The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its recommended daily sodium intake to 1500 milligrams for most Americans. With sodium lurking in many unexpected foods, here are some things you can do to stay within the limit.
Fresh is best: Fruits and vegetables, fresh poultry that isn't plumped with saltwater and foods in their simplest state are rich in nutrients and naturally low in sodium. Choose these and you won't have to wade through a long list of ingredients.
Choose foods grown close to you: Sodium is often added to food to serve as a preservative. Food that travels many miles likely has more preservatives and more sodium than food grown nearby.
Ditch the drive-through: Fast food and restaurant fare often pack an entire day's worth of sodium into just one meal. In fact, the American Medical Association reports that 75-80 percent of the sodium in our diets come from processed and restaurant food. By cooking most of your meals, you can control how much (or how little) sodium goes in your food. Compare the sodium content for homemade chicken fajitas (346 milligrams ) to chicken fajitas from a restaurant (2,976 milligrams ). The restaurant version has more than eight times the sodium of the homemade version.
Count your condiments: Just a tablespoon of store-bought mustard can add 200 milligrams of sodium to your sandwich. Salsa (110 milligrams ), barbecue sauce (155 milligrams ), salad dressings (175 milligrams ) and ketchup (160 milligrams ) can also pack a sodium punch. Use sparingly.
Beware of bad breakfasts: Some breakfast staples including breakfast cereals (200 milligrams in 1 cup), bagels (300 milligrams in one plain bagel), waffles (520 milligrams in two waffles) and even those whole-grain English muffins (315 milligrams in one muffin) can have surprisingly high sodium content. Make sure to read the label and look for lower sodium choices. Good bets include yogurt (100 milligrams for 8 ounces), fresh fruit (only 1 milligram of sodium in a banana; only 1 milligram of sodium in a medium-sized apple) and oatmeal (0 milligrams for a quarter-cup of oats).
Go nuts for nuts: If you're looking for a savory snack, nuts can fill you up since they are fiber rich and a good source of protein. Make sure you choose unsalted nuts (only 4 milligrams of sodium for a quarter-cup) since salted nuts can contain more than 100 milligrams for the same serving size.
Know your numbers: Aim for 400 milligrams of sodium per meal and 150 milligrams per snack and you should fall within the 1500 milligrams guidelines.
Nancy Bennett, a nutritionist for Foster Farms, is a registered nutritionist and certified diabetes educator.