Start the Shake-Down: 10 Easy Steps for Cutting Sodium
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Learning about the sodium in foods and new ways to prepare foods will help you to achieve your sodium goal. And, if you follow these tips for reducing the amount of sodium you are consuming, your taste for salt will gradually decrease over time. Eventually, you may not even miss it.
- Read the nutrition facts label - Look to see how much sodium is in the foods you are considering. You should consume less than 100 percent of the daily value or less than 2,400 mg of sodium each day. Check the label for lower sodium choices and compare sodium in different brands of foods — like frozen meals, packaged soups, breads, dressings/sauces and snack foods — and choose those with lower sodium.
- Prepare your own food when you can. Don't salt foods before or during cooking, and limit salt shaker use at the table.
- Add flavor without adding sodium. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to your foods. Try rosemary, oregano, basil, curry powder, cayenne pepper, ginger, fresh garlic or garlic powder (not garlic salt), black or red pepper, vinegar or lemon juice, and no-salt seasoning blends.
- Get fresh when you can. Buy fresh or frozen (not processed) poultry, pork and lean meat rather than canned, smoked or processed meats like luncheon meats, sausages and corned beef. Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium. Also, check the package on fresh meat and poultry to see if salt water or saline has been added.
- Watch your veggies. Buy fresh, frozen (without sauce), or low sodium or no-salt-added canned vegetables.
- Give sodium the "rinse." Rinse sodium-containing canned foods, such as tuna, vegetables, and beans before using. This removes some of the sodium.
- Examine your dairy products. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese and fortified soy beverages (often called soymilk) in place of processed cheese products and spreads, which are higher in sodium.
- "Unsalt" your snacks. Choose unsalted nuts and seeds, and snack products such as chips and pretzels, that are marked "low sodium" or "no-salt-added" - or have a carrot or celery stick instead.
- Consider your condiments. Sodium in soy sauce, ketchup, salad dressings, and seasoning packets can add up. Choose lite or reduced-sodium soy sauce and no-salt-added ketchup. Add oil and vinegar to a salad rather than bottled salad dressings, and use only a small amount of seasoning from flavoring packets instead of the entire packet.
- Speak up at restaurants. Ask to see the nutrition information in restaurants and choose a lower-sodium option. Ask for your meal to be prepared without salt and request that sauces and salad dressings be served "on the side." Then use less of them. You can also reduce your portion size - less food means less sodium! For example, ask the server to put half of your meal in a take out container before it comes to your table or split an entrée with a dinner companion.
Source: US Food and Drug Administration
Read the Label
Learn how to check food labels for high levels of hidden sodium in the foods you consume.
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High levels of sodium may seem "hidden" in packaged food, particularly when a food doesn't "taste" salty – but sodium is not hidden on the Nutrition Facts Label!
- The Nutrition Facts Label lists the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of sodium in one serving of a food.
- The %DV for sodium is based on 100 percent of the recommended amount of sodium, which is less than 2400 milligrams (mg) per day.
- The %DV listed is for one serving, but many packages contain more than one serving! Look at the serving size and how many servings you are actually consuming – if you eat two servings you get twice as much sodium (or double the %DV).
Use the Percent Daily Value (%DV) to Compare Products
- The %DV tells you whether a food contributes a little or a lot to your total daily diet.
- 5%DV (120 mg) or less of sodium per serving is low
- 20%DV (480 mg) or more of sodium per serving is high
You can also check the front of the food package to quickly identify foods that may contain less sodium. For example, look for foods with claims such as:
- Salt/Sodium-Free → Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
- Very Low Sodium → 35 mg of sodium or less per serving
- Low Sodium → 140 mg of sodium or less per serving
- Reduced Sodium → At least 25 percent less sodium than in the original product
- Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted → At least 50 percent less sodium than the regular product
- No-Salt-Added or Unsalted → No salt is added during processing, but not necessarily sodium- free. Check the Nutrition Facts Label to be sure.