Ultimate Sodium Guide: Eat Less Salt!

The tenth Healthy Habits challenge: Eat less salt. Our simple guide to cutting back on America's favorite seasoning.

Staff Profile: The Serial Salter

“I would salt my gum if I could.” - Maria Parker Hopkins: Age: 41, copy chief, Cooking Light, Birmingham, Ala.

Cooking Light Staffer: Maria Parker Hopkins

Maria Parker Hopkins: The Serial Salter

Randy Mayor

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HER CHALLENGE 

Yes, we discovered a Cooking Light staffer with a confessed salt addiction. “I have issues,” she says laughing. “I salt everything before I taste it.” She also pays no attention to the labels on the products she buys. Her go-to grocery list reads like a sodium fiesta: jarred pasta sauces, feta cheese, and condiments galore (she can’t get enough bread-and-butter pickles, banana peppers, or Dijon mustard). And really, Maria is wondering why she needs to worry about her salt addiction in the first place. Unlike her five siblings, she doesn’t have high blood pressure.

OUR ADVICE 

African-Americans are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure than non-Hispanic whites. Maria’s siblings’ history of high blood pressure may unfortunately be a harbinger of things to come. Her taste buds have probably become desensitized to salt, so her goal this month is to ease up on the saltshaker and explore other flavors. After a month (about the time it takes to retrain taste buds and allow the palate to adjust), she shouldn’t even notice anything missing.

  • Salt one time only. If you’re in the habit of salting at the table, don’t salt while you’re cooking (unless your recipe needs the salt for a chemical reaction, as with baking). Salting at the last second means you will get a more immediate flavor impact. Likewise, if you prefer to salt as you cook, remove the temptation to add more salt by taking the saltshaker off the table.
  • Identify one salty component. When using a high-sodium food (like a store-bought marinade), make the other parts of the meal low-sodium, lest you pile on the salt. Skip full-sodium salad dressing and make your own, like our Easy Herb Vinaigrette. Instead of a salty garlic butter spread, try dipping your bread in olive oil, which is naturally low in sodium and high in heart-healthy fats.
  • Make your own convenience foods. Instead of jarred pasta sauce, try our Basic Marinara, which has 270mg sodium per serving (jarred versions often have 500mg per serving). The same applies to salsas, like our Roasted Tomato Salsa, which has half the sodium of jarred varieties.
  • Sample low-sodium condiments. Low-sodium soy sauce is an easy replacement for the full-sodium variety. Low-sodium versions of other condiments, such as ketchup and barbecue sauce, can taste quite different from their regular counterparts.
  • Make your own pickles. Storebought pickles can be sodium bombs. Six bread-and-butter slices can have almost 200mg sodium; a quarter cup of our Easy Refrigerator Pickles has only 64mg.
  • Focus on other flavors. Glaze chicken breasts with sweet apricot preserves. Squeeze tart lime juice over fajitas. Add a dash of spicy, garlicky Sriracha to your morning eggs.

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