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Practical ways to control salt intake

Paoli Hospital March 11, 2014 General Wellness

In February 2012, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a study that revealed that 90 percent of Americans are consuming too much salt. Instead of the recommended 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, most people consume about 3,300 milligrams, which can lead to higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

According to the report, bread and rolls topped the list of ten foods that contribute to over 40 percent of daily salt intake. Most of the foods in the top ten are foods that are processed with added salt like pizza, soup, cold cuts and snack foods.

“It’s not that bread is excessively high in sodium, it’s that it makes up a larger portion of what we eat everyday,” explains Judy Matusky, registered dietitian and nutrition program specialist at Paoli Hospital. “Most of the sodium we get from our diet is from foods that are processed in some way. In fact, 80–90 percent of the sodium we eat is from store products and restaurant foods."

Scaling back on easy mealtime staples like frozen dinners and canned soups is easier said than done, especially for busy families. Still, there are ways to help curb sodium intake, starting with paying attention to nutrition labels.

Matusky encourages parents to opt for sodium-free or low-sodium foods, which have only 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving, when grocery shopping. For a snack option, choose unsalted nuts over pretzels and for canned products, select the “no salt added” varieties.

Limiting salt intake at home can be a little trickier, especially if families are used to using it during every meal. There are many options to try controlling intake:

  • Try to limit the salt used in recipes by cutting it in half
  • If you’re accustomed to adding salt at the table, keep the salt shaker in the cabinet and try a salt-free spice blend instead
  • Instead of using salt, sauces or marinades to season meats, choose alternative flavorings like garlic, paprika, cayenne, fresh herbs and lemon juice
  • Avoid serving dinner rolls and bread at the table, and opt for fresh fruit and vegetables instead