Easy Ways to Lower Salt Intake for Sensible Healthy Eating

A doctor’s warning to lower your salt intake should be taken seriously. These are simple steps to get started on the road to healthier, low sodium eating.

My last medical check-up revealed a blood pressure reading of 182/105.

“That can’t be right,” I said to my doctor. “Check it again.”

“In a few minutes,” was the response. “You seem a bit agitated right now.”

Yes, you could say I was agitated. And a bit scared. Being overweight and currently dieting could have explained the agitated part. But the scared part? That was because my doctor had just informed me I was essentially a heart attack waiting to happen.

I had to make some changes and not just in the whole portion control area. Not just in the what-I-was-eating area, either. No, this required changes in how I was eating what I was eating, he said. Huh?

Lowering Salt Intake for a Low Salt Diet can Have a Drastic Effect on One’s Health

According to the Manual of Dietetic Practice (fourth edition published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2007), excess salt intake can have huge effects on healthy living. Hypertension. Heart disease. Kidney disease. It can affect your stomach and your digestive system.

None of the above sounded terribly appealing to deal with so, almost overnight, I became a determined, tenacious soldier in the war against salt. After honestly assessing what my daily eating habits were, I decided to break this down into three approach components, all starting with the letter S:

Substitution
Sensibility
Simplicity

It seemed to me that any salt intake changes would fall into one of these three categories. Besides, if an easy substitution couldn’t be found that was sensible and simple it was unlikely I (or anyone else) would stick to the new plan. Simple as that.

Become a Label Reader at Every Opportunity to Take Control of Your Salt Intake

When at the grocery store, always read the labels of any packaged food before placing it in the cart. The results can be surprising. For instance, a simple quick packaged meal like oriental noodle soup mix is a popular favorite with many who need a meal on the run. Full of flavor and averaging between 350 – 400 calories, this pre-packaged food is a reasonable caloric intake for a full meal. But what of the rest of it? This is what I found when I stopped to read the label before purchasing the product:

380 calories
1 gram sugar
5 mg cholesterol
12 grams fat
1550 mg sodium

I had to read the sodium figure twice before absorbing the full impact of what it meant. 1550 grams?! The Canadian Stroke Network advises that figure exceeds the recommended sodium intake for an entire day! This item did not land in my grocery cart. But others did. A low salt diet is possible if you pay attention to the choices available.

Many stores have their own healthy brand lines nowadays emphasizing low fat and low sodium food products. Blue Menu, Eating Right and a host of others have arrived on the market in recent years. Check out what they have to offer for healthy alternatives. And read the labels anyway – all foods labeled healthy are not necessarily always what they seem.

Substitute Favorite Foods with Easy, Sensible Alternatives

For simplicity, I like using my slow cooker and use many condensed soups when cooking. My favorite chicken stew recipe has two different condensed soups, one of which is condensed chicken broth. When I reached for my favorite brand, I forced myself to read the label – 990 mg sodium per serving. Well, I couldn’t buy that but what else was I going to use?

I spied another condensed soup by the same company except this one was condensed chicken broth with garlic and herbs. I was adding garlic and herbs to my crock pot recipe anyway so I checked the label. The sodium level was half of the first soup. It was a simple, sensible substitute. That’s the idea.

Extra Salt can be Eliminated by Paying Attention to Cooking Habits

Do you salt the water of vegetables when boiling them? Do you salt the water for pasta? It’s a good idea to get out of this unwise cooking habit. Most cooks add some salt to these meal additions after the boiling is through anyway so it’s unnecessary to add salt at this stage. Spaghetti sauce has salt. Bits of added butter or margarine have salt. Make this be the salt you add without adding any more. The added benefit is that unsalted water takes less time to boil, making mealtime prep even quicker.

Vegetable and broth soups can be great additions to healthy eating but what happens after they’re served is often when the mistakes are made. Be sure the soup crackers added are unsalted. Take care that any soy sauce or flavor booster is low sodium. Try adding some salt free packaged salad toppings (available in the spice aisle) to low sodium chicken soup for added taste.

I’m looking forward to my next doctor’s appointment. I’ll have dropped some weight and some blood pressure points, to be sure. More than that, though, I’ll have taken better control of my health. Not a bad trade-off for a few simple and sensible substitutions to my salt intake.

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