Sodium Reduction

Check the sodium on food labels. Choosing less is best.

Why should you care about sodium?

Reducing sodium is an important goal for good health. Eating too much sodium, which is the primary ingredient in salt, can raise your blood pressure, as well as your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you already have high blood pressure, a high-sodium diet is dangerous.

Even people who do not have high blood pressure could benefit from a lower-sodium diet.

Most of us should eat no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. That is the same amount found in about 1 teaspoon of salt. For people with high blood pressure, the recommended amount is just 1,500 mg per day. Most Americans eat much more than what is recommended – about 3,400 mg per day, on average.

Where does most of the sodium in our diets come from?

For most of us, the saltshaker is not the greatest source of sodium in our diets. Sodium can add up quickly throughout the day when we eat packaged, processed, store-bought and restaurant foods that have many added ingredients to keep them from going bad or losing their flavor. More than 75% of our sodium comes from processed food.

Some foods that add the most sodium to our diets:

  • Breads
  • Cold cuts
  • Pizza
  • Canned soups
  • Snack foods

Choosing high-sodium foods throughout the day can add up to more than the recommended amount of sodium.

Sodium adds up quickly in our daily diet. The sample diet includes Breakfast: Egg and cheese sandwich, 760mg of sodium. Orange juice, 1 cup, 5mg of sodium. Coffee, 1 cup, 5mg of sodium. Snack: Banana, medium, 1mg of sodium. Lunch: Vegetable soup and half of a sandwich combo, 1,450mg of sodium. Iced tea, 1 cup unsweetened, 10mg of sodium. Snack: Chips, plain, 140mg of sodium. Dinner: Spaghetti (without added salt) with meat sauce (1.5 cup pasta, 3/4 cup sauce, 3 oz meat), 380mg of sodium. Garden salad with ranch dressing, 340mg of sodium. Water, 1 cup, 10mg of sodium. Snack: 2 chocolate chip cookies, 70mg of sodium. Skim milk, 1 cup, 100mg of sodium. Total mg of sodium in sample diet: 3,271.

*Image from CDC

Sodium Levels,
Sodium in milligrams (mg)
Egg and cheese sandwich 760
Orange juice, 1 cup 5
Coffee, 1 cup 5
Banana, medium 1
Vegetable soup, 1/2 sandwich combo 1,450
Iced tea, 1 cup unsweetened 10
Chips, (plain) 140
Spaghetti (without added salt) with meat sauce (1 1/2 cup pasta, 3/4 cup sauce, 3 oz meat) 380
Garden salad with ranch dressing 340
Water, 1 cup 10
2 Chocolate chip cookies 70
Skim milk, 1 cup 100
Total 3,271

Because sodium is added to many foods, the best way to reduce sodium is to choose healthier foods.
Small changes can make a big difference.

How to Reduce Sodium

*Image from CDC

Sandwich ingredients,
higher-sodium ingredients vs. lower-sodium ingredients
Ingredient Higher-Sodium Choices (mg) Lower-Sodium Choices (mg)
Top slice of bread 200 110
1 teaspoon mustard 120 120
1 leaf lettuce 2 2
1 slice cheese 310 135
6 thin slices of turkey 690 440
Bottom slice of bread 200 110
Total per whole sandwich 1,522 917

Feel and be healthier. Cutting out extra sodium could help.

  • Read nutrition labels and choose foods with less sodium; choosing less is best.
  • Cook from scratch using fresh lean meats, poultry, and fish instead of canned or processed meats. Avoid buying packaged or highly processed food.
  • Enhance your food's flavor with spices, seasonings, herbs, lemon juice, onions, or garlic. Avoid seasonings with "salt" in their name, such as "garlic salt" or "celery salt."
  • Eat more fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables. When using canned beans and vegetables, rinse them first to remove extra sodium.
  • Limit high-sodium foods, such as restaurant foods, fast foods, convenience products, condiments and sauces.
  • Ask for low-sodium options any time you or your family eat outside your home. This will increase demand, making these foods more available. Ask for healthier items from your grocer, college, childcare center, school, and retirement facility.
  • Ask your registered dietitian about low-sodium foods and tips to reduce sodium. If you do not have a registered dietitian, ask your doctor for a referral.
Healthier alternatives to higher-sodium foods, choosing less is best.
Meats, Fish, Poultry, Legumes, Eggs and Nuts
Lower-Sodium Choices Higher-Sodium Choices
Fresh or frozen pork, beef, or lamb Cold cuts, salted or canned meats, bacon, corned beef, hot dogs, ham, and sausages
Fresh or low-sodium canned fish or poultry, packed in water or oil, drained Regular canned or salted fish, such as sardines and anchovies
Home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients Frozen dinners such as pizza or burritos; canned entrees, such as ravioli and chili; and breaded meats, such as chicken nuggets
No–salt-added nuts, low-sodium peanut butter Salted nuts and seeds
Dried beans and peas, low-sodium canned beans (if using regular canned beans rinse with water to remove some sodium) Canned beans with added salt or bacon
Lower-Sodium Choices Higher-Sodium Choices
Low-sodium canned soups, broth, and bouillon Regular canned soups, broth, and bouillon
Homemade soups without added salt Dehydrated soups and instant soup mixes
Breads, Cereals, and Grains
Lower-Sodium Choices Higher-Sodium Choices
Plain pasta, rice, quinoa, and barley. Do not salt water when cooking. Prepackaged, processed mixes for rice, pasta, and stuffing, such as boxed macaroni and cheese
Low-sodium breads, old-fashioned oats, and most ready-to-eat cereals Quick breads, instant cooked cereals, biscuits, waffle, and pancake mixes
Low-sodium crackers and tortillas Salted crackers and seasoned croutons
Unsalted popcorn, or low-sodium pretzels and chips Salted microwave popcorn, regular pretzels, and chips
Condiments, Fats and Sweets
Lower-Sodium Choices Higher-Sodium Choices
Vegetable oils and low-sodium sauces and salad dressing (or homemade, prepared without salt), vinegar, lemon juice Regular salad dressings, marinades, soy sauce, teriyaki and other sauces, canned or instant gravy
Salt-free seasonings, herbs, and spices Seasoning salts, bacon bits
Vegetable oils, unsalted butter, or margarine Salted butter and margarine
Mayonnaise Large servings of ketchup and mustard
Desserts made without salt, Italian ice, sorbet Instant puddings, Danish, doughnuts, baking mixes
Lower-Sodium Choices Higher-Sodium Choices
Milk, soy milk, yogurt, ice cream Buttermilk
Low-sodium or reduced-sodium cheeses, naturally low-sodium cheeses (cream cheese, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, Swiss, and goat) Regular and processed cheeses (American, cheddar, cottage cheese, cheese spreads or sauces)
Vegetables and Fruits
Lower-Sodium Choices Higher-Sodium Choices
Low-sodium canned vegetables, low-sodium vegetable juices, and low-sodium tomato juices Regular canned or marinated vegetables, regular vegetable juices, and regular tomato juice
Homemade salsa or fruit chutney Pickled vegetables, olives, or sauerkraut
Frozen vegetables and potatoes without added butter or sauce Packaged or frozen vegetables in sauce, packaged or frozen potato mixes, such as potatoes au gratin and scalloped potatoes
Homemade marinara, crushed tomatoes, low-sodium or no-salt-added tomato sauces Commercially prepared, jarred, or canned pasta and tomato sauces
Most fresh, frozen, dried, and canned fruit N/A