Most Americans consume much more sodium than the body actually needs without even picking up a salt shaker.

Surprisingly, according to the American Heart Association, more than 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed, packaged and restaurant foods.

Foods we consume are prepared with sodium, which makes controlling the amount we consume on a daily basis difficult given approximately three-fourths of the average American’s diet comes from these foods.

The American Heart Association reports most of us take in about 3,400 milligrams of sodium every day, which is more than double the amount recommended; this organization recommends a daily sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams a day.

While the salt shaker is not the culprit, it is important to know how much sodium is in table salt. The approximate amounts of sodium in table salt are as follows:

•¼ teaspoon table salt = 575 milligrams of sodium

•½ teaspoon table salt = 1,150 milligrams of sodium

•¾ teaspoon table salt = 1,725 milligrams of sodium

•1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 milligrams of sodium

If you are looking to reduce sodium in your diet, there are several ways to cut back.

Before starting, however, calculate about how many milligrams of sodium you currently consume in a typical day.

Based on the information along with the AHA’s goal of 1,500 milligrams per day, devise a realistic sodium goal, then begin to cut back on sodium gradually to allow your taste buds to adjust.

First, choose packaged and prepared foods carefully. Look at the nutrition label to discover those products lower in sodium. Many canned vegetables, and even lunch meat, have low-sodium versions available. Be sure to drain and rinse canned foods to reduce the sodium by up to 40 percent!

Go for fresh or frozen as often as possible and skip adding salt to these foods during cooking.

Use onions, garlic, citrus juice and spices in place of salt to add flavor. Prepare rice, pasta and hot cereals without salt and choose your condiments such as ketchup, mustard and soy sauce carefully.

Finally, taste the food before adding salt. If your food requires more flavor, try adding pepper or fresh lemon first.

When dining out, order entrees which are grilled, braised, roasted, seared or sautéed to bring out the natural flavor of the food without the added sodium.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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