What's the Best Way to Limit Salt in My Diet?

9 answers | Last updated: Nov 01, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What's the best way to limit salt in my diet?

Expert Answers

Carolyn Strimike, N.P. and Margie Latrella, N.P. are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. They have over 40 years of nursing experience in Cardiology between them. The main goal of their work is to counsel, motivate and empower women to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

It's all about reading labels. Lowering sodium is one of the easiest lifestyle changes you can make to lower blood pressure, but it takes time to check the sodium content of everything you buy. And be aware: Sodium can be listed as sodium benzoate or sodium citrate. Whatever extra words are attached, it's still salt.

When you go to the grocery store, bring your reading glasses and plan to be there a while. You also might need to do some simple math to take portion sizes into account. So if a can of soup says it serves two but you're eating the whole can, then you're getting double the sodium listed.

For most of us, cutting down on salt is a fairly big undertaking, because the recommendation for sodium is 2,400 milligrams a day if you're healthy, and 2,000 milligrams a day if you have high blood pressure. But the average American is eating 5,000 to 10,000 milligrams of sodium a day. So you're trying to make a substantial change.

The biggest sources of sodium are canned and processed foods, cheese, and lunch meats, like ham. That's where you can make the biggest difference. But you don't have to give up foods you like; low-sodium varieties or substitutions are available in most cases. There are even low-sodium hot dogs now.

You may have to try more than one store to find a good variety of low-sodium foods. And for items like low-sodium cheeses and deli meats, you may need to go to specialty stores. If you find one brand you like, remember it for the future. It might help to write down a list of low-sodium foods and brands you like and keep it in your wallet for shopping trips. You can also shop online for low-sodium prepared foods.

Sadly, ketchup, mustard, relish, soy sauce, salad dressing, and many other high-flavor condiments contain tons of sodium. So you'll have to find other ways to flavor foods such as burgers, which can be tricky. There's low-sodium soy sauce available, and you can make your own low-sodium ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings.

Of course, it's easier to use less salt when you cook yourself. You can buy spice blends (such as the Mrs. Dash brand) designed to replace salt and still add flavor to foods. Meals on Wheels and other meal providers will prepare low-salt meals if you ask them in advance.

One more thing we tell people is to increase the amount of potassium you eat, because the body excretes fluid more efficiently when it has plenty of potassium. Oranges, broccoli, and bananas are good sources of potassium.

Community Answers

Carol reiser answered...

I've just recently been working with my 90-year-old Dad to reduce his salt intake after a bout of congestive heart failure. Fortunately, there are a number of food companies doing lower sodium products right now, even Campbell's Soups! Boar's Head does a low-sodium ham and a no-sodium roast beef. I found it at Publix in my neighborhood. If your store doesn't have it, shop around or ask the manager to stock it and LET PEOPLE KNOW! More and more people are becoming aware of the need to limit sodium but it's not as well-publicized as lowering fat content.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My husband & I enjoy a can of Chicken Noodle soup from tine to time. I have found if you keep an unopened can in the refrigerator, when you open it carefully a LOT of the fat & therefore the salt clings to the lid. This will make it much lower in fat & salt.

Beatbreastcancer answered...

The best way to limit salt intake is, of course, using fresh, minimally-processed foods, herbs and spices (Mrs. Dash is wonderful--lots of variations, and finely-ground is good for tabletop!) for flavor, and doing a lot of your own cooking. That being said, I freely confess that my undoing is canned pasta, soups, and worst of all, packaged snacks! Pretzels, potato chips, bagged popcorn all have my name on them!! I keep fighting, however, and I have gotten good at cooking without salt (believe it or not!). Herbs and spices add lots of flavor, and using naturally salty-tasting foods helps cut the craving; tomatoes are great for that! I can add that to almost any savory foods, plus my Mrs. Dash, and get great taste for little sodium. There are also store and company brands of similar products (all herbs and spices) that can cut costs, as well. It's so hard to make the time to cook for ourselves these days, but if we can do it, it's worth it in the improved health of our families and ourselves.

M320753 answered...

about a year after we were married my wife developed high blood pressure. so not to be a temptation to her we took the salt shaker off the table. we use pepper instead. 2 things we allow ourselves to use salt on are BBQ corn still in the husk and homemade french fries. other than that i don't miss salt

Poupee answered...

When my husband was diagnosed with high blood pressure, I went after salt. I found that, after about 2 weeks of moderate eating discomfort, we quickly lost our taste for salt. The upside is chips, pretzels and cheese nips are no longer a joy. The downside is you can hardly eat out - everything is so salty!! Agreed, there are lots of other ways to season food. Love to watch the TV chefs but AVOID thei handfuls of salt in EVERYTHING! I have found that a salt-free diet endeavor will lead you to eating more fresh foods - fruits and vegetables and non-processed products.

Practicifully Salt Free in Arizona

A fellow caregiver answered...

When my 15 yr old daughter was diagnosed with Meniere's disease, I had to drastically decrease her salt intake. So the entire family ended up eating less salt with the food I prepared. I guess I was doing such a good job that at my next checkup my doctor said I should add a little salt to MY food because my sodium levels were low! Bottom-line, if you take small steps to begin with, i.e., cut out packaged/highly processed foods, you'll be taking steps toward a healthier you. It really isn't as hard as it seems once you understand the benefits. My downfall is chips and packaged frozen dinners. :( But I've learned to use herbs & spices in my food preparation and Mrs. Dash is a staple in my kitchen. There are also a wider variety of low-sodium products at most grocery stores. Two of my favorite products available are StarKist Very Low Sodium Chunk White Albacore Tuna and Hunt's No Salt Added Tomato Sauce.

Kedi answered...

Do not buy any processed foods (i.e. rice mixes, soups etc.). Start using pepper and you will soon lose your taste for salt. If you are able, make a big pot of homemade soup rather than canned soups - even if they are marked "low salt". It's cheaper and if you are a one or two person family, you have some to give to neighbors and "old" people who sometimes exist on canned soups.

Somebody's daughter answered...

Friendship makes a 1% salt cottage cheese. mixed with pasta and herbs, or veggies and herbs, or fruits, or granola - you won't miss the salt.