Low-Sodium Recipe and Cooking Tips

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on May 28, 2024
2 min read

Salt is an ingredient in just about every type of processed food or restaurant meal. So it's no wonder most Americans are getting double or triple the amount of sodium they need each day.

You can limit the salt in your meals and still have food that tastes great. Start with these four tips:

Packaged foods often have a lot of salt in them, since salt is a preservative. Cooking your own meals is the best way to control how much sodium goes into your food.

Choose fresh poultry, fish, and meat instead of processed or smoked varieties. Opt for fresh fruits or vegetables instead of canned; or use low-sodium canned. If you use canned foods, such as veggies or beans, rinse the contents first to wash away some of the sodium.

For side dishes, make brown rice or whole baked sweet or white potatoes instead of instant or flavored rice or mashed potatoes.

Check every food label for sodium content. Look for products labeled "sodium-free" (less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving), "very low sodium" (35 milligrams or less per serving), or "no salt added."

Know that broths, dressings, soy sauce, bouillon cubes, meat tenderizers, seasoned salts, and condiments (mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce), are all high in salt.

Watch for additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder, and sodium benzoate, which are all sodium compounds.

When a recipe calls for even a pinch of salt, replace it with another herb or spice. You can add rosemary, marjoram, thyme, tarragon, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, curry powder, ginger, cilantro, bay leaf, oregano, dry mustard, or dill.

Or sprinkle in a commercial salt-free seasoning blend. You can also make your own mix with this recipe from the American Heart Association:

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon mace, ground

1 teaspoon basil, ground

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon black pepper, ground

1 teaspoon thyme, ground

1 teaspoon sage, ground

1 teaspoon parsley, dry flakes

1 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon savory, ground

If you’re cooking with cheese, opt for fresh mozzarella or cheeses marked “low-sodium.” Replace salted butter with unsalted butter. You can use dozens of different ingredients to add flavor to your low-sodium meals. Here are just a few ideas for common foods:

  1. Marinate chicken breasts or pork chops in lemon juice, orange juice, or wine.
  2. Roll fish in sesame seeds before baking.
  3. Spice up beef with a mixture of onion, peppers, sage, and thyme.
  4. Simmer carrots in cinnamon and nutmeg.
  5. Sprinkle some dill and parsley onto potatoes before roasting.
  6. Add a dash of chili powder to corn.
  7. Toss your pasta with fresh chopped garlic.