Tips to reduce your sodium intake and still keep foods flavorful

Aug 21, 2008 at 8:43 p.m. ET

Whether you are on a sodium-restricted diet, want to cut sodium as a means of disease prevention, or simply want to eliminate that sodium-induced bloating, you really can reduce the sodium in your diet without forsaking taste. Health and wellness counselor Brenda J. Ponichtera, RD, author of Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas, shares her top tips to cut the salt and keep the flavor.

Salt on Plate

Guidelines to reduce sodium in your diet

Ponichtera suggests making a gradual transition to using less salt and sodium-reduced products, particularly if you and your family is accustomed to sodium's distinctive taste.

The best ways to cut back on sodium are to not use salt at the table, use less salt in cooking and avoid processed foods. Ponichtera says, "Keep in mind that a small amount [of salt] used in cooking may give just enough flavor to help you from adding too much at the table." There is no reason to over-salt.

Here are some additional guidelines:

1. Fresh is best. Use fresh foods in place of processed foods. Fresh foods actually taste like they are meant to taste. Processed foods often just taste like salt.

2. Opt for frozen. Buy frozen vegetables instead of canned. Most unseasoned frozen veggies have no salt added.

3. Be choosy if buying canned foods. When you buy canned goods, choose the varieties with no salt added or labeled with lower-sodium.

4. Rinse canned beans and vegetables. To reduce the amount of salt in canned beans and vegetables, rinse them in a colander with water.

5. Cut the cured meats. Deli meats, ham and bacon are loaded with sodium. If using, simply add small portions to your meal. Small amounts can still add a lot of flavor.

6. Lower-sodium products. Try some of the lower-sodium products, such as reduced-salt ham or bacon. Even though many lower-sodium foods still contain a high amount of sodium, they still have less than the original products.

7. Salt-free soups. Use salt-free or reduced-salt soups, broth and bouillon. Canned soups are notorious for high sodium levels.

8. Go light on condiments. Loaded with flavor, condiments are also loaded with salt. Use ketchup, mustard and sauces sparingly.

9. Use vinegar or citrus for flavor. Sprinkle vinegar or squeeze lemon or lime juice on fish, chicken or vegetables.

10. Pass on the seasoning salt. Use seasoning powders instead of salts. For example, substitute garlic powder for garlic salt.

11. Generously include herbs and spices in your recipes. Fresh or dried, herbs and spices are not a significant source of sodium. (Give these seven super spices a try.)

12. Try unsalted snack foods. For a change, eat unsalted baked chips, popcorn and whole grain crackers. Pair them with dynamite dips and you won't miss the salt at all.

13. Reduce the sodium in fast food. When ordering fast food items, forgo the pickles and cheese. You can even order French fries without the salt.
Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas
The key to cutting the sodium in your diet is to do it gradually while adding other flavorful ingredients to your meals. As you cut the sodium, you will find that many foods don't even need salt to taste great. Once you get away from sodium, foods that contain high levels of it will taste over-salty when you eat them.

For more fabulous ideas to improve your diet, pick up Ponichtera's cookbook Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas. Not only will you get over 200 delicious recipes that take no longer than 15 minutes to prepare, you also get 20 weeks of dinner menus with sides and accompanying grocery lists. If you are one of those people who says you don't have time to cook healthy meals, this cookbook is for you!

Want more healthy food tips, check out these links