The average American consumes around 3,400 mg of sodium per day. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, which is roughly 1 teaspoon of salt. While that may seem like too little, consuming too much sodium can be bad for your health. Pizza, potato chips, deli meats, and canned soups are the major culprits when it comes to high sodium foods in the American diet.
While most of these foods are accessible and tasty, diets high in sodium can increase blood pressure and harm the kidneys. According to research, “a reduction in dietary sodium not only decreases the blood pressure and the incidence of hypertension, but is also associated with a reduction in morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease.”
Tips for reducing sodium consumption
Learning about sodium in foods and exploring new ways to prepare your meals is a great start to helping you achieve your sodium intake goal. Here are other tips you can try to help reduce your sodium consumption:
Read food labels
Sodium content is always listed on the label. Before adding a grocery item into your cart, be sure to check the label first. Compare and choose foods to get less than 100% of your daily value (less than 2,300 mg) of sodium each day.
Sodium is only minimally present in fresh meat and poultry, and does not significantly contribute to total dietary intake. Using fresh, rather than packaged, meats can help you reduce your sodium intake. Processed meat products like bacon, ham, and deli meat, usually contain high or very high quantities of sodium, added as a preservative or flavor enhancer. If your meat keeps well in the fridge for weeks, that is a sign that the sodium content is high for preservation.
Prepare your food when you can
Fast foods and frozen meals can be convenient and easy, especially if you have a busy lifestyle. But, the salt in these meals can add up. In fact, one Big Mac from McDonald’s has 1010mg of sodium, which is about 40% of your daily intake. You should avoid packaged sauces, mixes, and “instant” products as much as possible.
Try setting aside a few hours each week to prepare meals for the upcoming days. Meal prepping will help you avoid grabbing packaged food in the freezer or the pantry when in a rush.
Reduce your portion size
The less food on your plate, the less sodium. When you are eating out, choose smaller sizes, split an entree with a friend, or take home part of your meal. Doing so will help reduce the amount of sodium in your food without having to say “no” to your favorite meal on the menu.
Add flavor without adding sodium
When preparing food at home, limit the amount of salt you add when cooking, baking, or at the table. Several seasonings can add flavor to your meals without adding any salt, such as chili powder, smoked paprika, lemon zest, and Italian seasoning.
Re-evaluate your snack choices
While snack sizes are typically small portions, it is still important to be mindful of your snacks by choosing low sodium or no-salt-added nuts, seeds, and snack products. Some low salt snacks include:
- Carrots and hummus
- Berries and Greek yogurt
- Unsalted trail mix
- Air-popped popcorn
- Peanut butter and banana
It may seem overwhelming to completely change your diet and carefully track sodium intake. However, it isn’t impossible to switch over to a low-sodium diet. Here’s a few tips to getting started:
- Taste your food before adding salt. If you need a boost of flavor, try adding black pepper or squeeze fresh lemon or lime.
- When preparing food, use onions, garlic, herbs, spices and citrus juices to add flavor rather than salt.
- If you use canned beans and vegetables, drain and rinse them. This can cut the sodium by up to 40 percent.
- Choose packaged foods carefully. Prepared and packaged foods make life easy, so if you can’t give them up just yet, try comparing labels and choosing products with the lowest amount of sodium (per serving). It may surprise you that there is a low-sodium alternative to your favorite packaged food in the same isle.
- Select condiments with care. Condiments like soy sauce, ketchup, jarred salsas, pickles, and relish can contain a lot of sodium. Try looking for a reduced- or lower-sodium version without completely having to say “no” to those delicious additions.
At Summit Medical Clinic, we provide consultation and ongoing care for the prevention and treatment of kidney-related diseases. If you are experiencing kidney pain, schedule an appointment by calling (719) 630-1006 or visiting our website.