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Top 7 Tips and Tricks to Reduce Salt in Your Diet

Let’s address the elephant in the room – salt. As Americans, we are lovin’ it. From French fries and potato chips to packaged foods, adults take in a whopping 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day on average, well above what is recommended.

The truth is that a diet high in sodium can do a number on our health. High sodium intake can lead to problems like high blood pressure and a strain on your heart

Reducing sodium in your diet is a step toward a healthier you. With the help of Bailey Shupe, a registered dietitian with Banner Health, we break down how much salt you need and easy tips and tricks to help you cut back without sacrificing flavor.

Should we blame it on the salt shaker?

Salt is a rich source of sodium and an essential mineral of life. Our bodies need 500 mg of sodium or about a ¼ teaspoon of it every day to help with water balance, muscle movements, blood pressure and pH balance. 

Most adults eat about seven times this amount each day. It’s so easy to add, too, as many of us have a handy salt shaker on standby, but table salt is not the only item to blame for this overconsumption. 

“Sodium is hidden in many foods, especially frozen meals, processed and packaged foods and fast food,” Shupe said. “You’d be surprised how much sodium even salad dressings have."

In fact, 77% of the salt in our diet is found in processed and restaurant foods.

How much salt do I really need?

The recommended daily sodium intake is less than 2300 mg per day for people ages 14 and older. To put this in perspective, one teaspoon of table salt has about 2300 mg of sodium.

“This recommendation is for anyone without pre-existing heart disease, such as heart failure or high blood pressure,” Shupe said. “You may need to limit sodium intake to 1500-1800 mg per day if you are living with congestive heart failure or other serious heart complications.”

While most people should stick to less than 2300 mg a day, a few folks may have higher sodium requirements, including athletes (or those who sweat a lot) and people with certain medical conditions like cystic fibrosis.

Seven tips and tricks to reduce salt in your diet

If you are craving salt and need help keeping your sodium intake in check, Shupe shared these helpful tips* to keep you in your daily sweet spot.

  1. Be a savvy shopper: Give those nutrition labels a once-over before tossing items into your shopping cart. Look for salt- or sodium-free products, as they usually contain less than 5 mg per serving.

    For foods labeled low sodium, check the nutrition facts label, read the serving size and/or how many servings per container. Then, check the amount of sodium milligrams (mg). “If you plan on eating the whole container, you’ll want to multiply the mg of sodium by the servings of the container,” Shupe said.

    Check out this article
    for more tips on understanding nutrition labels. 

  2. Divorce the salt and pepper: Leave the salt shaker in your cabinet or pantry so you are less likely to reach for it at mealtime.

  3. Buy fresh: Canned and processed foods often swim in salt, so choose fresh food when possible. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fresh frozen foods (those without sauce or seasonings) are naturally low in sodium and high in nutrients.

  4. Rethink your condiments: Prepared foods like sauces, marinades and salad dressings can be loaded with sodium. Look for reduced sodium or lower-sodium versions. You can also use things like lemon juice and juice from an orange to add some zing.

    “Citrus is a great substitute as it activates the same taste sensors as sodium, but they have less sodium,” Shupe said.

  5. Spice it up: Kick salt to the curb and embrace herbs and spices for a burst of flavor. 

    “Try fresh herbs, sodium-free spices and seasonings such as Mrs. Dash or even lemon and lime to add great flavor,” Shupe said.

  6. Eat at home more often: Restaurant meals can be high in sodium. If you dine out, check out the menu beforehand and look for steamed, baked, grilled, poached or roasted foods. When you order food, ask for sauces, dressings and gravies to be served on the side. 

    Check out more tips on healthy eating while dining out or at social events.

  7. Watch your sips: It’s not just food that can sneakily add to your sodium intake. Some drinks are guilty of it, too. Be cautious of high-sodium beverages like certain sports drinks and bottled vegetable juices. Instead, sip on water, herbal teas or low-sodium alternatives to stay hydrated without the salt.


Salt has benefits, but too much isn’t good for your health. 

As you reduce your salt intake, your taste buds will adapt over time. You’ll find yourself appreciating the natural flavors of food without drowning them in salt. 

Are you considering cutting back on your salt intake but need some help? Speak with your health care provider, a dietitian or a Banner Health specialist who can work with you and your dietary needs. 

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*These tips are intended for those on a general diet, not those on a sodium-restricted diet. Talk to your health care provider if you are on a special diet.

Heart Health Nutrition