You know, it’s a common misconception that if you steer clear of the saltshaker, you’re automatically keeping your sodium intake in check. But here’s the kicker: it’s not just about the salt you sprinkle on top – it’s what’s already hiding in your food that can catch you off guard. There are a lot of foods with hidden salt.
Think about it: when you picture salty snacks, your mind might jump straight to french fries and potato chips, right? But here’s a sneaky one for you – salad dressing. Yep, even that innocent-looking dress can pack a serious sodium punch. Some store-bought dressings can even out-salt a small order of McDonald’s fries. Crazy, huh?
That’s why it’s crucial to be a detective when it comes to your meal’s ingredients. You never know when hidden salt might be lurking in your food, ready to throw your sodium intake off balance.
Below you’ll find a list of “The Salty Seven” – these are the sneaky culprits that could be silently spiking your sodium levels. From seemingly harmless foods to your go-to snacks, these salty shockers can send your sodium intake soaring, putting you at risk for high blood pressure and even stroke.
Just a friendly reminder: according to the American Heart Association, the daily sodium limit should ideally stay under 1,500 milligrams for most adults, with a max of 2,300 milligrams. So, if you’re not keeping an eye out, these “Salty Seven” could be sneakily sabotaging your health without you even realizing it.
A single slice of wheat bread averages 200 mg of sodium, while a slice of sourdough can be as much as 400 mg. Make a sandwich using sourdough and you are consuming 800 mg of sodium before adding any ingredients!
TIPS TO CUT SODIUM: Buy low sodium bread. While once only found in specialty food stores, there are now great low-sodium bread options in national retailers like Walmart and Aldi. Better yet, make your own!
2. COLD CUTS
A single slice of regular deli ham can have over 300 mg of sodium. Cold cuts and cured meats are packed with sodium so they don’t spoil quickly.
TIPS TO CUT SODIUM:
- Always get fresh-cut deli meat. Avoid purchasing pre-cut meats from the refrigerator section because many times they have more salt than what you get at the deli counter.
- Ask for “no salt added” or lower sodium meats. Boar’s Head has no salt added turkey which is an excellent choice. Remember, these will spoil faster due to the lack of salt, so only purchase what you need for a couple of days.
- Look for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark (see bottom of page) which means the food meets heart healthy criteria, including sodium levels.
3. CANNED SOUP
One cup of canned soup can contain 800 (or more!) milligrams of sodium. Most cans hold approximately two cups, meaning a bowl of soup might be close to a day’s worth of salt. Manufacturers use salt to flavor soup as a cheaper alternative to fresh ingredients. Plus the high salt content makes it shelf-stable for an extended period of time.
TIP TO CUT SODIUM: Make homemade soup because then you control the ingredients! Here are a few low sodium soup recipes to get you started. If cooking isn’t your thing, seek out “no salt added” soups like Campbell’s Unsalted Tomato Soup or Health Valey No Salt Added Chicken Soup. Remember, ignore the marketing message on the front of the can. Some soups that advertise “Reduced Sodium” still have an unhealthy amount of salt. So read the nutrition label!
Reading this one will sadden many people. Pizzas – especially frozen ones – are very high in salt. There’s salt in the dough, in the sauce, in the cheese, and in that crispy pepperoni. Fresh is better than frozen but it isn’t a huge improvement.
TIP TO CUT SODIUM: Make your own! Turn your kitchen into a pizzeria for a night. It can be a fun family project. Use no salt added tomato sauce and a low sodium cheese like fresh mozzarella. Go heavy on veggies for toppings. If you are a meat person, make your own no salt added Italian sausage. Or toss on a small serving of Hormel low sodium pepperoni. It has 50% less sodium than traditional pepperoni, yet tastes the same!
5. TACOS & BURRITOS
When you add taco spice to taco meat, the flavor is driven mostly by salt. And it is not just what’s inside that burrito, tortillas and wraps also have a relatively high sodium count. Talk about foods with hidden salt!
TIPS TO CUT SODIUM:
- Make it a bowl! Skipping the flour tortilla will save you hundreds of milligrams of sodium.
- Use no salt added taco seasoning. You can easily make your own using this recipe. Or purchase one like Dash Salt-Free Taco Seasoning Blend.
6. SALAD DRESSINGS
This one is a shocker. Salad dressings are often loaded with sodium. For example, Olive Garden Bottled Italian Dressing has 520 mg of sodium in 2 tablespoons. That’s 22% of your daily sodium in just TWO TABLESPOONS! And very few people are limiting themselves to just two tablespoons of dressing on their salad.
TIP TO CUT SODIUM: Switch to oil and vinegar. Not only will you save on sodium but as a healthy bonus, you’ll cut down on sugar and saturated fat. You can also look at some lower sodium store-bought options like Panera Bread’s Balsamic Vinaigrette.
They seem so innocent; some ketchup for your burger, a little buffalo sauce for your chicken, a side of honey mustard for your chicken fingers. But condiments are definitely foods with hidden salt. For example, one ounce of Chick-fil-A’s ‘Zesty Buffalo Sauce’ has a hefty 710 mg of sodium. Meanwhile, a tablespoon of Heinz ketchup adds 180 mg of sodium to your meal and most people use more than one tablespoon.
TIPS TO CUT SODIUM:
- You can easily make your own. Here is a recipe for low sodium barbeque sauce and one for low sodium buffalo sauce.
- A growing array of low salt and no salt condiments are on the market. Walmart, for example, has a ketchup with a 50% reduction in both sugar and salt. Heinz has a salt-free ketchup. But a cautionary note on the Heinz product, it does contain extra potassium, which might not be good for people who take certain blood pressure medications.