So, you’re convinced that you should reduce your salt intake. Now, how should you go about it? Start by making it a habit to check labels on foods you buy regularly. Also, limit the amount of salt you add to food yourself. Don’t try to go cold turkey. Just gradually use less salt every day. After a few weeks your taste buds will adjust.
Here are some ways you can cut back on salt:
Choose fresh, lean meats over processed ones. Fresh meat is lower in sodium than cold cuts, bacon, sausage, ham and hot dogs. Make a sandwich with whole-grain bread and half of your usual amount of cold cuts, then load it up with lettuce, tomatoes, fresh spinach leaves or slices of bell pepper. If you’re having chicken breasts for dinner, make extra and slice them up for sandwiches tomorrow instead of using deli meats.
Try to find fresh and frozen poultry that hasn't been injected with a sodium solution, which processors use to add flavor and weight. “Air-chilled” chickens are now available in some areas. They cost a bit more, but you aren’t paying for added salt water.
Use less or no salt in your home cooking. Most baked goods need a little salt as part of their cooking process, but you can use less than what the recipe calls for. Choose low-sodium canned goods for your homemade soups and stews. Look for tomatoes, beans and other vegetables that are labeled “low-sodium” or even better, “no-salt.”
Cut back on ready-made condiments. Soy sauce, bottled salad dressings, dips, ketchup, salsas, mustard, pickles, olives and relish are often sky-high in sodium. Look for “low-sodium” varieties. It’s easy to make your own salad dressing! Instead of salt, use fresh or dried herbs, spices, citrus zest, and 100% fruit juices to add excitement to your recipes.
Read the nutrition and ingredient labels. Sodium compounds are present whenever food labels include the words “soda” and “sodium,” and the chemical symbol “Na.”
Prepare your food at home as much as possible. Take-out, fast food and restaurant fare is loaded with salt and there’s nothing you can do about it, other than throwing away the soy sauce packets that come with packaged sushi and take-out Chinese food. (FYI, one tablespoon of soy sauce has 1,000 milligrams of sodium.)
Article copyright © 2011 American Heart Association. This article is brought to you by the American Heart Association’s Simple Cooking with Heart Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.