Is Salt Sneaking into Your Diet?

Foods with way more salt than you would think

For Your Health

Is Salt Sneaking into Your Diet?

Even if you shun the shaker, you may be consuming way too much

-Julie Ryan Evans

Do you know how much salt you ingest each day? According to government guidelines, healthy adults should get no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, which translates roughly into one teaspoon of table salt per day … or not much.

But even if you shun the shaker, you could be getting much more than that. Webmd recently quoted a Consumer Reports investigation that found salt lurking in some of the healthiest seeming foods including:

• A 1/2-cup serving of a low-fat cottage cheese had twice as much sodium (360 milligrams) as a 1-ounce serving of regular potato chips (180 milligrams).

• A Premium Caesar Salad with grilled chicken from McDonald’s had more than twice the salt (890 milligrams) as a large order of McDonald’s fries (350 milligrams). And that’s without the dressing.

• A half-cup serving of Prego’s Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce had 430 milligrams of sodium, slightly less than what the USDA allows per serving in foods labeled “healthy.”

• Breakfast foods were an unexpected source of hidden salt. A popular whole-grain bagel had 440 milligrams of sodium, a best-selling pancake mix had 200 milligrams per pancake, and raisin-bran cereals had between 230 milligrams and 350 milligrams per cup serving. A maple and brown sugar-flavored instant oatmeal had more than three times as much sodium as its original flavored version.

The also found astonishingly levels of salt in restaurant foods and those labeled low-fat (even more so than their full-fat counterparts).

So what to do?

Consumer Reports also provides a list of tips on how to dodge the salt:

Cook it yourself. It is much easier to control the salt in the foods your family eats if you cook it at home and replace some salt with spices and other flavorings like citrus juices and flavored vinegars. And use sodium-free broth as a base for homemade soups.

Read the labels. When you purchase processed foods, compare products to find lower-sodium varieties. Some very similar products have very different sodium levels. For example, pure maple syrup has almost no sodium, but most commercial “pancake” syrups have a lot.

Understand the claims. The federal government requires that products labeled “very low in sodium” have no more than 35 milligrams of sodium per serving, and “reduced sodium” products must have at least 25% less sodium per serving than the full-sodium version of the same food. A product labeled “healthy” can have no more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Know the sodium heavyweights. Soy sauce has about 1,160 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon, and regular chicken bouillon has about 1,100 milligrams per packet, according to the report. Many frozen processed dinners are also loaded with sodium, as are cured meats, most cold cuts, and pickles and olives.

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