10 Ways to Lower Salt in Your Diet

10 Ways to Lower Salt in Your Diet


How to make a low salt diet work for you

  1. Limit processed foods.  Most processed foods, such as chips, cookies, canned soups, tomato sauces, lunch meat and frozen meals have a lot of added salt and sugar. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, low-sodium whole grains and low-sodium cheeses as snacks.
  2. Plan for salt across your daily meals and snacks. Plan for 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Start with a low-salt commercial cereal or no-salt cooked cereal at breakfast. Choose low salt bread or crackers at lunch. Instead of processed meat, cook your own meat at home and use it for a sandwich. Add lettuce and tomato for flavor, instead of condiments. Use herbs and grilled vegetables with chicken for dinner.
  3. Read nutrition labels to guide your food choices. Choose sodium free, very low sodium or low sodium products. Make healthy choices when food shopping, such as: Cheese with less than 80 mg sodium per ounce, breads with less than 100 mg sodium per slice, and soups with less than 100 mg sodium per ounce.
  4. Buy fresh or frozen foods instead of canned. Choose fresh foods when you can or go for frozen without any added sauces. If using canned foods, drain and rinse foods to reduce salt. Rinsing beans, tuna and canned vegetables before using them does remove some, but not all of the salt. Avoid canned, smoked or processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, pre-packaged lunch meat or products where salt or saline is added.
  5. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Add them to salads, main dishes, side dishes or eat them plain. Fruits and vegetables help your body to remove water and avoid fluid build-up. They are also low calorie and naturally low in salt.
  6. Learn to enjoy the natural taste of food. Many foods are so processed that we have to learn to get used to foods with less salt. It is about changing both how food is prepared and change our taste to enjoy food with spices other than salt. Try to cook meat at home and add unsalted nuts or seeds, lentils, unsalted or low-sodium broth, and herbs or spices. Use the cooking process, such as grilling, poaching and baking, to add taste and flavor. Taste food as you cook to know what each food item adds to a dish.
  7. Create low sodium condiments. Make your own low salt salad dressing, dip, gravy or sauce. Most commercial or packaged products are high in sodium. If you choose the low salt or no salt options, you may be able to have more. Otherwise, limit these ingredients:  
    • Canned tomato paste, no more than ¼ cup a day          
    •  Regular tomato sauce, no more than ½ cup a day 
    • Ketchup or mustard, no more than 1 Tablespoon a day 
    •  Salted butter or margarine, no more than 1 teaspoon a day
    • Mayonnaise, no more than 1 Tablespoon a day 
    •  Sour cream, no more than 2 Tablespoons a day
    • Regular salad dressing, no more than 2 teaspoons a day 
    Please note:  It is not recommended to eat all of these foods in the same day, as this could still make your overall daily sodium intake too high.
  8. Choose low salt or salt-free beverages. Save salt for the food you eat. Water, coffee, tea, carbonated seltzer water and fruit juices have very low or no salt in them. Limit milk to 2 cups of low fat milk a day. Avoid energy and sport drinks, commercially made milkshakes and instant cocoa that have added salt.
  9. Ask restaurants for low salt substitutions. Ask wait staff or the chef how food is prepared. Choose foods made to order or low-salt preparations. Order sauces, dressings, salsas, condiments, croutons, cheese and nuts on the side and control the amount you use. Skip the bread basket or tortilla chips if available on the table. Plan to only eat half of your meal as a way to control both calories and sodium. Choose grilled, broiled, baked, boiled or steamed foods instead of fried. Avoid casseroles where there may be hidden salt, based on the ingredients used.
  10. Check over the counter and non-prescription drugs and supplements for salt. Many antacids, laxatives, aspirin, and cough medicines have salt or sodium. Many mouthwashes also have sodium. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for help before you buy these products and check product labels. 

Online resources

Check out these sites for tips and nutrition calculators:

© 2015– August 22, 2019. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or healthcare team if you have any questions about your care. For more health information call the Library for Health Information at 614-293-3707 or email: health-info@osu.edu.