Health & Wellness

Strategies for Conquering “The Salty Six”

By Carla F. Williams | November 29, 2012

Here are some practical strategies for reducing sodium intake from the top sodium bombs in our daily diets.

1. Breads and Rolls - Bread undoubtedly heads the list because holding sodium down in bread making is tricky (it impacts flavor, yeast activity, and bread structure) and we reach for bread multiple times a day. One slice of bread can have 230 mg/sodium, but it’s not just the loaf of bread at home that’s upping our sodium intake, but also what we choose away from home as well.

 -  There’s a wide range of sodium levels in package breads so read the labels before making your choice, noting the serving size in slices. There are some specialty breads marked low-sodium available in specialty markets.

-  Skip the bread basket when dining out. Or, commit to one piece and send the basket back with the waitperson to make sure you stop at one.

-  Watch your coffee shop choices.  Although not included in the study, fruit and nut bread, scones and biscuits can be not the best choices when looking to cut back on sodium. Leavened with chemical leaveners, i.e. baking soda and/or baking powder two higher sodium ingredients, those coffee shop nut breads and scones can put a dent in your sodium allotment. Try the instant oatmeal with your coffee instead.

2.  Cold Cuts and Cured Meats, including bacon – Two ounces of deli meat can account for almost half of daily recommended sodium allowances. Most deli sandwiches have more than two ounces of meat, further increasing the sodium intake.  Those “pile-it-high” sandwiches pile on more than protein!

-  Try replacing the cold cuts in your homemade sandwiches with home-roasted turkey breast, roast beef, or pork loin.  Roast the meat for dinner then thinly slice leftovers for lunches and salads.

-   Keep your portions down to 2 ounces when choosing deli meats and other cured meats. Reach for veggies instead of cheese to fill out the meal since many cheeses are high in sodium.

-  Ask for lower-sodium options at sandwich shops and look for lower sodium varieties in packaged and slice-to-order deli meats. One national brand offers a deli turkey with 340 mg/2 ounce serving – 47% less sodium than their regular product. Some deli meats come in at over 1,000 mg/ serving, so choose wisely.

3.  Pizza – The average pizza doesn’t stand much of a chance on sodium-watch: the crust, sauce, cheese, and any non-veggie topping all come with a copious amount of sodium.  When it’s all said and done, that slice of pizza with multiple toppings can easily add up to over half a day’s sodium allowance.  Pick up another slice and you’re over the top!

-  Making your own pizza is the perfect way to reduce the sodium. Buy ready-to-use crust from the grocer or pizzeria, choosing the lowest sodium available and stretching it thin. Or, make it yourself. Then top with one of the great lower-sodium marinara sauces in the market.  Finely grate the cheese to make more go further and finish off the pie with your favorite veggies.  If meat makes the pie for you, finish the pizza off with diced lower-sodium Canadian bacon.

-  Choose thin crust pizza in the pizzeria or the freezer case. Cutting back on the bread saves you sodium.

-  At the pizzeria, go with veggie toppings and don’t order extra cheese. There’s more than enough hard-to-control sodium in the crust, sauce, and regular amount of cheese. No need to sprinkle more on top.

Photo: Laura Ratliff and Ryan Smith

4. Poultry – We’re on track to eat more chicken than beef this year as we have every year since 1992, making sodium in poultry and poultry products something to keep a keen eye on.

-  Read the labels carefully when buying any poultry or poultry products, selecting poultry that hasn’t been injected with saline solution or flavor enhancers. If you’re buying from a butcher-served case, ask if the chicken or turkey has been brined, salted, or injected with saline or flavor enhancers, as brining can increase the sodium level from 75 mg per per 4 ounces uncooked meat to 353 mg. 

-  Season poultry yourself rather than choosing pre-seasoned chicken strips or ground turkey. Use boneless, skinless chicken breast if at all possible and try to make your own nuggets or entrees, avoiding sodium-laden fast food options.

- Watch the coating in chicken recipes. Breading can add salt. Going with unseasoned breadcrumbs or panko and adding your own herbs and spices can greatly reduce sodium levels in the final dish.

5.   Canned Soup – Canned soup is an American favorite! Three varieties of canned soup are among the top 10 products sold in grocery stores weekly while on average and Americans stock six cans of the market leader’s soups in our pantries at all times. But sodium in soups can range from 100 mg/serving to 900 mg/serving, so be sure to put them on your sodium radar and keep your meals healthy.

-  Don’t be afraid to cook with water and add your own herbs and seasonings. You don’t have to reach for broth to flavor your rice or green beans. Appreciate their natural flavors and build your meal from there. 

- Serve-yourself soups in grocery stores and delis along with some restaurant soups may indeed have come from a can or pouch and be very-sodium heavy.  Do your body a favor and get the numbers before you ladle out the soup.

6.  Sandwiches ­- Kudos to the researchers at CDC for not letting the sodium in sandwiches slip in under the rug.  Often created from bread slathered with high-sodium spreads, cold cuts, and cheese – number 7 on the sodium sources in our diet-, the typical sandwich needs a little tweaking to lower the sodium.

-  There are more and more lower-sodium cheeses on the market, with reduced levels in some American, Muenster, Swiss and Provolone choices. There’s even a no-salt-added Swiss. Read the label and ask at the deli counter.

-  Cheeseburgers fall into this category. To save on the sodium in restaurants, try a burger with no cheese or don’t eat the top of the bun.

-  Mustard and mayo are standards for day-to-day sandwiches. Ketchup is a natural for burgers and hot dogs. Read labels carefully and choose carefully. One teaspoon of plain yellow mustard has about 55 mg while that same teaspoon of Dijon comes in at 120 mg/teaspoon. If you’re a serious mustard person and brown-bag it to lunch, you might have some fun investigating making your own mustard.

-  Try stirring your favorite herb, roasted garlic, or smoked paprika into fat-free Greek Yogurt as an easy substitute for mayo. At home, spread no-salt-added tomato paste on the burger or use it as a dip for oven-roasted fries. 

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