Beware of the Salt Shockers
Dozens of foods can drive your sodium consumption way past recommended levels.
You know salty snacks like chips, pretzels, and crackers are loaded with sodium. But do you realize most of the salt you consume comes from the foods you're picking at the grocery store? It's not just the salt shaker, says Rosemary Yurczyk, MS, RD, CDE, dietitian and diabetes educator at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
Government guidelines recommend that people consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day -- about one teaspoon of salt. So if you eat three meals a day, you'll want to stay within 800 milligrams of sodium per meal, Yurczyk says.
Trouble is, it's so easy to go overboard, even if you just want to add some extra flavor to your poultry or a little sauce over the pasta. Check out the sodium stats, reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
- Dehydrated onion soup mix (1 packet): 3,132 milligrams
- Seasoned bread crumbs (1 cup): 2,111 milligrams
- Spaghetti sauce (1 cup): 1,203 milligrams
But what if you just want a cup of soup, or you often microwave a frozen meal for lunch or dinner? What if you simply must have that favorite canned veggie side dish your grandma always served? Check your numbers:
- Canned chicken noodle soup (1 cup): 1,106 milligrams
- Frozen turkey and gravy (5 ounces): 787 milligrams
- Canned cream-style corn (1 cup): 730 milligrams
Surprised? It doesn't end there.
Be careful with the flavorings you add to the goodies on the barbecue grill and under the broiler. Perhaps you'd like to drink something fruity and refreshing? What about that one little sandwich for lunch or the fact you're known to pack a little more punch on your pizza? Are there any sodium shockers there?
- Teriyaki sauce (1 tablespoon): 690 milligrams
- Vegetable juice cocktail (1 cup): 653 milligrams
- Beef or pork salami (2 slices): 604 milligrams
- Canned jalapeno peppers (1/4 cup, solids and liquids): 434 milligrams
Nutrition labels can help you to judge whether you're looking at a low-sodium food. According to Yurczyk, here's the breakdown:
- Low-sodium food: less than 140 milligrams per serving
- Moderate-sodium food: less than 400 milligrams per serving
- High-sodium food: more than 400 milligrams per serving
For example, seedless raisins, at 16 milligrams of sodium per cup, are low-sodium. A piece of angel food cake, at 210 milligrams, is moderate.
Looking at labels can help you find the sodium in your grocery items. But realize that the sodium listing is for just one serving size, not the whole container, Yurczyk cautions. "If you eat two servings, you'll have to double the amount of sodium."
Labels can guide you in making better choices within food categories, too, such as breads and pastries. For instance, a croissant contains 424 milligrams of salt, compared with only 148 milligrams for one slice of whole-wheat bread.