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How to Reduce Sodium

Choose Wisely—Sodium Content Can Vary Within Food Categories

The majority of sodium in our diets comes from packaged and restaurant food (not the salt shaker) and is a direct result of food processing. Even foods that may not taste salty can be major sources of sodium. Foods with only moderate amounts of sodium, such as bread, can be major sources in our diets because we eat so much of them.

Tips for Reducing Sodium

Things you or the person who purchases and prepares your food can do to reduce sodium:

At the Grocery Store

  • Buy fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables with no salt or sauce added.
  • Choose packaged foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added” when available.
  • Read food labels and compare the amount of sodium in different products, then choose the options with the lowest amounts of sodium.
  • When buying prepared meals, look for those with less than 600 milligrams (mg) of sodium per meal, which is the upper limit set by the Food and Drug Administration for a meal or main dish to be labeled “healthy.”
  • Check the amount of sodium per serving, and don’t forget to check the number of servings per container.
  • When possible, purchase fresh poultry, fish, pork, and lean meat, rather than cured, salted, smoked, and other processed meats. For fresh items, check to see whether saline or salt solution has been added—if so, choose another brand.
  • Ask your grocer if they have a low sodium shopping list available.
  • Ask to speak to the registered dietitian at your local grocery store to learn more about buying low sodium products. If your grocer doesn’t have a registered dietitian, ask your doctor for a referral. A registered dietitian can provide valuable guidance on reducing your family’s sodium intake and managing blood pressure.

Range of Sodium Content for Selected Foods

Sodium levels of the same food can vary widely, so choose wisely. The chart includes the following examples: 1 slice of white bread contains 80–230 mg of sodium; 3 oz turkey breast, deli or prepackaged lunch meat contains 450–1,050 mg; 4 oz slice frozen pizza, plain cheese, regular crust contains 370–730 mg; 4 oz slice restaurant pizza, plain cheese, regular crust, contains 510–760 mg; 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, fresh contains 40–330mg; 3 oz chicken strips, restaurant, breaded contains 430–900 mg; 3 oz chicken nuggets, frozen and breaded contains 200–570 mg; 1 cup chicken noodle soup, canned, prepared contains 100–940 mg; 1 corn dog, regular contains 350–620 mg; 1 cheeseburger from a fast food restaurant contains 710–1,690 mg; 1 oz slice of American cheese, processed (packaged or deli) contains 330–460 mg; 1 cup canned pasta with meat sauce contains 530–980 mg; 5 oz pork with barbeque sauce (packaged) contains 600–1,120 mg; 1 oz plain potato chips contains 50–200 mg.

Values rounded to the nearest 10 mg.
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Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Accessed February 22, 2018.

At Home

  • When cooking, use alternatives to replace or reduce the amount of salt you use, such as garlic, citrus juice, salt-free seasonings, or spices.
  • Prepare rice, pasta, beans, and meats from their most basic forms (dry and fresh) when possible.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit sauces, mixes, and “instant” products, including flavored rice and ready-made pasta.

Dining Out

  • Ask for nutrition information before you order, and select a lower sodium meal.
  • Ask that no salt be added to your meal.
  • Order vegetables with no salt added or fruit as a side item.
  • Split a meal with a friend or family member.
  • Keep takeout and fast food to an occasional treat.

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day as part of a healthy eating pattern. For individuals with hypertension or prehypertension, further reduction to 1,500 mg of sodium per day can result in greater blood pressure reduction. Ask your doctor whether you have any of these conditions.

Choose a Heart-Healthy Diet

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a simple, heart-healthy diet that can help prevent or lower high blood pressure. The DASH diet is low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated and total fats, and it is high in fruits and vegetables, fiber, potassium, and low-fat dairy products.

If you follow the DASH eating plan and also make other healthy lifestyle changes, such as getting more physical activity, you will see the biggest benefits. Learn more about the DASH eating plan on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s website.

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