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Sodium Diet Guidelines


A Registered Dietitian prepared the following basic-diet guidelines. If you have concerns, do consult with a dietitian.

Individualized diet counseling is highly recommended to address any personal, specific needs.

Why Limit Sodium?

Reducing salt intake may help manage blood pressure and prevent water retention. If you are taking medication for these conditions, it is still important to reduce salt intake to help the medication work more effectively.

Salt Shaker

Note: Pregnant women should not restrict the amount of sodium consumed to minimize water retention and swelling. Pregnancy actually increases the need for sodium.

How Much Sodium Should You Have?

2,000 to 4,000 milligrams of sodium is recommended as part of an overall healthy eating plan. Yet, the average adult eats 4,000 to 6,000mg per day. Persons with high blood pressure or other medical conditions may have to lower sodium to 2,000 milligrams or less daily.

How Can I Reduce My Sodium Intake?

Since salt (sodium chloride) is the primary source of sodium in the diet, limit use of the salt shaker first. In addition, limit processed foods as they contain approximately 3/4 of the sodium we consume. It is important to look at the label to check the amount of sodium in one serving and to determine the number of servings you normally consume.

Foods You Should Choose Most Often


  • Bread, rolls, crackers or breadsticks, without salted tops
  • Bagels, English muffins, most ready-to-eat cereals and cooked cereals
  • Rice, noodles and pasta
  • Low sodium vegetable juices and low sodium tomato and pasta sauces
  • Regular tomato or vegetable juices
  • Most fresh, frozen and canned fruits
  • All fruit juices and milk
  • Yogurt and/or reduced or low-sodium cheese
  • Any fresh or frozen meat, poultry or fish
  • eggs and egg substitute
  • Low sodium peanut butter and/or unsalted nuts
  • Dry peas and beans
  • Reduce sodium frozen dinners (less than 800mg sodium each)
  • Low-sodium canned tuna
  • Low-sodium or unsalted salad dressings, soy sauce, catsup and condiments
  • Low-sodium bouillon and soups
  • Pepper, herbs, vinegar, lemon or lime juice
  • Coffee, tea, fruit drinks, powdered drink mixes and low-sodium carbonated beverages

Foods to Avoid

  • Bread, rolls, crackers and breadsticks with salt
  • Box mixes of quick breads and biscuits and instant hot cereals
  • Seasoned box mixes of pasta, rice or stuffing
  • Regular tomato and pasta sauces
  • Sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and olives
  • Commercial potato and vegetable mixes
  • Frozen vegetables with sauces and fruits processed with salt or sodium
  • Buttermilk, processed cheese, cheese spread, cheese sauces and natural cheeses
  • Smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, poultry, fish or seafood, including ham, bacon, sausage, cold cuts, sardines
  • Breaded frozen meat, fish or poultry items, salted nuts and pizza
  • Salad dressings with more than 250mg sodium per 2 tablespoon serving
  • Regular soups, broth, soup bases or bouillon cubes
  • Gravies and sauces made from instant mixes or other high sodium ingredients
  • Salted snack foods, softened water and sea salt
  • Meat tenderizers and meat sauces and soy sauce (regular or reduced sodium)

Salt/Sodium Tips:


  • Cook cereals, rice and pasta without adding salt
  • You can omit salt or decrease salt in most recipes for baked goods
  • Season vegetables with herbs, spices or lemon juice instead of salt, ham, bacon or salt pork
  • Choose fresh or frozen more often because canned contain added sodium
  • Dairy products have moderate amounts of sodium. Milk and yogurt are lower in sodium than most cheeses - natural cheeses are usually lower in sodium than processed
  • Choose low-sodium reduced-sodium or salt-free foods and processed meats
  • Prepare additional fresh meats to use in sandwiches
  • Use herbs and spices, instead of salt to season your food
  • Try air-popped popcorn with salt-free seasoning
  • The following ingredients contain large amounts of sodium: Salt, brine, broth, pickled, smoked, soy sauce, barbecue sauce and monosodium glutamate (MSG)

If you have questions or concerns about your diet, or if you need a diet of 3,000mg sodium or lower, a diet instruction with a registered dietitian is necessary. The individualized diet instruction can provide:

  • Label reading, shopping, food preparation and dining out
  • Combining other diet restrictions if necessary
  • Attention to personal preferences and ethnic and religious choices

See also:
Americans and Salt
Salt and Diabetics
Changing Your Salt Habit
Salt Sense
Tips for a Low Sodium Diet
Sea Salt
Low Salt/Sodium Recipes

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