Cutting Back on Sodium: How Much Is Too Much?, Low-Sodium Products, and Sodium-Reducing Tips

Apr 20 2022 Hi Hungry Girl,

I'm always hearing that "sodium is bad" and that I shouldn't eat too much salt. I don't have any special dietary restrictions from my doctor and have been told I'm in good health… but should I be concerned about my sodium intake anyway?

Feeling Kinda Salty Hi Salty,

I hear this question a lot! For the record, I'm not a nutritionist or medical expert, so any info I pass along is not meant to be taken as such. That said…

The FDA and American Heart Association recommend no more than 2,300mg a day for most adults. While not everyone is on a sodium-restricted diet, experts do often say that the typical American generally consumes more sodium than they should. The culprit, however, is less frequently the salt shaker and more often the sodium found in packaged and processed foods. (Example: When was the last time you checked the sodium in your bread?)

So, while I can't say for sure whether you personally need to reduce your daily sodium, what I CAN do is provide you with some of my best tips & tricks for slashing salt without losing flavor…

Tricks for Saving Sodium

Rinse canned items. Rinsing canned beans and veggies eliminates about 35 percent of the sodium listed on the can. Hungry Girl recipes with canned beans typically call for them rinsed, so those sodium savings are factored into the nutritional stats provided. Starting with no-salt-added canned goods can save you even more sodium. You can also substitute frozen or fresh veggies for canned versions in a recipe; just adjust the cook time as necessary.

Reduce or omit condiments. I know, I love ‘em too! But mustard, hot sauce, salad dressing, etc., tend to be high in salt. (This also applies to any pickled items.) If you can't find reduced-sodium options, use less or skip 'em altogether. FYI: A little chili powder can replace the heat of hot sauce, and if your food is missing that tanginess, reach for vinegar or a splash of citrus.

Swap in meat for meatless crumbles. Soy crumbles are a great vegetarian swap, but they usually have more sodium than fresh meat. If you're an omnivore but are watching your sodium intake, you might be better off with lean/extra-lean ground turkey, chicken, or beef.

Turn to tomatoes. For any recipe that calls for jarred salsa, try fresh pico de gallo or a DIY blend of chopped tomatoes, onions, and herbs. You can also use canned crushed tomatoes in place of pizza sauce or pasta sauce. Just season it up, and you're good to go.

P.S. Spend some time at the supermarket, flipping over packages and finding your best bets! The numbers might surprise you, for better or worse… 

Bonus Reference: Reading Food Labels

If you’re following a recipe that calls for something like broth, sauce, cheese, or deli meat, look for products with these labels to cut down on salt. But first, get to know the lingo…

• Reduced/Less Sodium: Compared to the regular version of that food, this has at least 25% less sodium. (Just because it has LESS doesn't mean it's LOW in sodium.)

• Light in Sodium: Similarly, this has at least 50% less sodium than the original.

• Low Sodium: Typically 140mg or less per serving. Very Low = 35mg or less.

• No Salt Added: This one really depends on how high in sodium the food itself is to begin with. Still, it generally signals something is pretty low in salt.

• Sodium Free: The lowest of the low. 5mg or less per serving.

Have fun being as salty (or salt-free) as you like!

Chew on this:

Today, April 20th, is Lima Bean Respect Day... and it's also National Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day, so we're celebrating that instead with these mini cakes. (Sorry, lima beans—we still respect you!)

Help out any pals trying to eat less salt by passing along this email.

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