It’s been a while since we’ve had a proper villain in the food world… Sure we’ve been hating on Trans Fats, and Saturated Fats for some time; we’ve been having an on-again off-again relationships with eggs and butter– we even hated coconuts and chocolate before we loved them. But it’s really been a long time since we’ve been able to fear such a well alliterated group of tasty foods: The Salty Six.
Have you ever wondered if you’re getting too much sodium in your diet? The answer is probably “YES.” The updated US Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a measly 1500mg (~2/3 tsp of salt) for nearly half of all Americans. This would include anyone with: high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease; as well as children, anyone 51-years and older or African-Americans. Everyone else should limit their salt to about a teaspoon, or 2300mg per day.
Here’s a rundown of the “Salty Six,” and what about them that makes the sodium so high –
Breads & Rolls: (Table Salt, Baking Soda, Baking Powder)
180-230mg may not seem like a lot of sodium per serving, but with at least 2-servings per sandwich, some toast in the morning and a roll with dinner, you could be quickly reaching nearly 2/3 of your daily limit. Look for whole grain alternatives with sodium in the neighborhood of 90-140mg per slice.
Cold Cuts & Cured Meats: (Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Nitrite, Preservatives)
Salt may have been used for centuries to preserve the meats of old, but you may be shocked to learn just how much sodium stands between your sliced deli meats and rainbow-colored funk of spoiled food. I love a sliced turkey as much as the next person, but 800mg of sodium is a little too rich for my needs. Low sodium deli meat doesn’t last as long in the refrigerator, but it ain’t gonna kill you either.
Pizza: (Canned Tomatoes, Cheese, and Cured Meat Toppings)
Whether it’s restaurant, take ‘n bake, frozen, delivery or homemade – pizza is delicious! Er…I mean high in sodium! It’s a good thing we aren’t talking about cholesterol and fat, or else pizza might be on the top of that list. If your pizza comes from a box, take a close look at the nutritional label for sodium – then do me a favor, and double-it! Have you ever stopped at 1-slice? I haven’t yet. It may seem like sacrilege, but thin-crust pizza light on cheese and heavy on veggies is a great way to cut the sodium.
Poultry: (5-15% Saline injection to preserve Freshness, Add Moistness, to aide in Freezing/Thawing)
You may have heard that chicken is injected with salt water, but did you know frozen chicken is also usually “glazed” with a salt water to keep the meat from sticking together, protect it from ultra-low temperatures and lengthy freezing times? What this means is that your poultry options can vary widely from company to company. Unless you know your local poultry farmer personally, chances are there is going to be at least some sodium in your birds, check your labels carefully and make the best choice you can. If you absolutely have to defrost your poultry, give it a quick rinse and pat dry before you cook it.
Soup: (Salt as a Preservative)
Canning always adds tons of salt to your food. Let’s face it, salt is cheap and effective. But the winds of consumer demand are changing and there are some absolutely fabulous products coming from very respectable companies. While it would be easy to say the best thing to do would be to make your own soups, it doesn’t fit into everyone’s nightly agenda. If you’ve been opening the same cans of soup for the last decade, take an extra couple of seconds the next time you’re in the soup aisle and take a look at your options – you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you find.
Sandwiches: (High Sodium Breads, Luncheon Meats, and Condiments)
Who doesn’t love a great sandwich, burger, submarine, hoagie, panini, or grinder? Like a perfect storm of saltiness the common sandwich has it all: bread, cured meats, salt-laden vegetables (pickles, olives, sauerkraut, etc), cheese and condiments like ketchup or mayonnaise. Don’t be fooled by the fast-food sandwich restaurants claiming to sell “health food,” if you’re not careful your sandwich could have your entire day’s worth of sodium. And don’t even try to put a bowl of soup next to it! Instead make smart topping decisions like fresh veggies and lower sodium condiments like vinegar and mustard. Go light on the cheese and cut the sandwich in half; fill the other half of your sandwich with a piece of fruit while you’re at it.