You probably think quite a bit about your diet, counting calories, fat grams, and carbs. But do you ever think about how much salt you’re eating? As it turns out, many people are eating nearly double the amount of recommended sodium in a single day and it’s not coming from the salt shaker!
The real culprit is the salt that’s found in packaged foods. It’s found in everything even common items like bread and cereal but foods like canned soup and cold cut sandwiches can pack up to half a day’s worth of sodium into a single serving. Even so-called health foods aren’t immune: some “healthy” frozen dinners, while low in calories and fat, pack in extra salt to try to make the food taste better.
While guidelines for sodium intake vary, most nutritionists agree you should probably eat no more than 1500-2000 milligrams per day (less if you have high blood pressure or other health concerns). So how can you stick to that limit? For starters, read the labels on everything you buy. Some items will be marker “low sodium”, which is helpful, but you need to look at the nutrition facts on the package, too. See a label with several hundred milligrams of sodium per serving? Move on!
Second, make sure you watch your portion sizes. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a side of General Tso’s Chicken at dinner time, but even a small portion can pack a ton of extra salt into your meal, so measure it out and don’t eat seconds!
Third, pull out the pots and pans. Cooking from scratch is by far the most foolproof way to limit your sodium intake. For example, a homemade pot of soup or chili will contain far less sodium than canned soup; a large batch can be ladled into individual freezer-safe containers and pulled out later for easy microwaving.
Finally, you might just have to limit yourself to rare tastings of your favorite foods. There’s nothing wrong with an indulgent plate of homemade mac and cheese, or a sandwich piled high with cold cuts as long as you only eat those items once in a while. Avoid the temptation to eat such high-sodium foods on a regular basis, and swap them instead for healthier options (like low-sodium mac and cheese or fresh grilled chicken). Your body will thank you!