Most Americans would benefit from reducing the amount of salt in our diet. We eat 4,000 milligrams or more of sodium a day on average, nearly twice as much as recommended. But salt is in so many packaged foods, how do you know where to begin? Here are four ways to get started:
1. Choose fresh foods (fresh meat, poultry, and fish, whole fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed grains), when possible. Processing almost always boosts sodium substantially. For instance, a medium plain baked potato has about 20 milligrams of sodium, while a medium serving of fast-food French fries has at least 10 times more (200 to 500 milligrams) and a cup of potatoes au gratin made from a dry mix has about 50 times more (1,000 milligrams).
2. When buying packaged foods, compare the sodium content of different brands, and even of similar products within the same brand, since levels vary widely.Reduced-fat foods, such as low-fat cheese, often have more sodium than their full-fat versions. And don’t assume that organic packaged foods or health-food brands have less sodium.
3. When eating out, ask that the cook not use salt or MSG, and request sauces on the side. Keep in mind that “healthy” options on menus are not necessarily low in sodium.
4. Trimming your portion sizes and cutting back on snack foods will automatically lower your sodium intake, as well as your total calories, which is a good thing for most people.