Guidelines for a Low Sodium Diet
Sodium controls fluid balance and maintains blood volume and blood pressure. A diet high in sodium may raise blood pressure and cause fluid retention, resulting in swelling of the legs and feet. Water may also collect around the lungs and lead to shortness of breath.
The average American eats five or more teaspoons of salt each day. This is about 20 times as much as the body needs. In fact, your body needs only one quarter of a teaspoon of salt every day. Salt is found naturally in foods, but a lot of it is added during processing and preparation. Many foods that do not taste salty may still be high in sodium, which can be hidden in large amounts in canned, processed and convenience foods as well as in many foods that are served at fast food restaurants.
If you doctor recommends that you reduce your sodium intake, here are some general guidelines for cutting down the amount of salt in your diet.
Special foods are not required for this diet. Eliminating salty foods from your diet and reducing the amount of salt used in cooking are important steps.
Many salt free or reduced salt products are available. You may choose low sodium products to replace foods which are not allowed.
Salt substitutes may be used with your doctor’s permission.
Be creative and season your food with spices, herbs, lemons, oranges, wine and Tabasco sauce. Move the salt shaker off the table.
Read ingredient labels to identify foods high in sodium. High sodium food additives include salt, baking powder, brine or other items that say “sodium” such as monosodium glutamate.
Eat more home-cooked meals. Foods cooked from scratch are naturally lower in sodium, since you are in control of how much salt is added.
Avoid softened water for cooking and drinking since it contains added salt.
Avoid medications which contain sodium such as alka seltzer and bromo seltzer.
For more information on specific foods, or if you want to actually calculate your daily sodium intake, you might consider reading food labels or use a sodium reference guide.
Low-Sodium Alternatives to Popular Foods
Meats, Poultry, Fish, Legumes, Eggs and Nuts
Smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, fish or poultry including bacon, cold cuts, ham, frankfurters, sausage, sardines, caviar and anchovies
Frozen breaded meats and dinners, such as burritos and pizza
Canned entrees, such as ravioli, spam and chili
Any fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry and fish
Eggs and egg substitutes
Low-sodium peanut butter
Dry peas and beans (not canned)
Low sodium canned fish
Drained, water or oil packed canned fish or poultry
Regular and processed cheese, cheese spreads and sauces
Milk, yogurt, ice cream and ice milk
Low sodium cheeses, cream cheese, ricotta cheese and mozzarella
Breads, Grains and Cereals
Bread and rolls with salted tops
Quick breads, self-rising flour, biscuit, pancake and waffle mixes
Pizza, croutons and salted crackers
Prepackaged, processed mixes for potatoes, rice, pasta and stuffing
Breads, bagels and rolls without salted tops
Muffins and most ready-to-eat cereals
All rice and pasta, but do not to add salt when cooking
Corn and flour tortillas and noodles
Low sodium crackers and breadsticks
Unsalted popcorn, chips and pretzels
Vegetables and Fruits
Regular canned vegetables and vegetable juices
Olives, pickles, sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables
Vegetables made with ham, bacon or salted pork
Packaged mixes, such as scalloped or au gratin potatoes, frozen hash browns and tater tots
Commercially prepared pasta and tomato sauces
Fresh and frozen vegetables without sauces
Low sodium canned vegetables, sauces and juices
Fresh potatoes, frozen French fries and instant mashed potatoes
Low salt tomato or V-8 juice.
Most fresh, frozen and canned fruit
Regular canned and dehydrated soup, broth and bouillon
Low sodium canned and dehydrated soups, broth and bouillon
Homemade soups without added salt
Fats, Desserts and Sweets High-sodium foods:
Bottled salad dressings, regular salad dressing with bacon bits
Salted butter or margarine
Instant pudding and cake
Unsalted butter or margarine
Vegetable oils and sodium free salad dressings
All desserts made without salt