Most of us eat about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Downsizing our sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams daily would have major health benefits, slashing 16 million of the nation’s 68 million cases of hypertension and saving $26 billion health care dollars, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Even if most Americans were interested in eating less sodium, whittling our intake down seems like a nearly impossible task. That’s because sodium saturates our food supply, occurring naturally in many foods but also lurking in foods that don’t even taste salty. Even the healthiest diets pack stealth sodium: this day delivers about 4,000 milligrams. With a few easy swaps, you can slash that number to 1,500 milligrams or less.
—Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.
You start your day with a serving of bran flakes with raisins and skim milk.
Your sodium: 262 mg
Lighten it: Even healthy-sounding cereals can deliver a fair amount of sodium, and the milk adds 51 mg. If cold cereal is on the menu, go with shredded wheat. Not only does it have practically no sodium, it provides a bonus 180 mg of potassium per serving. Or go hot and make oatmeal. Rolled oats are also virtually sodium-free.
You have a half cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit to hold you over until lunchtime.
Your sodium: 410 mg
Lighten it: These curds may not taste salty, but a half cup delivers nearly 20 percent of the 2,300-mg limit and more than a quarter of the 1,500-mg cap. Look for "no salt added" cottage cheese and you’ll save 395 mg.
You go vegetarian with a cup of black bean soup and half a grilled veggie sandwich, never realizing that you’re racking
up at least 70 percent of your daily quota—and possibly more.
Your sodium: 1,600 mg
Lighten it: Canned and restaurant-made soups are typically loaded with sodium. Make it in your own kitchen or choose a "less salt" or "low-sodium" store-bought brand and drop a staggering 1,000 mg. Also, choose your sandwich bread carefully, as sodium amounts vary from brand to brand.
You bypass the vending machine (pat yourself on the back for that one!) and pull out the seasoned nuts, such as
tamari-flavored almonds, you brought from home.
Your sodium: 130 mg
Lighten it: Choose unflavored and unsalted nuts and skip the sodium completely.
Time to whip up a Chinese-style stir-fry with boneless, skinless chicken breast and plenty of vegetables.
Your sodium: 1,500 mg
Lighten it: You probably already know that Asian food is sodium-heavy. That’s because the salt is in the sauce: Asian condiments like soy sauce and hoisin are the culprits. First, switch to reduced-sodium soy sauce; then cut the amount of soy sauce you need by using low-sodium chicken broth for flavor and added sauciness. Also bump up the flavor with plenty of fresh ginger, garlic and scallions. Total savings: 1,000 mg or more.
You sit down on the couch to enjoy a healthy dessert—a cup of nonfat frozen yogurt.
Your sodium: 110 mg
Lighten it: Enjoy a cup of fruit sorbet instead, which has no sodium at all and even fewer calories.