If you’re one of the many people who have been advised to reduce your sodium intake, you might be struggling to figure out how to cut back — especially if you only use a small amount of salt at the dinner table. To slash the sodium from your diet, consider these six strategies that go beyond putting down the salt shaker.
Look at labels
Salt can be hiding where you least expect it. Make informed dietary decisions by reading the nutrition facts and ingredients before you buy a product. For instance, some cuts of meat have a sodium or saline solution infused into them for a plump, juicy appearance. If you opt for untreated meat, you could cut out nearly 100 mg of salt per 4-ounce serving. Also, look for items that feature the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check logo. While it’s still a good idea to read the labels, these American Heart Association-endorsed items can help you make healthier choices.
Cut the salt out of your canned vegetables
When purchasing canned vegetables, look for low-salt or no-salt varieties. If you can’t find those, you can still work with their full-sodium counterparts. Just drain the liquid in the can and give the veggies a thorough rinse. According to Consumer Reports and the American Heart Association, this can wash away 40 percent of a product’s salt content.
Cut down on convenience foods
According to Circulation, a heart health journal, Americans get 71 percent of their sodium from commercially prepared foods, including restaurant meals and packaged goods. Canned soup, dried ramen and frozen foods are often high in salt. To combat this, look for low-sodium canned soups. Skip the seasoning packet for your ramen and choose a low-sodium chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to use in its place. If your frozen food comes with a sauce, either discard the sauce packet or look for an unseasoned variety and add your own flavoring.
Select your seasonings
Cutting back on salt doesn’t mean getting stuck with bland food. Experiment with adding herbs, garlic, spices, onions and vinegar to liven up your meals. Just make sure to check what you’re adding, since many condiments contain a shocking amount of sodium. Common culprits include ketchup, relish, steak sauce, miso, soy sauce and salad dressings.
Remedies for restaurant food
Many restaurants salt your food with a heavy hand. If possible, request your food unsalted. However, this isn’t an option for many dishes — but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo a tasty meal. Instead, practice portion control. Save half of your meal for later or simply split it with someone.
Adjectives to avoid
There are plenty of situations where you may not be able to check the nutrition facts before you dine. For a general guideline, you can spot salty foods by their descriptions. If an item has words like pickled, brined, cured or smoked in its name, it most likely contains a high amount of sodium. Items that are poached, grilled, roasted or steamed tend to contain lower amounts of salt.
Lowering your sodium intake can be a big step towards improving your cardiovascular health. If you’d like more information about making smart dietary choices, consult with your doctor or a dietician.