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How to get the sodium you need without going overboard.

You know your body needs sodium (aka salt) to survive, and that it enhances the flavor of food. On the other hand, too much can be harmful.  Finding the sodium balance that keeps your food tasting great without overdoing it can be tricky – so let’s talk about how to determine your actual needs, explore ways to cut back some high sodium foods in your diet, and how to prepare lower sodium versions of your favorite dishes.

How Much Sodium Do We Need?

Your sodium requirements depend on your age, gender, body size, past medical history and family medical history. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans reviews the entire current body of nutrition science every five years and posts a guide for healthy food and beverage choices. The guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily for men and women over age 14. However, the guidelines also tells us that average daily sodium intake is 4,240 mg for adult men, and for 2,980 mg women. It’s clear that we’re all eating too much salt.

How Can You Learn How Much Sodium is in Your Food?

It seems that everything has some salt in it, so how can we cut back?  The good news is that only a small proportion of our intake is from high sodium foods like condiments, or from salt added while cooking at home. Most of the sodium consumed is from commercially-prepared foods, including burgers, sandwiches, tacos, rice, pastas, pizza, soups, seafood dishes, chips and other salty snack foods.

The best way to know how much sodium is in our food is by checking the product’s nutritional information.  Federal regulations and guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have made it easier to find and understand the information on a product’s label or a restaurant menu, website or mobile app. Mindful’s article on how to read food labels will help you interpret what you’re seeing. When dining out, ask your server for clarification, if needed.  If you’re dining in a Sodexo café, all you need to do is look for Mindful’s apple icon to find dishes with acceptable sodium levels.

How Can You Reduce Your Sodium?

Cooking at home is a great way to cut your salt intake. You can begin by eating fewer commercially prepared foods. Instead, choose fresh or frozen vegetables with no added sauces or seasonings, and avoid frozen dinners and canned soups. Get fresh poultry, seafood, pork, and lean meat, rather than those that are pre-chopped, cooked, or seasoned. Limit sauces, mixes, and “instant” products, including flavored rice, instant noodles, and ready-made pasta. Season your food with herbs and spices instead of salt.

You may think it challenging to lower your sodium intake. However, Mindful is here to help you. Start by checking out the Mindful eating section on this site, where you’ll find healthy and flavorful recipes of some of your favorite dishes. Try the Sesame Pork Cutlet and Thai Fried Rice which contains 500 mg sodium for the whole meal; or the Mustard Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Potato with just 390 mg. From Greek Chicken Tacos to the Bun-Less Burger and Potato Wedges, there’s sure to be several recipes that you will love.

Avoiding excess sodium really isn’t difficult when you have the knowledge. With these tips, you’ll be on your way to making smart choices and cutting your sodium back in no time!

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