Eat Better

9 Ways to Cut Salt

+ Enlarge Nutrition Facts label includes amount of sodium, or salt, per serving. (Photo: FDA)

1. Choose foods wisely.

Contrary to what many people might think, table salt isn’t the  main culprit. Most of the sodium we eat—more than 70%—comes from packaged and restaurant foods.

2. Be label savvy.

Take the time to carefully read the Nutrition Facts labels on food boxes and compare foods. The amount of sodium per serving is noted on most packaging (written as a percentage of the recommended daily amount).  As a general rule, experts advise choosing products with 5% daily value or less of sodium and steering clear of or limiting products with a sodium content of 20% or more per serving. Look for options that are “low-sodium,” “no salt added,” “sodium-free” and “unsalted.”  

3. Be mindful of salt in prepared and restaurant foods.

Quick grab-and-go foods, takeout and restaurant food tend to be high in sodium. When dining out, don’t be shy about asking if your food can be prepared with less or no salt. Also, ask for salad dressing to be served on the side. The best bet is to prepare more meals at home so that you can better control and track your sodium intake.

4. Pick healthy snacks.

Try to keep snacks that promote good health in your home. An open bag of chips or other savory snack tends to disappear quickly, and these salty snacks are loaded with sodium. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables instead.

5. Watch out for canned foods.

Canned food items—especially soups—are often loaded with salt to preserve color and taste. Some experts recommend rinsing canned foods, whether beans, tuna or vegetables, before eating them to help remove some of the sodium. 

6. Spice up your recipes.

Don’t be afraid to use other types of seasonings. Try a pinch of herbs and spices, squeeze in some fresh lemon or lime, or add some crushed ginger or garlic. You’ll find these give your dishes added flavor without the added sodium. 

7. Think twice before adding a dash of salt.

A salt shaker has always been a staple in most kitchens and on tables. But a sprinkle of salt here and there adds up. Instead of keeping your salt shaker within close reach, try placing it in a cabinet out of sight. 

8. Ask your providers about salt substitutes.

The jury is out on whether these products are safe for certain people, so be sure to ask before using them.  

9. Get advice from a nutritionist.

If you need help meal planning and learning more about how to cut down on sodium, consider seeing a nutritionist or dietitian. The DASH diet  is also a popular eating plan to help curb salt. 

Top Sources of Sodium 
  • Breads and rolls
  • Pizza
  • Processed meats such as deli meats, hot dogs and bacon
  • Soups
  • Snack foods including crackers, pretzels and chips
  • Cheese
  • Chicken—believe it or not, chicken is one of the highest sources of salt!
View the full list from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Top Sources of Sodium

Surprising Sources
  • Sodas
  • Pasta sauces, bottled salad dressings, ketchup and other condiments
  • Meat dishes such as beef stew, chili, and meatloaf
  • Frozen dinners
MORE: Sodium in Some Popular Foods

MORE: How to Shake the Salt Habit

Questions to Ask Your Health Care Team

It’s important to know your blood pressure numbers and to keep tabs on the amount of salt and sodium you consume each day. Here are some questions to start the conversation with your doctor and health care team:

  • What is my blood pressure?
  • Should I be watching how much sodium and salt I eat?
  • What should be my daily limit?
  • What’s the difference between table salt, sea salt, kosher and other types of salt? Is one better than the other?
  • Is there a low-sodium diet you recommend? Any other tips for cutting sodium?
  • Are certain salts better than others?
  • Could seeing a nutritionist be helpful? 

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Last Reviewed: March 2019 | Medical Reviewer: Andrew Freeman MD, FACC
Originally Published: April 2018 | Medical Reviewer: Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, FACC
CardioSmart Editor-in-Chief: Martha Gulati, MD, FACC

Infographic: Worth Its Salt?

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