When it comes to our sodium intake, the salt shaker is as much the bad guy as the amounts of sodium hidden in the processed foods. Because of this the best way to decrease the amount of sodium you are taking in is to avoid processed foods whenever possible. I used to buy and feed my kids frozen beef and bean burritos, hot dogs, bologna, frozen chicken nuggets and other pre-made processed foods. They were easy to make, the kids loved them and everyone was happy. Now, that I am older and wiser (and because I have a diagnosis of hypertension and diabetes) I have learned that fast and easy isn’t always the best way to go. I don’t want my kids to have the same health problems as I have when they turn 40. So I have decided to change some things.
Salt is made from two minerals called sodium and chloride. When you get too much sodium on a regular basis, you will probably receive a little surprise in a few years called Hypertension, this is also known as High Blood Pressure. Almost everyone gets more sodium in their diet that they need. It is used in a lot of processed and packaged foods.
We really only should be getting around 2500 mg of sodium a day. If you are eating a processed foods diet, you are probably getting twice that much or more. For foods like canned beans, you could rinse them before preparing and greatly reduce the amount of sodium, but for smoked and processed meats, I’m afraid there is no way to remove any of that sodium.
Some of the most popular processed foods with my kids were ketchup, canned spaghetti with sauce, and smoked sausage. You will also find a lot of sodium in smoked meats, deli turkey, canned beans, boxed muffing, cottage cheese, and even English muffins.
The first thing I learned to do was read labels. I now look for foods that say “low salt”, “reduced salt” or “no added salt”. Luckily, there are a lot more low sodium choices on the market now than there used to be.
The second thing I did was get to know “Mrs. Dash”. Whoever she is, I love her. There are so many varieties of these flavored seasonings, it’s easy to add flavor to almost anything, without worrying about adding more sodium.
I also try to plan meals to help avoid grabbing fast food or pre-packaged foods. Also, keeping healthy snacks in the fridge is a great idea. Especially when the kids get that after school snack attack.
The best way to manage the levels of salt in your diet is to keep the amount of processed foods in your diet to a minimum. Limit your use of stocks, soy sauce, ketchup, mustards and pickles. Base your diet on fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and dried peas or beans. No only will you be limiting your salt intake, but you’re getting all the additional nutrition benefits that these healthy foods deliver.