6 Easy Tips to Help You Eat Less Salt

grains of saltHave you thought about cutting back on the amount of sodium your family eats? The USDA recommends that all adults consume no more than 2300 mg. of sodium a day. That’s one measly teaspoon of salt. Middle-aged and older adults, blacks, and those with hypertension (high blood pressure) or pre-hypertension should limit salt even more, to 1500 milligrams daily. The reason? Eating too much salt puts you at higher risk for heart disease.

Salt is essential for our diets, but most of us eat much more than we need. The average daily intake in the US is 3436 milligrams. And more than half of Americans have hypertension or prehypertension.

People who often eat out in restaurants, or rely on canned or processed foods, may be eating too much salt.  If you cook at home, using less salt may be easier than you think. My husband learned this after we had been married for a while. Foods he used to enjoy suddenly tasted too salty. According to this article from the Center for Disease Control: “A randomized trial showed that the perceived pleasantness of highly salted food was based on dietary habit and that this perception could be changed by gradual reduction of dietary intake of sodium.”

But eating less salt doesn’t mean giving up on tasty food. Here are some ideas for home cooks who want to lower the amount of sodium in food.

  1. Read ingredient and nutrition labels. Processing foods removes flavor, and salt is added to replace the lost freshness and taste. The vast majority of processed foods,  including desserts, are high in sodium.
  2. Prepare foods while they are still fresh and flavorful. Follow guidelines for keeping food fresh as long as possible.
  3. Use sharp flavors like hot peppers, citrus juice and zest, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, spices, onions and vinegar. They are all healthy additions to tasty food.
  4. Discard liquid from salty canned foods like tuna, beans or vegetables. Beans and vegetables can be rinsed off.
  5. Don’t add salt to cooking water. Always taste and add salt at the end of cooking.
  6. Check out this list of tips for avoiding canned and powdered soup, which generally contain large amounts of sodium.

Salt is not usually essential in cooking. There are even pickling recipes that don’t call for salt.  If you want to cut back on sodium, add a little less salt  to your recipe and see if anyone notices. If they don’t say anything, great. If they do comment, try the same amount next time and see what happens. There’s a good chance their taste buds will have adjusted.

Of course, these tips don’t help much if the family adds it back at the table via the salt shaker. What suggestions do you have for breaking a salt-shaker habit?

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley

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Comments

  1. My husband’s family tells a story about my father-in-law, regarding his oversalting of food.

    They were on an aeroplane, and it was mealtime. The meal comes with small packets of salt, pepper and sugar.

    As was his custom, he salted his (aeroplane, overprocessed) food, before tasting it, and the meal continued without comment.

    When the tea and coffee came round, he was confused as to why he had a salt to add to his coffee. He then checked his litter, adn saw he had sugared his fod instead of salting it, and not noticed.

  2. This is definitely a post for me. I always add salt to my plate; I know, I know…
    Ilana-Davita recently posted..Remembering &amp ActingMy Profile

  3. Note that adding salt to cooking foods is sometimes not just a matter of flavor – if you add salt to the water for pasta, for example, it cooks hotter, which makes it less mushy. Likewise, you should always boil eggs in salted water. (though in that case, the salt doesn’t get to the eggs).

    One thing that should be obvious, but isn’t is- always taste what’s on your plate before you add salt. Unless you’re the one who cooked it, you have no idea how much (or how little) salt it needs until you taste it. Take a bite before you add salt. If it tastes good, don’t add any. If it needs salt, add a bit, then taste again. It’s easier to add than to take away.
    LeahGG recently posted..Ten Interesting Things About FinlandMy Profile

  4. You can buy Lite Salt which has half the amount of sodium but tastes exactly the same (and kosher as well)

  5. I certainly agree that people eat way too much salt. I’ve seen statistics that show that Westerners consume 17% more than the RDA. What helped me switch to a lower salt diet was by using Atlantic Grey Sea Salt. This salt has all the vitamins and the minerals that your body requires. It could be that you are craving salt because your body lacks the minerals that aren’t provided by the normal, white, refined table salt that we all buy in the supermarket.
    While it is more expensive short term, the long term affects certainly make up for the added expense of 10-20 shekels a month.
    Sima Herzfeld Navon recently posted..Spinach SoupMy Profile

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