Managing Your Sodium Intake
Getting enough sodium is critical to our health, as it helps to control blood pressure and blood volume, regulate our body’s water content, and assist muscle and nerve function. However, excessive intake of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension), which can be detrimental to cardiovascular health. Too much dietary sodium can also negatively impact bone health because excessive sodium increases the amount of calcium your body loses through urination.
The rise of ready-made, packaged, processed, and shelf-stable foods has led to an overabundance of sodium (derived mostly from salt) in the typical American diet. Salt has many aliases (sodium chloride (salt), sodium benzoate, sodium phosphate) and manufacturers add salt to maximize taste and flavor and to extend shelf life. Note that not all salts are created equal. Iodized salt, for example, is a good thing (in the correct quantity) especially during pregnancy as iodine is extremely important for fetal brain development.
Here is a general list of foods that have a high sodium content: Canned foods (especially soups and broths), pickles, olives, or anything packaged in a brine, anchovies, some breads, cheese, processed meats like luncheon/deli meat, bacon, sausage and hot dogs, packaged spice blends, pre-packaged or frozen meals, chips and packaged snack foods, salted nuts, some cottage cheese varieties, store bought dressings, marinades, and sauces, like BBQ sauce and soy sauce.
Cooking at home, or even simply making your own soups, tomato sauces, and salad dressing will make a positive impact towards controlling your sodium consumption and limiting your processed food intake. Instead of salt to your foods experiment with adding dried spices which can add flavor without adding sodium.
Choosing meals and snacks from the below listed options will help you consume foods that will help you to keep your sodium intake within the recommendations while adhering to a balanced diet.
- Option 1: Steel cut oatmeal with apples, cinnamon, and unsalted pecans
- Option 2: Whole grain cereal with banana and berries and low-fat milk or milk alternative
- Option 3: Berry and low-fat Greek yogurt smoothie (for a bonus boost: sneak in some spinach or kale!)
- Option 4: Oatmeal with dried apricots, walnuts, and coconut shavings
- Option 5: Eggs scrambled with spinach and tomatoes on a whole grain English muffin
- Option 1: Dark leafy green vegetable salad with chopped carrots, tomato, cucumbers and avocado slices topped with grilled chicken* or hard-boiled egg slices with olive oil and lemon juice
- Option 2: Whole grain pasta salad mixed with olive oil, vinegar, halved cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese on a bed of lettuce greens
- Option 3: Kale salad with roasted squash and dried cranberries, topped with rinsed can of salmon or grilled chicken breast*
- Option 4: Roast chicken*, farro, sautéed green beans in lemon juice and olive oil
- Option 5: Grilled salmon with lemon wedges and fresh dill with spinach and brown rice
- Option 1: Braised chicken* with parsley, whole grain orzo, and green salad
- Option 2: Breaded and baked chicken* tenders served with asparagus and quinoa
- Option 3: Mushroom and beef bolognese sauce with whole grain pasta and a green salad
- Option 4: Grilled Steak with steamed broccoli and roasted potato wedges
- Option 5: Grilled salmon or turkey burger with sautéed spinach and baked sweet potato
- Option 1: Plain low-fat Greek yogurt with berries
- Option 2: Smoothie blended with frozen mango, pineapple, and silken tofu
- Option 3: Sliced apples and unsalted nut butter
- Option 4: Guacamole with carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes
- Option 5: Unsalted nuts and grapes
*Tip: look for chicken that does not have injected salt water or broth as stated on the label
For more on this topic, check out the following articles: