How to reduce dietary sodium intake

Tracking salt intake is the first step to reducing sodium consumption, but it can be difficult to know how much sodium you’re actually consuming.

Many food products use sodium for reasons other than a salt flavorTrusted Source. It may be used in baking, thickening, curing meat, moisture retention, and as a preservative. Many foods high in sodium don’t taste salty at all.

“Without actively scrutinizing food labels and being attentive to sodium levels, people may inadvertently consume excessive amounts,” Routhenstein said.

“Individuals may not be aware of the sodium content in their meals even before considering the use of a salt shaker,” Routhenstein added. “For example, a typical restaurant meal can contain upwards of 2,000 mg or more of sodium, surpassing the recommended intake for individuals with heart disease.”

Routhenstein recommended the following tips for reducing sodium intake:

“To consume less dietary sodium, focus on cooking at home using fresh ingredients, choosing low-sodium options, using herbs and spices for flavor, reading labels, and being mindful of hidden sodium in processed foods. When dining out, individuals can make lower sodium, heart-healthier choices by asking for sauces and dressings on the side, opting for grilled or steamed options instead of fried ones, and requesting meals to be prepared without added salt.”

“These simple adjustments can significantly contribute to reducing overall sodium intake while [you’re] still enjoying delicious meals,” Routhenstein noted.

Dr. Morgan offered four simple principles to keep in mind:

  • Choose fresh foods.
  • Limit side sauces, including salad dressings: barbecue, soy, teriyaki, ketchup, etc.
  • Substitute salt for other herbs and spices when cooking.
  • For salt cravings, try fresh fruit, dark chocolate, or almonds instead.
Common substitutes for salt

Routhenstein suggested a number of ways to replace salt in food and still retain flavor, such as adding small amounts of lemon or grapefruit juices to recipes.

“The tangy taste of citrus fruits can trick taste buds into perceiving more saltiness than is actually present, allowing dishes to remain flavorful with reduced sodium content,” she said.

Additionally, Routhenstein advocated for spiciness, incorporating chili peppers or hot sauce to your dishes depending on your taste preferences.

You could also replace the tabletop salt shaker with a shaker of garlic powder (not garlic salt, which has sodium), oregano, or any other favorite powder.

“Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, or dry mustard powder can add tanginess and depth to dressings, marinades, and sauces. Incorporating mustard into vinaigrettes, sandwich spreads, or rubs offers a flavorful twist without relying on sodium,” Routhenstein suggested.