Skip Navigation

Cutting Salt for Improved Health

October 2013

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Many Americans don’t recognize how much sodium they are consuming especially from packaged foods and meals consumed away from home. Here is how the U.S. intake breaks down.

  • 77% from packaged and restaurant food
  • 12% is naturally occurring in foods
  • 11% from adding salt to food while cooking or at the table
Learning about the sodium content in foods and new ways to prepare foods that reduce sodium content will help you to achieve the sodium recommendation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Below are ten easy steps for cutting sodium intake:
  1. Read the Nutrition Facts Label - See how much sodium is in the foods you are considering. All Americans should consume less than 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. Read labels for frozen meals, packaged soups, breads, dressings/sauces, and snack foods to choose those with lower sodium content.
  2. Prepare Your Own Food When You Can - Do not salt foods before or during cooking, and limit the salt shaker use at the table.
  3. Learn to Use Herbs and Spices to Add Flavor to Food - Try parsley, cilantro, coriander, sage, chervil, rosemary, oregano, basil, curry powder, pepper, ginger, fresh garlic or garlic powder (not garlic salt), vinegar or lemon juice, and no-salt seasoning blends.
  4. Buy Fresh or Frozen (Not Processed) Poultry, Pork and Lean Meat - These are a better alternative to canned, smoked or processed meats like deli meats, sausages, bacon or corned beef. Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium. Remember to check the package label on fresh meat and poultry to see if salt water or saline has been added.
  5. Buy Fresh, Frozen (Without Sauce) Vegetables and Low Sodium or No-Salt-Added Canned Vegetables - Read the labels and compare different brands for sodium content per serving.
  6. Give Canned Products High in Sodium a “Rinse” - This lowers sodium content. By rinsing foods, such as tuna, vegetables, and beans before using, sodium is removed.
  7. Lower the Fat - Choose fat-free or 1% low-fat milk, soy milk, or nut-based milk products, such as yogurt and cheese. Limit processed cheese products and spreads.
  8. Go Unsalted - Choose unsalted nuts and seeds and “low sodium” or “no-salt-added” chips and pretzels. For an even better snack, try some raw veggies with a low-fat ranch or onion dip made with low-fat sour cream or yogurt..
  9. Educate Yourself on the Sodium Content of Typical Condiments - Examples include the sodium in soy sauce, ketchup, salad dressings, and seasoning packets. Choose lite or reduced sodium soy sauce and no-salt-added ketchup. Try adding your own oil and vinegar to a salad rather than purchasing bottled salad dressings.
  10. Speak up at Restaurants - Ask for your meal to be prepared without salt and request that sauces and salad dressings be served “on the side”.

Take these small steps and you can minimize your salt intake and not even miss that taste!