Many foods and drinks have too much salt in them before you even reach for your salt shaker. Cutting back will help your blood pressure.
Try subbing one of these foods for your favorite salty temptations.
Pretzels are naturally low in fat, and some are made with whole wheat. But you can get a lot of sodium from them, especially if you don’t stop at a 1-ounce serving.
Change to: Choose a larger-sized pretzel with whole wheat flour as the first ingredient and about 3 grams of fiber per ounce. The added fiber will help make a 1-ounce serving more satisfying.
Also, rub away some of the salt that’s on the outside of the pretzels with your fingers before you eat them.
2. Pasta Sauce
Canned or bottled pasta sauces are convenient, but many are very high in sodium, often with more than 600 milligrams of sodium per 1/2 cup serving.
Change to: Make your own with a blender and vine-ripened tomatoes. Add onions, garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper, and olive oil to taste. If you add salt, add the least amount that will work for you (try 1/4 teaspoon salt for 4 cups of chopped tomatoes). Heat the sauce in a saucepan over low heat for about 10 minutes. This cuts the sodium to about 160 milligrams per serving.
3. Instant Noodles
Instant noodle soup cups or packages are easy, inexpensive, and taste pretty good. But one serving will deliver about 750-950 milligrams of sodium (depending on the brand and the flavor).
Change to: Cut the sodium almost in half by adding just half of the seasoning powder. It will taste just as good, but the sodium will fall to about 450 milligrams.
4. Mixed Nuts
Nuts are a smart snack, giving you “good” fats, fiber, and protein. Naturally, nuts have almost no sodium, but nut mixes often have added salt, so check the label.
Change to: Choose “lightly salted” or “unsalted” nuts. The lightly salted options have about 55 milligrams of sodium and the unsalted nuts add zero. Make your own mixed nuts by combining your choice of unsalted nuts.
5. Spicy Chicken Tenders
One order (three pieces) of spicy chicken tenders from a fast-food chain or restaurant can add more than 2,100 milligrams of sodium.
Change to: Make your own spicy chicken fingers at home. Use spicy seasoning blends that don’t include salt to flavor to your breading. If you add salt, use as little as possible (1/2 teaspoon salt for 2 or more servings of chicken fingers).
6. Tortilla Chips
Most tortilla chips are dusted with salt, totaling at least 250 milligrams of sodium per 2-ounce serving.
Change to: Make oven-baked tortilla chips at home. Here’s how:
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat a nonstick jelly roll pan with canola cooking spray. Cut corn tortillas into wedges (8 wedges from one tortilla). Brush the tortilla wedges lightly with canola oil. Sprinkle a controlled amount of seasoned salt (1/4 teaspoon adds 450 milligrams sodium) over the top. Bake until crispy, checking them after 15 minutes.
7. Bottled Salad Dressing
Bottled salad dressings can have as much as 400 milligrams of sodium per 2-tablespoon serving, depending on the flavor and brand of the dressing.
Change to: Find lower-sodium options for the salad dressing flavors you like. If there is a creamy dressing you like that is higher in sodium, dilute it a bit by adding 2 tablespoons of fat-free half-and-half, low-fat milk, or water, to 2 to 3 tablespoons of dressing. Or make your salad dressings from scratch.
8. Lunch Meats
Processed meats have salt and sodium for shelf life (or food preservation) and taste.
Packaged lunch meats, even when they look like they have just been carved, contain about 560 milligrams of sodium or more per 2-ounce serving.
Change to: Choose fresh meats like roast beef or pork tenderloin, roasted or grilled chicken, or turkey. They won’t last quite as long in your refrigerator, so just buy or make what you will need in the next 2 days.
You can also freeze individual servings of these meats for later use. Two ounces of roasted turkey without skin have about 40 milligrams of sodium, and 2 ounces of bottom round roast beef adds about 26 milligrams.
9. French Fries
Even the smallest size of fast-food french fries adds at least 250 milligrams of sodium.
One medium-sized baked potato only has about 17 milligrams of sodium. Most of the sodium in french fries comes from salt added after the potatoes are fried.
Most of the frozen french fry products that you bake at home have at least 300 milligrams of sodium per serving as well.
You can ask a restaurant not to add salt to your fries, but this probably won’t work very well at a fast-food restaurant.
Your best option is to make french fries at home the old-fashioned way. Cut a potato into steak fries or wedges, coat it lightly with some canola oil, and bake in a 450-degree oven until golden (about 30 minutes). You decide exactly how much salt you want to sprinkle on top.
10. Fast Food Burger or Sandwich
One fast-food burger or sandwich alone can have more sodium than you should get in a whole day.
Change to: Make your own burger or chicken sandwich at home with your indoor grill. Season the burgers or skinless, boneless chicken breasts with salt-free seasonings and dress them with lower-sodium condiments such as horseradish, low-sodium ketchup, chopped onion or peppers, and mustard if you keep it to 1 teaspoon, which adds about 55 milligrams of sodium.