The Best Low-Sodium Diet - Simple Tips for Consuming Less Salt

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Nov 02 2023.

Tipped over salt shaker.

Salt is one of the most popular seasonings, and for good reason –– it really amps up the flavor! But consuming too much salt can be dangerous, especially if you or your loved one have an underlying medical condition, like high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney disease.

Reducing the amount of salt in your diet can prevent these and other problems. But if you don’t know much about good nutrition, making this change can be a challenge. To learn more, we reached out to board-certified functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, Omaira Ferreira FDN-P, HHP. Ferreira is a nutrition expert and the founder of Ferreira Functional Health. 

Below, we provide some simple tips for consuming less salt. A few minor changes can improve your nutrition without sacrificing flavor. 

What Exactly Is a Low-Sodium Diet?

A low-sodium diet is a personalized nutrition plan focused on reducing the amount of salt (sodium) you eat. 

More specifically, “it encourages you to avoid processed and packaged foods that are usually high in sodium and instead emphasizes fresh, whole foods,” Ferreira explains. “It involves cooking at home and using herbs, spices, and other flavorings to enhance taste without relying on salt. A low-sodium diet also promotes eating more fruits and vegetables, choosing low-sodium condiments and sauces, and staying hydrated with water.” 

What You’ll Need:

Eating a low-sodium diet doesn’t require any special equipment. The key to success is trying new things and substituting salty foods with healthier alternatives. This can be challenging if you don’t do much cooking and tend to eat out, but it isn’t impossible. Consider reaching out to your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have questions or need some direction. These professionals can help you make changes that stick, resulting in lasting progress. 

How to Consume Less Salt - A Step-By-Step Guide

Step One: Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

One of the easiest ways to reduce your salt intake is to eat more fruits and vegetables. While everyone’s dietary needs vary, adults should try and consume 1 ½ - 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. If that seems like a lot –– there’s a good reason. Only 1 in 10 adults meet this recommendation!

“Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium,” says Ferreira. “They provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are beneficial for overall health.” 

Try adding the following produce to your grocery list:

  • Oranges

  • Mangoes

  • Apples

  • Grapes

  • Strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries

  • Potatoes

  • Asparagus

  • Mushrooms

Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables offer many of the same benefits, just be sure to read the label. Many canned vegetables, in particular, have added salt, so look for labels like “no added salt” or “reduced sodium”. 

Rind Snacks Skin-On Dried Fruit
Rind Snacks Skin-On Dried Fruit

Price: $76.49 - $84.49

Mavuno Harvest Dried Fruit
Mavuno Harvest Dried Fruit

Price: $16.08 - $34.99

Step Two: Opt for Lean Proteins

Processed proteins, like sausage and lunch meat, are loaded with salt and other additives. Splurging every once in a while is okay, but it’s best to avoid these foods as much as possible. Luckily, there are plenty of lean proteins that provide similar benefits without the health risks.

“Try buying skinless poultry, like skinless chicken breast, or fish or tofu,” Ferreira says. “Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are also excellent sources of protein without adding excessive sodium. They also provide essential nutrients like iron and zinc.” 

Step Three: Buy Low-Fat Dairy Products

Dairy products have plenty of beneficial nutrients, like magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These minerals support bone and heart health, but they can also present certain risks. Always make time to read the nutrition labels. 

“Opt for low-sodium or unsalted versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese,” Ferreira explains. “These provide calcium and other essential nutrients, but without the added salt.” 

Low-sodium dairy products include:

  • Mozzarella, Swiss, and ricotta cheese

  • No salt added cottage cheese

  • Yogurt

  • Milk

  • Unsalted butter

Step Four: Substitute Salt with Herbs and Spices

Salt has been used as a food seasoning since at least 2,700 B.C. (about 5,000 years ago). However, we eat 10-20 times more salt now than our ancestors ever did. No wonder it presents such severe health risks!

The human body needs about  500 mg of salt per day for healthy nerves and muscles. But the average American consumes about 3,400 mg per day

“Instead of relying on salt for flavor, try using herbs and spices,” says Ferreira. “Garlic, ginger, basil, oregano, and lemon juice add taste to almost any dish without increasing the amount of sodium.” 

