Carol Gilmore, assistant director of Food and Nutrition Services at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, offers the following tips for those who would like to watch the sodium intake:
¢ Be a label reader. If an item is labeled "heart healthy" on the front, it doesn't necessarily translate to the most nutritious item on the shelf. You need to flip to the nutrition label.
¢ Don't forget to consider portion and serving sizes. Sodium is just like calories. If you eat 2 cups, then that's four times the amount of sodium listed in a 1/2 cup serving size. Size is even a consideration in bread products. For example, one bun had 220 milligrams versus a slightly larger one with 360 milligrams. Gilmore recommends whole grain breads.
¢ Dilute items that are high in sodium such as salad dressings and soups. For example, Gilmore uses a can of soup as a starting point and then adds vegetables and other ingredients. She bumps up the flavor by adding low-sodium chicken broth or a bit of wine. Not only is she increasing the amount of food, but significantly lowering the amount of sodium. She recommends using an Asian rice wine vinegar to reduce salad dressings.
¢ Eat fresh and frozen vegetables over canned. For example, a 1/2 cup serving of canned corn has 310 milligrams of sodium versus no sodium in a 2/3 cup serving of frozen corn.
¢ Mix no-sodium or reduced-sodium items with regular sodium items until you develop an appreciation for lower-sodium foods. Gilmore said tomato sauce and paste are good examples.
¢ Salt is salt. Some soup is being labeled as healthier because it contains sea salt. Not true; weight for weight they are the same, she said.
¢ The lower-sodium meats generally can be found behind the meat counter. Don't be afraid to ask grocery employees for help.
¢ If you are watching your weight, Gilmore recommends looking at caloric content first and then sodium content. She said the fat content will take care of itself when watching those numbers.
¢ Don't overlook drinks. One can of diet soda has 40 milligrams of sodium. That can add up if you consume several a day.
¢ Be aware that most foods naturally contain sodium. For example, an 8-ounce serving of milk contains about 120 milligrams. "Milk is milk. There's no such thing as low-sodium milk," Gilmore said. It's a great source of protein, potassium and calcium, so people have to make room for it in their low-sodium diet.
¢ It's better to add a few granules of salt on top of food before eating rather than to mix it in while cooking, Gilmore says. That way you get a bigger taste while reducing the sodium.