Dietitians Dish: Lower sodium in your diet

Jan. 17, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 17, 2011 at 7:18 p.m.

Jami Martin

Jami Martin

By Jami Martin

Small steps are a good start to being successful with your New Year's resolutions. Lowering sodium in the diet is a great goal for the new year. The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension diet is a healthy-eating plan for the whole family, and it recommends limiting sodium to 1,500-2,300 milligrams a day.

Where can you find sodium in your diet? Each teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg sodium. Therefore limiting salt in cooking process and at the table is the first step.

Second, watch out for sodium-containing ingredients. Ingredients that contain the word "sodium" or "salt," such as monosodium glutamate, sodium bicarbonate or onion salt, are easy to identify. Baking soda and baking powder also contain sodium. Seasoning blends may contain sodium or salt.

Third, sodium can be found naturally in most foods; for example, sodium is found in higher amounts in meats, fish, poultry, milk and eggs.

However, processed, cured and convenience foods and beverages can be among the highest. These foods can contribute greater than 75 percent of sodium in the American diet.

Additional sodium can be found in medication preparations and softened water.

The following key words on food labels can be helpful in food selections and managing sodium in your diet.

Sodium free is less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.

Salt free meets sodium-free requirements.

Very low sodium is less than 35 mg of sodium per serving.

Unsalted, without added salt, and no added salt - no salt was added during processing.

Low sodium is less than 140 mg sodium per serving.

Light sodium is a reduction in sodium of at least 50 percent when compared with a referenced food or regular food item.

Reduced sodium is a reduction in sodium of at least 25 percent when compared with a referenced food or regular food item.

Food prepared with less sodium does not have to be without flavor. Season and add flavor to your food using:

Herbs and spice - fresh, dried or blends

Pepper - black, lemon or lime

Garlic or onions - fresh, minced or powdered

Peppers - spicy, mild or sweet

Fruits - citrus, mango, berries

Vegetables - mushrooms, squash, tomato

Cooking in liquids with little or no sodium instead of using broth, bouillon or stocks reduce overall sodium:

Wine - Red or white

Beer - Light or dark

Vinegar - Balsamic, rice, apple cider

Teas - Black, green, white, or herbal

Juices - Fruit or vegetable, fresh or low sodium


It is advisable to check with your physician prior to using salt substitutes.

Prepare food at home this year to have greater control of the sodium in your diet and stay open minded to new flavor combinations, adjusting may take time.

Happy New Year.

Jami Martin is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to



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