In honor of February’s Heart Month, let’s talk about sodium.
Think about foods like pickled vegetables, deli meat, ketchup, tomato sauce, soy sauce, bacon, sausage, cheese, soup, pretzels, chips, boxed rice or macaroni and cheese, frozen meals, French fries, pizza and other restaurant foods. These foods contain quite a bit of sodium.
I’m not saying you can never eat these foods, but look at your whole day’s worth of food. If you know you’re going to have something high in sodium, make smart choices the rest of the day. The goal is 2300mg sodium per day (closer to 1500mg if you have high blood pressure). Eating more sodium than that can cause your body to retain water which increases your blood volume and puts pressure on your heart and blood vessels.
Actions you can take:
1. Have a smaller portion. If you like bacon, have two pieces but not 5 or 6. Eat cheese once a day, but it may not be a good choice to have it with your eggs at breakfast, on your sandwich at lunch and then pizza for dinner.
2. Read food labels. Some foods come in low sodium versions, but you still need to read food labels. Low sodium soy sauce has 600 mg of sodium per tablespoon compared to 920 mg of sodium in the regular version.
3. Take a day to food prep and save time. Boxed rice and pasta meals are quick and convenient, but are loaded with sodium. Experiment with low sodium spices and broths. Make a large batch of rice and pasta and have it ready for the week.
4. Plan ahead. Planning to see a movie today and partake in movie theater popcorn? Don’t eat an Italian style sandwich with cheese, pepperoncini, pickles with a bowl of soup with saltines for lunch. It’s ok to eat high sodium foods once in awhile, but don’t throw in the towel and go sodium crazy all day! Find balance in your food choices.
5. Focus on foods low in sodium. Choose more whole foods like fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, beans, unprocessed meats, cooked hot cereal (not instant), rice, pasta, potatoes, milk, and yogurt. My favorite low sodium seasoning is from Trader Joes – 21 Seasoning Salute.
Learn more about sodium and blood pressure from the American Heart Association.