Tips for Reducing Sodium in Your Diet

Salt

Lose the salt without losing the flavor with these helpful tips.

I’ll admit, only recently did I start paying attention to my salt intake.  I was already using herbs and spices instead of table salt, eating frozen and fresh vegetables instead of canned, avoiding salty snacks, and I’ve even taken a liking to reduced-sodium soups, pickles and olives.  So I thought I was doing pretty well.  But upon closer look, I was surprised to find that the sodium content in my otherwise healthy diet was still fairly high.  The good news is that just like small changes can add up to big calorie savings, small changes can add up to big sodium slashing.  Try gradually cutting back over time to let your taste buds become accustom to and prefer lower salt foods.  Here are a few strategies to help you cut back on salt, not flavor, while you continue towards your weight loss goal. 10 tips for reducing sodium in your diet:

Compare brands. Sometimes dramatically different sodium content exists between the same food.  Also, compare flavors and varieties of similar foods.  For example, spicy brown mustard has 150 mg per tablespoon compared with 360 mg per tablespoon of Dijon mustard.  Cheddar cheese has 170 mg sodium per ounce while American cheese has about 420 mg per ounce.

Try reduced-salt, low-salt, and no-salt-added foods varieties.  Even if you didn’t like them years ago, their flavor has come a long way.  You may want to start by combining regular and lower-salt versions and gradually alter the ratio so that you eventually use mostly low-sodium varieties.

Rinse salt from canned beans and other high sodium foods like sauerkraut, olives, tuna, canned vegetables, and pickles to wash away a significant portion of salt.

Add lemon or lime juice to grilled fish, chicken, salads, and even soups to add flavor instead of salt. Likewise, use yogurt, fruit juices, and flavored vinegars for salt-free marinades and flavoring.

Keep portion size in mind.  Ketchup has 160 mg sodium per tablespoon but it’s not uncommon to use 3-4 tablespoons of ketchup at a single meal, in which case, switching to a low-salt variety can be a huge sodium saver.  The same goes for salsa, mustard, gravy, dressings, and other sauces.

It doesn’t have to taste salty to be salty.  Sweet pickle relish, pudding, cookies, hot cocoa mix, breakfast cereals, cakes, and breads typically contain over 100 mg sodium per serving.  So don’t rely on taste to know what you’re getting, read labels!

Swap out your bread.  Bread products are the major sodium contributor to the American diet.  Wrap your sandwich in large lettuce leaves instead of a 12” tortilla to save 700 mg sodium and 350 calories.

Replace mayonnaise in dips, sauces, salad dressings and other recipes with fat-free Greek yogurt to cut nearly 150 mg sodium per ounce, not to mention big savings in calorie and fat.

Start meals with reduced-sodium soup or garden salad with a small amount of dressing to help you feel full and eat less while you keep sodium in check.

Drink water! Sports and energy beverages have as much as 200 mg sodium per cup.  Water is the sports beverage of choice for most moderately active adults and water also helps flush excess salt out of your system.  If you need a caffeinated pick-me-up, reach for sodium- and calorie-free coffee or tea, along with you water.

Keep in mind that a healthy heart is about more than lowering your salt intake.  Weight management through healthy diet and exercise are keys for a healthy heart.  So while I encourage you to be mindful of the sodium content of your food choices, credit yourself for for the heart healthy changes you’re already doing by following the Zestar Diet Pilot program.  Keep up the great work!


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