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10 Tasty Alternatives to Your Favorite Salty Foods

WebMD Expert Column

If you're like most Americans, you're getting too much sodium from your diet. And the problem isn't your salt shaker.

More than three-quarters of the sodium in the typical American diet comes from salt or sodium added by food and drink manufacturers. Naturally occurring sodium accounts for only 12%.

You should get no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day (about 2/3 of a teaspoon) if you are aged 51 or older; have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease; or are African-American. That comes out to about half of the population.

To cut back on your sodium, try subbing one of these foods for  your favorite salty temptations.

Temptation #1: Pretzels

Pretzels have a reputation of being a healthy snack because they are naturally low in fat. Plus, you can even find some whole wheat options. 

Trouble is they can ratchet up the sodium fairly quickly, especially if you don’t stop at a 1-ounce serving. Pretzels usually contribute about 390 mg of sodium per ounce.

Satisfying Alternative

Look for a larger-sized pretzel with whole wheat flour as the first ingredient and about three grams of fiber per ounce. The added fiber will help make a 1-ounce serving more satisfying.

Some of the salt crystals added to the pretzels will end up in the bottom of the bag, but you can decrease your salt intake even more by rubbing away some of the salt that's on the outside of the pretzels with your fingers before you eat them.

Temptation #2: Bottled Pasta Sauce

It’s super-convenient to open a bottle of marinara sauce and pour it into a saucepan or spread it on lasagna noodles or pizza crust. But canned or bottled pasta sauces are often shockingly high in sodium, often with more than 600 milligrams of sodium per 1/2 cup serving.

If you add any sausage or Parmesan to the sauce, the sodium total could quickly climb well past 1,000 milligrams.

Satisfying Alternative

You can make your own pasta sauce with a blender and vine-ripened tomatoes. Add onions, garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper, and olive oil to taste. If you do add salt, add the least amount that will work for you (try 1/4 teaspoon salt for 4 cups of chopped tomatoes). Heat the sauce in a saucepan over low heat for about 10 minutes. 

This cuts the sodium to about 160 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Temptation #3: Ramen Noodle Soup Packets

Instant noodle soup cups or packages are popular with the college crowd because they are easy, cheap, and taste pretty good. But one serving will deliver about 750-950 milligrams of sodium (depending on the brand and the flavor).

Satisfying Alternative

The noodles alone contribute about 150 milligrams of sodium, so the bulk of the sodium is in the flavor packet of powder that you stir into the hot water and noodles. 

You can cut the sodium almost in half by adding just half of the powder. It will taste just as good, but the sodium will be only about 450 milligrams.

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