparation.

Fill Up on Veggies and Fruits – Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits-fresh or frozen.  Eat a vegetable or fruit with every meal!

Choose Dairy and Protein Foods That are Lower in Sodium – Make smarter choices when it comes to dairy and protein.  Go for lean, fat-free or low fat!

  • Choose more fat-free milk and yogurt in place of cheese, which is higher in sodium.
  • Grab fresh beef, pork, poultry, and seafood rather than those with salt added.
  • Try to avoid deli or luncheon meats, sausages, and canned products like corned beef.
  • Go for the unsalted nuts and seeds

Adjust Your Taste Buds – Your taste for salt will lessen over time.

Cut back on salt little by little.  You will start to notice that the natural tastes of various foods will increase over time.  Soon you won’t even want the added salt.

Skip the Salt – Skip adding salt when cooking.

Keep salt off of the kitchen counter and the dinner table.  Use spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar, or lemon juice to season foods or use no-salt seasoning mixes.  Try black or red pepper, basil, curry, ginger, or rosemary.

Read the Label – Read the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients when purchasing food.

Reading the Nutrition Facts label can help you make the best decision on which foods contain the least amount of sodium.  Look for foods labeled “low sodium”, “reduced sodium” or “no salt added”.

Ask for Low-Sodium Foods – When dining out is the only option, make sure to ask for low-sodium foods.

Restaurants prepare lower sodium foods at your request and will serve sauces and salad dressings on the side.  Make sure to request what is healthiest for you, most waiters are more than happy to help!

Pay Attention to Condiments – Condiments can bring a lot of sodium in a small amount of sauce, be aware of what you are consuming.

Foods like soy sauce, ketchup, olives, salad dressings, and seasoning packets at high in sodium.  Choose low-sodium soy sauce and ketchup.  Have a carrot or celery stick instead of pickles or olives.  Use only sprinkling of flavoring packets instead of the entire packet.

Boost Your Potassium Intake – Choose foods with potassium, which may help to lower your blood pressure.

Potassium is found in vegetables and fruits, such as potatoes, beets, greens, tomato juice and sauce sweet potatoes, beans (white, lima, kidney), and bananas.  Other sources of potassium include yogurt, clams, halibut, orange juice and milk.


If you would like to know more about sodium and other healthy lifestyle choices, contact your local Extension Office to speak to a Family and Consumer Science Agent or Family Nutrition Program Assistant.