A few days ago, I received an e-mail from someone who has recently been prescribed a pretty restrictive low-sodium diet. Specifically, the prescribed diet was 1200-1500mg per day. To put that in perspective, the recommended amount of sodium for someone without hypertension is approximately 2300mg.
I love any excuse to put my dietitian-in-training hat on, so I was eager to provide some information about the DASH Diet and which foods to avoid to stay within that 1500mg limit. The whole conversation got me thinking about how much sodium is in the foods we eat every day. Some of them are a bit unexpected, so I thought I’d show you a few examples and how to enjoy these foods without breaking your sodium “budget” for the day.
whole grain bread.
As much as I like to encourage whole grain consumption (complex carbs! B vitamins! fiber!), whole grain bread does have a potential downside—it can contain quite a bit of sodium, depending on the serving size. Many brands contain anywhere between 300 to 450 milligrams of sodium per two slices. If you’re using it to make a sandwich, you’re like to add some salty toppings too…you could end up consuming a third of your day’s allotment in one sitting.
Make it better: Try using a sprouted tortilla (which contains just 140mg sodium) to make a wrap, or ditch one slice of bread for an open-face sandwich.
I don’t personally eat deli meats, but I still buy it every week at the store for my husband. Being the concerned wife that I am, I always check the sodium count before tossing it in the cart—and some varieties are pretty sky-high. Add the 350-500mg of sodium from the meat to the amount in your bread…and you’ve made yourself a sodium bomb.
Make it better: Replace 1 ounce of meat with 2 tablespoons of lower-sodium (100mg or less per serving) hummus, or look for reduced-sodium varieties of meat such as those by Boar’s Head.
This one really pains me—I love cheese. But perhaps part of why I love it so much is because of its salty flavor. The amount of sodium in cheese differs depending on the variety, but most hard cheeses contain somewhere between 175-450mg, with Parmesan at the higher end. Granted, an ounce of Parm is quite a lot, but it’s still worth noting.
Make it better: Switch to soft cheeses such as goat cheese to reduce sodium content to 100mg per ounce, or try using higher sodium cheeses in small amounts.
Most of the time, I am all for anything that gets you to eat your vegetables—if that means dunking your carrots in ranch dressing, then so be it. However, if you’re watching your sodium intake, dousing your salad with bottled dressing is generally not a good idea. Most of the commercially prepared salad dressings contain at least 250 milligrams of sodium, and the ones available at fast food restaurants can contain double that amount! Yikes!
Make it better: Make your own salad dressing (like this ranch dressing), or dress your salads with some fresh salsa. Some low-sodium salad dressings are available at the supermarket—Maple Grove Farms makes several varieties that are reduced or low-sodium.
This one might seem obvious to some of you, but a little reminder never hurts. Most canned produce is packed in a brine of some kind to preserve freshness. Just how much sodium is in that brine can vary by the type of food, but most canned vegetables contain about 200 to 300 milligrams per 1/2 cup serving.
Make it better: Look for fresh, frozen, or no-salt-added canned varieties of produce to reduce sodium content to almost zero. If using the salted canned varieties is the only option, then rinse the veggies or beans to remove up to 40% of the sodium.
Do you monitor your sodium intake?