Cooking With Less Salt

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Cooking With Less Salt

Cooking With Less Salt

Cooking with less salt is one way to reduce the amount of sodium you get from food. Sodium is one of the elements that make up salt. It is found naturally in foods and is also added to certain foods. Depending on your condition and overall health, your health care provider or dietitian may recommend that you reduce your sodium intake. Most people should have less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), you may need to limit your sodium to 1,500 mg each day. Follow the tips below to help reduce your sodium intake.

What are tips for eating less sodium?

Reading food labels

  • Check the food label before buying or using packaged ingredients. Always check the label for the serving size and sodium content.
  • Look for products with no more than 140 mg of sodium in one serving.
  • Check the % Daily Value column to see what percent of the daily recommended amount of sodium is provided in one serving of the product. Foods with 5% or less in this column are considered low in sodium. Foods with 20% or higher are considered high in sodium.
  • Do not choose foods with salt as one of the first three ingredients on the ingredients list. If salt is one of the first three ingredients, it usually means the item is high in sodium.


  • Buy sodium-free or low-sodium products. Look for the following words on food labels:
    • Low-sodium.
    • Sodium-free.
    • Reduced-sodium.
    • No salt added.
    • Unsalted.
  • Always check the sodium content even if foods are labeled as low-sodium or no salt added.
  • Buy fresh foods.


  • Use herbs, seasonings without salt, and spices as substitutes for salt.
  • Use sodium-free baking soda when baking.
  • Grill, braise, or roast foods to add flavor with less salt.
  • Avoid adding salt to pasta, rice, or hot cereals.
  • Drain and rinse canned vegetables, beans, and meat before use.
  • Avoid adding salt when cooking sweets and desserts.
  • Cook with low-sodium ingredients.

What foods are high in sodium?


Regular canned vegetables (not low-sodium or reduced-sodium). Sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and relishes. Olives. French fries. Onion rings. Regular canned tomato sauce and paste. Regular tomato and vegetable juice. Frozen vegetables in sauces.


Instant hot cereals. Bread stuffing, pancake, and biscuit mixes. Croutons. Seasoned rice or pasta mixes. Noodle soup cups. Boxed or frozen macaroni and cheese. Regular salted crackers. Self-rising flour. Rolls. Bagels. Flour tortillas and wraps.

Meats and other proteins

Meat or fish that is salted, canned, smoked, cured, spiced, or pickled. This includes bacon, ham, sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, chipped beef, meat loaves, salt pork, jerky, pickled herring, anchovies, regular canned tuna, and sardines. Salted nuts.


Processed cheese and cheese spreads. Cheese curds. Blue cheese. Feta cheese. String cheese. Regular cottage cheese. Buttermilk. Canned milk.

The items listed above may not be a complete list of foods high in sodium. Actual amounts of sodium may be different depending on processing. Contact a dietitian for more information.

What foods are low in sodium?


Fresh, frozen, or canned fruit with no sauce added. Fruit juice.


Fresh or frozen vegetables with no sauce added. "No salt added" canned vegetables. "No salt added" tomato sauce and paste. Low-sodium or reduced-sodium tomato and vegetable juice.


Noodles, pasta, quinoa, rice. Shredded or puffed wheat or puffed rice. Regular or quick oats (not instant). Low-sodium crackers. Low-sodium bread. Whole-grain bread and whole-grain pasta. Unsalted popcorn.

Meats and other proteins

Fresh or frozen whole meats, poultry (not injected with sodium), and fish with no sauce added. Unsalted nuts. Dried peas, beans, and lentils without added salt. Unsalted canned beans. Eggs. Unsalted nut butters. Low-sodium canned tuna or chicken.


Milk. Soy milk. Yogurt. Low-sodium cheeses, such as Swiss, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, and ricotta. Sherbet or ice cream (keep to ½ cup per serving). Cream cheese.

Fats and oils

Unsalted butter or margarine.

Other foods

Homemade pudding. Sodium-free baking soda and baking powder. Herbs and spices. Low-sodium seasoning mixes.


Coffee and tea. Carbonated beverages.

The items listed above may not be a complete list of foods low in sodium. Actual amounts of sodium may be different depending on processing. Contact a dietitian for more information.

What are some salt alternatives when cooking?

The following are herbs, seasonings, and spices that can be used instead of salt to flavor your food. Herbs should be fresh or dried. Do not choose packaged mixes. Next to the name of the herb, spice, or seasoning are some examples of foods you can pair it with.


  • Bay leaves – Soups, meat and vegetable dishes, and spaghetti sauce.
  • Basil – Italian dishes, soups, pasta, and fish dishes.
  • Cilantro – Meat, poultry, and vegetable dishes.
  • Chili powder – Marinades and Mexican dishes.
  • Chives – Salad dressings and potato dishes.
  • Cumin – Mexican dishes, couscous, and meat dishes.
  • Dill – Fish dishes, sauces, and salads.
  • Fennel – Meat and vegetable dishes, breads, and cookies.
  • Garlic (do not use garlic salt) – Italian dishes, meat dishes, salad dressings, and sauces.
  • Marjoram – Soups, potato dishes, and meat dishes.
  • Oregano – Pizza and spaghetti sauce.
  • Parsley – Salads, soups, pasta, and meat dishes.
  • Rosemary – Italian dishes, salad dressings, soups, and red meats.
  • Saffron – Fish dishes, pasta, and some poultry dishes.
  • Sage – Stuffings and sauces.
  • Tarragon – Fish and poultry dishes.
  • Thyme – Stuffing, meat, and fish dishes.


  • Lemon juice – Fish dishes, poultry dishes, vegetables, and salads.
  • Vinegar – Salad dressings, vegetables, and fish dishes.


  • Cinnamon – Sweet dishes, such as cakes, cookies, and puddings.
  • Cloves – Gingerbread, puddings, and marinades for meats.
  • Curry – Vegetable dishes, fish and poultry dishes, and stir-fry dishes.
  • Ginger – Vegetable dishes, fish dishes, and stir-fry dishes.
  • Nutmeg – Pasta, vegetables, poultry, fish dishes, and custard.


  • Cooking with less salt is one way to reduce the amount of sodium that you get from food.
  • Buy sodium-free or low-sodium products.
  • Check the food label before using or buying packaged ingredients.
  • Use herbs, seasonings without salt, and spices as substitutes for salt in foods.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.