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Six tips to lower your sodium intake

A wooden spoon with salt surrounded by salt on a black table. Contains an orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

Do you typically lean for salty or sweet? Salt cravers might get their salty kick from potato chips, fries, or popcorn. These savory snacks are an obvious source of sodium. However, even sweet lovers get more sodium than they think when considering their meals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40 percent of the sodium we eat each day comes from just 10 types of foods: breads, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts, soups, tacos/burritos, savory snacks, chicken, cheese, and eggs/omelets.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, or about 1 teaspoon of salt. However, Americans consume on average about 3,400 milligrams. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, making the heart work harder. Chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. While sodium can add up fast, there are a few things you can do to lower your sodium intake.

  1. Read the Nutrition Facts label. Compare foods and choose those that have the lowest amount of sodium as possible.
  2. Buy No Added Salt canned vegetables and foods. The only source of sodium is what is naturally present in the vegetable. If not available, choose Low Sodium canned food, which must have 140 milligrams or less per serving.
  3. Rinse canned vegetables and meats. Rinsing canned foods such as, beans, tuna, or corn under running water will remove some of the sodium.
  4. Purchase fresh meats. Processed meats, such as deli meat, hot dogs, sausage, or breaded chicken strips, have added sodium. Limit these and choose fresh poultry, fish and meat. However, check the sodium level and ingredients on the label to make sure saline or a salt solution hasn’t been added.
  5. Fix more food at home. Preparing food at home gives you more control over sodium intake. When you do eat out, ask for your meals to be prepared without salt and for sauces and dressing to be served on the side.
  6. Reduce your portion size. Less food equates to less sodium. Instead of going back for seconds, grab some fresh fruit or veggies to fill you up.

Of course, removing the saltshaker from the table is always a good idea, even though it usually only contributes to a small amount of our sodium intake. Eating more fresh foods and less processed and restaurant foods will pay big dividends in the long run.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Top 10 sources of sodium

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sodium in your diet


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.