Carewell Tip

Try a salt-free seasoning blend like Mrs. Dash if you really crave salt. Mrs. Dash contains a multitude of spices perfect for marinades and sauces. It adds a depth of flavor to any dish, without any of the risks.

Step Five: Replace Salty Snacks with Unsalted Nuts and Seeds

Chips, pretzels, and crackers are cheap and easy to snack on, but they contain lots of salt. Consider that a single serving of Lays potato chips contains 170 mg of sodium or almost half the daily recommended amount!

Rather than loading up on empty calories, try something with a little more nutritional value. “Unsalted nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds are nutritious snacks that provide healthy fats, protein, and fiber without excess sodium,” Ferreira says. 

Here at Carewell, unsalted and low-salt nuts and seeds are some of our best-selling products. In fact, we stock:

Add one (or several) of these items to your next Autoship order!

Ziba Foods Baby Pistachio Kernels
Ziba Foods Baby Pistachio Kernels

Price: $72.26

Blue Diamond Almonds Lightly Salted
Blue Diamond Almonds Lightly Salted

Price: $18.28 - $78.99

Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds
Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds

Price: $58.99

Step Six: Consider a Specific “Low-Sodium” Diet

Eating less salt is good for your health, but it can be exhausting trying to eliminate specific foods or ingredients from your weekly shopping list. Some people find that committing to a specific diet prevents decision fatigue and makes it easier to achieve lasting progress. 

Ferreira recommends two diets, in particular:

The Mediterranean Diet

“The Mediterranean diet is often recommended as a healthy eating pattern that is also low in sodium,” says Ferreira. “This diet emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins (such as fish and poultry), legumes, nuts, and seeds. It also encourages the use of herbs and spices for flavoring instead of salt.”

She continues, “this diet includes a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods that are naturally low in sodium. It provides essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber which are associated with numerous health benefits.”

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet

The DASH Diet was created more than 20 years ago to help combat high blood pressure (hypertension). It primarily focuses on replacing fatty meats and full-fat dairy products with healthier alternatives. But also emphasizes eating less salt than the typical American diet. 

DASH guidelines recommend eating 2,300 mg of sodium per day, but this can be adjusted to as little as 1,500 mg per day, depending on your health and needs. 

The Best Low-Sodium Diet - Commonly Asked Questions

1) What should someone consider when looking for low-sodium foods?

Ferreira recommends focusing on two things when looking for low-sodium foods, including:

Sodium Content

“Always check the nutrition label for the amount of sodium per serving,” Ferreira says. “Look for products that have a lower sodium content. Ideally, aim for foods that contain less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.” 

Ingredients

“When grocery shopping, read the ingredient list carefully. Sodium can be listed under different names, such as sodium chloride, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium bicarbonate, or sodium nitrate,” Ferreira explains. “Be aware of these variations and choose products with fewer sodium-containing ingredients.”

2) What foods should someone on a low-sodium diet avoid?

Consider avoiding the following items if your doctor has asked you to cut back on salt:

  • Processed and packaged foods (e.g., deli meats, canned soup, and condiments like ketchup and soy sauce)

  • Salty snacks, like potato chips and pretzels

  • Fast food

  • Cured and processed meats (e.g., bacon, ham, and sausages)

  • Canned and pickled foods (e.g., canned vegetables, pickles, olives, and other preserved foods)

  • Salty cheese (e.g., roquefort, parmesan, and manchego)

3) What if I have additional questions about eating a low-sodium diet?

Transitioning to a low-sodium diet isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have much experience making your own meals. If you’re a family caregiver tasked with helping a loved one or you live alone and need to make healthy lifestyle changes, don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

“A registered dietitian or another healthcare professional can help educate you about diet and nutrition,” says Ferreira. “They can also answer your questions and help you make lasting changes.”

Starting a Low Sodium Diet? Contact Us!

At Carewell, helping family caregivers and their loved ones is our passion! We regularly answer customer inquiries about diet and nutrition. Whether you have questions about a specific product or simply want recommendations, get in touch. Our Caregiving Specialists speak English and Spanish and are available 24/7. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to support@carewell.com today!

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.