How to Read Salt Labels

Labels that highlight lower sodium mean very specific, very different things. Here's a guide.

Salt Labels: What You Need to Know

Photo: Randy Mayor

Salt Labels: What You Need to Know

When food companies make sodium claims, they have to follow labeling rules. For the consumer, the tricky part is that there are four claims. Two apply when a company is comparing their food to a loosely defined fully salted version. One refers to a specific sodium level, another to whether salt has been added. Bottom line: The amount of sodium per serving (found on the back label) is critical.

Claim #1: "No Salt Added" or "Unsalted" Butter

Photo: Randy Mayor

Claim #1: "No Salt Added" or "Unsalted"

No salt is added during processing. This does not always mean sodium-free; some foods contain sodium naturally.

For Example:

Land O' Lakes Unsalted Butter (0mg)
vs.
Land O' Lakes Salted Butter (95mg)

Sodium Savings: 95mg per 1 tablespoon

Claim #2: "Reduced"or "Less Sodium"

Photo: Randy Mayor

Claim #2: "Reduced"or "Less Sodium"

Must contain at least 25% less than the original food, a competitor's product, or another reference.

For Example:

Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce (575mg)
vs.
Kikkoman Soy Sauce (920mg)

Sodium Savings: 345mg per 1 tablespoon

Claim #3: "Light in Sodium" or "Lightly Salted"

Photo: Randy Mayor

Claim #3: "Light in Sodium" or "Lightly Salted"

Must contain 50% less than the original food, a competitor's product, or another reference.

For Example:

Lay's Lightly Salted Potato Chips (85mg)
vs.
Lay's Classic Potato Chips (180mg)

Sodium Savings: 95mg per 1 ounce

Claim #4: "Low Sodium"

Photo: Randy Mayor

Claim #4: "Low Sodium"

This is the most stringent reduced-sodium label. Each food can have only 140mg or less sodium (natural or added) per serving.

For Example:

Nabisco Wheat Thins Hint of Salt (60mg)
vs.
Nabisco Original Wheat Thins (230mg)

Sodium Savings: 170mg per 16 crackers

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