It’s no secret that most Americans are consuming too much sodium. The average American takes in about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. Yet the American Diabetes Association guidelines recommend that people with diabetes have 2,300 mg or less per day. If you have diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure), you should be shooting for 1,500 mg or less per day.
Decreasing the amount of sodium in the diet can help many people lower their blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure also means you are decreasing your risk for heart attack or stroke, both of which are common diabetes complications.
Limiting your intake to 1500 mg per day of sodium is a difficult goal to achieve. Our current food supply is full of hidden sources of sodium and highly preserved foods that are high in sodium.
It is estimated that about 75% or more of the sodium Americans eat is from processed, packaged foods. Many companies are slowly trying to lower the amount of sodium in their products, but there is still much work to be done.
In general, fresh, unprocessed foods are the lowest sodium foods out there. So, an easy strategy to cut back on sodium is to eat more of these foods and less highly-processed foods. Fresh, unprocessed foods include:
- fresh fruits
- fresh vegetables (both starchy and non-starchy)
- dried beans, peas, and legumes (buying dried beans, peas, and legumes is best since canning adds a significant amount of sodium)
- whole grain foods prepared without salt like brown rice, wild rice, oats, quinoa, popcorn, and whole grain barley
- unsalted nuts and seeds
In the chart below we’ve provided a list of foods that are usually high in sodium, along with some related tips to follow when you decide to include them in your meal plan:
|Frozen meals||Choose frozen meals with 600 mg of sodium per serving or less. (Be sure to check the serving size, as well.)|
Use less cheese in your recipes and meals. When choosing which to buy, use the nutrition label to compare different cheeses, and opt for those that are lower in sodium.
Fresh mozzarella packed in water and Swiss cheese are usually on the low end.
|Canned vegetables and canned beans||
Buying these items fresh or frozen without added salt is a great option. If you want to stick to cans, look for “no salt added” or reduced-sodium varieties.
Before using canned vegetables or beans, drain and rinse them thoroughly with cold water.
|Processed or cured meats||
Limit the amount of processed meats you eat. This includes hot dogs, bologna, salami, bacon, and sausage products with more than 8 grams of fat per ounce.
Instead, choose fresh, lean meats, fresh fish, and plant-based protein sources.
|Other deli meats (chicken, ham, roast beef, turkey)||Choose reduced-sodium varieties and be careful of portion size. When you make sandwiches, use 2-3 slices and then add other healthy, lower-sodium ingredients like: mustard, avocado, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and/or hummus.|
|Many condiments (especially soy sauce, dressings/marinades, tomato or spaghetti sauce, and teriyaki sauce||
There are also other condiments that can be a significant source of sodium if you have too much. This includes: salsa, catsup, taco sauce and seasoning, garlic salt, onion salt, hot sauce, and barbeque sauce.
Always check labels and choose lower-sodium varieties if possible. Look for salt-free seasonings and use them to enhance the flavor of your dishes. Try making your own salad dressing using oil, vinegar, and lemon juice.
If a condiment has more than 100 mg of sodium in a serving, look for another brand that has less. Be cautious about the amount you use and measure if you have to – you may be surprised how a little bit can add a lot of flavor.
Even reduced sodium versions of some condiments like soy sauce contain over 700 mg per tablespoon so read labels carefully.
|Soups and broths||
Make your own broths and soup at home. It’s easy to boil a chicken with some vegetables and use the broth to make a soup without adding any salt.
If you want to buy soup or broth from the store, look for reduced sodium varieties.
|Prepared mixes for pasta, rice, etc.||
These highly processed foods can easily be replaced with healthy, homemade recipes that use fresh, natural ingredients.
If you are looking for a variety of healthy recipes, you may want to check out our FREE nutrition resource, Recipes for Healthy Living.
|Pickled foods like pickles, relish, and sauerkraut||These foods are usually very high in sodium. One pickle wedge can have 500 mg of sodium! Limit these foods as much as possible.|
|Many restaurant foods||
Many restaurant meals (both fast-food and sit-down) have enough sodium in them for the entire day. Large portions are part of the problem. Save half of your meal for the next day – this will help you cut sodium in half too. You can also ask your server to have your food prepared without salt.
Take a look at the nutrition information online ahead of time. Don’t forget to consider sodium when looking at your options.
Finding lower sodium options can be tough. It may be easier to cook from scratch as often as you can so you know exactly what is going into your food.
cut back on sodium intake.
Did you find this information to be helpful? Is there anything you think we should add? Visit the American Diabetes Association online community, and share your thoughts! We look forward to hearing from you.
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