5 tips to reduce your sodium intake
Most Americans consume an excessive amount of sodium daily. Our bodies do need a certain amount of sodium, as it helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function, as well as fluid balance. But for many, meal and snack choices can tip the sodium scale over 3,000 mg each day, which is nearly 50 percent more than the recommended limit.
Too much sodium is harmful to our health by placing added strain on blood vessels and kidneys. Consuming a high-sodium diet has been linked to elevated blood pressure, a condition that affects 1 in 3 Americans. Don't worry – a complete halt on salt isn’t necessary, but it’s very doable to slash your intake.
Here's the shake down on why you should "shake-off" the sodium:
1. Choose Foods Wisely: Maybe the salt shaker isn’t used in your household. However, table salt isn’t the main culprit for elevated sodium consumption. More than 70% of the sodium we eat comes from packaged or restaurant foods. If you’re looking for convenience, or even a meal out on the town, stick with options that contain less than 500 mg of sodium. At restaurants, speak up and ask for light seasoning, sauces on the side and take half of your meal home.
RECIPE: Open-faced egg sandwich
2. Be a Label Detective: Take an extra 30 seconds to read the Nutrition Facts label on foods and beverages. The amount of sodium per serving is noted on the package, as well as written as a percentage. A good rule of thumb: Choose products with 5 percent or less of sodium and steer clear of sodium content of 20 percent or more per serving. Don’t be swayed too easily by foods claiming to be “reduced sodium.” This statement simply means this product contains 25 percent less sodium than its original version, so it’s best to check exactly how much sodium still exists per serving.
3. Snack Smarter: If you keep good foods in your home, you’ll eat good foods. An open bag of chips or other savory snack tends to disappear quickly and these options are loaded with sodium. Opt for fresh fruits and veggies, which are high in fiber, low in sodium, and good for weight management.
RELATED: Try these better-for-you snack ideas
4. Spice Up Your Recipes: A whole pantry of seasonings are lurking in your kitchen, so why not try out some new ones? A pinch of turmeric, cumin, cayenne or pepper can amp up the flavor in dishes, making it easy to pass on salt. Even a squeeze of fresh lemon or a leaf of mint, basil or rosemary can brighten the dish, as well as your taste buds.
5. Canned Foods 101: These convenient aluminum containers are an easy meal or side item, however, the contents inside scream salty. When it comes to soup, your best bet is to make it homemade. If using bouillon cubes, the typical ratio calls for two cups of water per cube, yet dilute it down by using four cups instead. Consider adding more onion, garlic or celery instead of salt. No one will notice but, their hearts will thank you.
It’s time to throw out the theory that no salt equals no flavor. You may be surprised what food truly tastes like without all the added sodium. Be more mindful when it comes to your food choices and, above all else, shake it off – or at least, shake it less.
Paige Green received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management at the University of Northern Iowa in 2012. She pursued her passion for nutrition at Iowa State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics during the spring of 2015. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Paige truly sets out to educate individuals on finding a healthy balance in life and her passion for people and nutrition inspires clients of all ages. You can find Paige at the Ames Hy-Vee on Lincoln Way.