“Cut the salt.” If you’ve heard these words from your doctor, you may be wondering where to start. After all, salt is an ever-present part of the modern diet, especially in pre-packaged food.
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Never fear. A few simple tips and tricks can help you reduce your sodium intake. Start with the following advice from Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, a Cleveland Clinic registered dietitian.
1. Check the label
Scan the “Nutrition Facts” label before you buy prepared or packaged foods for the words “soda” (referring to sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda) and “sodium,” and the symbol “Na.” They tell you that the product contains sodium compounds.
2. Go fresh
Instead of processed foods, use fresh or frozen ingredients in your kitchen. If you do buy pre-prepared items, make sure they say “no salt added.”
3. Adjust your recipes
For favorite recipes, eliminate or decrease the amount of salt. Salt can be removed from any recipe except those containing yeast. Experiment with other seasonings, too.
4. Ditch the mixes
Avoid convenience foods such as canned soups, entrees and vegetables, pasta and rice mixes, frozen dinners, instant cereal, and pudding and gravy sauce mixes. They’re loaded with salt.
5. Set limits for packaged food
If you don’t have time to cook and must eat convenience foods, choose frozen entrees and single-meal boxed, canned or frozen dishes that contain no more than 600 to 800 mg of sodium. But limit yourself to one such meal per day.
6. Confirm your seasonings
If you want to try seasonings that replace salt, be sure to check the label to confirm salt is not an ingredient. Many mixes and blends actually include salt.
7. Take the next steps
If you have high blood pressure or heart failure, your next steps are to eat a heart-healthy low-fat diet, decrease your portion sizes and be more active. Along with reducing salt and eating a low-fat diet, weight loss and exercise will have a significant impact on your heart health.