5 Simple Ways to Reduce the Salt in Your Diet

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Many of us eat more salt than we need, and according to the latest guidelines issued by WHO, most of us are probably getting way more than we think; here are 5 easy ways to start down the road of decreasing your sodium intake.

According to the latest guidelines released by the World Health Organization (WHO), most people are getting too much salt in their diets, sometimes from foods they are not even aware have sodium, such as milk and eggs.

Adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or 5 grams of salt, according to the new daily guidelines issued by WHO. Reducing daily salt intake is on the minds of many people these days. And, it can seem impossible. After all, it is in/on everything, it seems, and, let's face it: It tastes so good! But, it really is not as hard as it appears on the surface to begin freeing ourselves from our love affairs with salt. Here are a few suggestions from someone who has been there:

Stay away from pre-packaged foods. We all use them, we all love them, but pre-packaged foods are definitely a big source of sodium for many of us. Cooking at home allows us to control the amount of salt a meal has, and it is not as scary as it seems for some of us. Start simple. In fact, some of the best recipes out there are some of the simplest and, yes, least time-consuming. Some people worry that cooking from scratch will limit them in regards to "variety" at dinner, but when we really think about it, is that actually a worry, or just an excuse? Most of us have our "go to" meals, even when we are getting them out of a box. And, it doesn't really take much more effort to make a batch of homemade chicken nuggets than it does to slide them out of a cardboard box and cook them--and they are much tastier when you make them yourself.

Cut the salt in your recipes. When you ARE making recipes at home, cut the salt. Many of us routinely add the "required" amount of salt to our recipes because, well, that is what the recipe calls for adding. But, many times the amount of salt in recipes is just too high. So, when you go to put that heaping teaspoon of salt into your shaker bag of coating for for those homemade chicken nuggets, ask yourself: Do I really need this much salt. In fact, if I add a great salt-free seasoning, do I need salt at all? The great thing about doing it yourself is that your are free to make the changes that work for you--and that includes managing the salt.

Do not use herbs or spices with added salt. Garlic salt? Onion salt? Get them out of your spice rack. Replace them with garlic powder and onion powder. And, check to see if your favorite seasoning blends have a salt-free alternative; often they do. Making your own blends at home is always an option, as well, and often will be more suited to your family's tastes since you will be able to "up" what they love and decrease or toss herbs and spices they are not so crazy about in their meals.

Use lower-sodium versions of ingredients. Many key ingredients in the home chef's pantry are available in lower-sodium versions these days. Reduced-sodium soy sauce; canned vegetables with no added salt; reduced-sodium broths; all of these things can make a difference in one's overall sodium intake. And, guess what? Most likely you'll never know the difference. Of course, "reduced" does not necessarily mean "low;" you'll still want to keep an eye on the amount of reduced-sodium products you add to your recipes. But, it is a great, easy way to make a change.

Use a bowl of salt instead of a salt shaker when you cook. It is amazing the difference this one little trick can make. Taking a pinch of sea salt from a bowl and physically feeling the amount of salt you are adding instead of just pouring haphazardly from a shaker really does make one aware of the amount of salt being added to a recipe. Give it a try; it seems insignificant, but you just might be surprised.

As you decrease your salt intake, you may find that it is a little hard in the beginning, but don't give up, and don't pour on the salt at the table to make up for what you did not add at the stove. For hardcore salt-a-holics, it may be a good idea to just take the salt shaker from the table altogether. Stick with it; in two weeks or less, you will find that your tastes are changing, and within a month, those old frozen chicken nuggets will be so salty to your tastes, you will marvel at what you once thought was a have-to-have go-to dinner in your freezer.

Huliq readers: What are YOUR favorite ways to cut the salt in your diets?

Going to do more cooking at home? Check out these 11 must-have pantry essentials!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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