The United States Department of Health & Human Services recommended daily sodium (salt) allowance is 2,300 ml. (See Dietary Guidelines for Americans) More than this can lead to numerous health problems. A fast food meal made up of the major advertised burger with cheese, medium fries and a soft drink can measure between 1,300 and 2,000 mg of sodium. Salt (sodium) reduction is obviously a necessity in many diets today. This data comes from the websites of two major fast food restaurants. (Note: Before modifying personal diet, readers should consult their medical advisor—doctor, nutritionist, etc.)
Techniques to Reduce Sodium Intake
Many people exceed the daily recommendation by as much as two to three times—and some even more. It seems like sodium is in everything edible. There are several steps one can take to reduce daily sodium intake, including the following:
- Don’t add salt to foods.
- Request no salt on meals ordered in restaurants.
- Eliminate high sodium prepared foods.
- Start reading nutritional labeling on foods.
Stop Adding Salt
Visit any fast food restaurant and watch them prepare French fries. The fries are removed from the fryer and placed in a large bin with a rounded bottom (for efficiently scooping the fries). A large salt container is used to pour an unmeasured but large quantity of salt on the fries. When more fries are added, more salt is added. The fry container is not cleaned in between. While the container has holes to allow excess grease and salt to leave, the grease coating the container surface makes for an excellent bond for the salt to remain. As the day continues, the salt content increases. If this isn’t bad enough, many people upon receiving their food reach for the salt and ketchup packets adding another 270 and 110 mg of sodium respectively.
By not adding the salt packet and ketchup packet, nearly 400 mg of salt can be eliminated. That represents nearly 17% of the recommended daily allowance.
Order Meals be Prepared without Salt
As mentioned above, fast food restaurants are notorious for adding salt during the food preparation process. When ordering fries, simply ask for fries with no salt. Most fast food restaurants will make a special order without adding salt. The diner must be prepared to wait for this special preparation, however.
If fast food restaurants are willing to prepare foods without adding salt, so are full service restaurants. Diners sometimes feel embarrassed requesting no salt be added. Restaurants get special orders all the time. The diner has the right to request food prepared the way he likes it.
If more flavor is desired, experiment with other spices. It might be as simple as adding pepper instead of salt. Or perhaps an herb such as oregano or celery. Be careful with these substitutes as some may be packaged with high sodium content. Be especially careful of prepared sauces like ketchup, barbecue sauce and salad dressing.
Eliminate High Sodium Prepared Foods
Snack foods such as potato chips, pretzels, and popcorn contain large quantities of sodium. These foods should be eliminated or replaced with no salt or reduced salt items. Better yet replace these snack foods with natural fruits and vegetables low in sodium content.
Read Nutritional Labels
It is important that anyone desiring to reduce their salt intake begin reading labels and investigating nutritional values of the food they are eating. Regardless of where food may be purchased, the information is available. For example, frozen dinners contain the information on the label and fast food restaurants have nutritional facts posted on their website, usually on a poster in the store and sometimes in a giveaway flyer.
Other Sources of Nutritional Values
For fresh foods and fast food chains there exist numerous nutritional lists. Lists abound on line at websites.
- Nearly every fruit and vegetable has its own organization or association on the Internet with nutritional values and recipes.
- Individual fast food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s have nutritional information posed online.
- For an excellent collection of both, visit CalorieKing. This will eliminate the need to go to several sites.
In today’s culture, it may seem difficult to reduce sodium intake. With a little thought and planning, people can make more informed choices concerning their salt consumption. This consumption can be reduced for everyone and salt and sodium levels will go down. A healthier individual will emerge.