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 salt (sodium) you get from food. 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

    A food label with the word sodium circled in red. Salt is also circled in the ingredients list.
    • Check the food label before buying or using packaged ingredients. Always check the label for the serving size and sodium content.
    • Choose products with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.
    • Check the % Daily Value column to see what percent of the daily recommended amount of sodium is in one serving of the product. Foods with 5% or less are low in sodium. Foods with 20% or more are high in sodium.
    • Do not choose foods that have salt as one of the first three ingredients on the ingredients list.
    • Always check how much sodium is in a product, even if the label says "unsalted" or "no salt added."


    • Buy sodium-free or low-sodium products. Look for these words:
      • Low-sodium.
      • Sodium-free.
      • Reduced-sodium.
      • No salt added.
      • Unsalted.
    • Buy fresh or frozen foods without sauces or additives.


    • Instead of salt, use herbs, seasonings without salt, and spices.
    • Use sodium-free baking soda.
    • Grill, braise, or roast foods to add flavor with less salt.
    • Do not add salt to pasta, rice, or hot cereals.
    • Drain and rinse canned vegetables, beans, and meat before use.
    • Do not add salt when cooking sweets and desserts.
    • Cook with low-sodium ingredients.

    Meal planning

    The sodium in bread can add up. Try to plan meals with other grains. These may include whole oats, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, and other whole grains that do not have sodium added to them.

    What foods are high in sodium?


    Regular canned vegetables, except low-sodium or reduced-sodium items. 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. Precooked or cured meat, such as sausages or meat loaves. Bacon. Ham. Pepperoni. Hot dogs. Corned beef. Chipped beef. Salt pork. Jerky. Pickled herring, anchovies, and sardines. Regular canned tuna. Salted nuts.


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

    The items listed above may not be a full list of foods high in sodium. Talk to a dietitian to learn more.

    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 that has not been 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 full list of foods low in sodium. Talk to a dietitian to learn more.

    What are some salt alternatives when cooking?

    Herbs, seasonings, and spices 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 below are some 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.

    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.

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