So, your doctor is telling you to lay off the salt. Tough task. Some low-sodium options taste like cardboard making low-sodium diets near impossible to follow. Even if you try to avoid salt, it’s in everything! How could you possibly succeed?

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

Add Flavor and Spice, Don’t Just Remove

The pitfall that many low-sodium diets fall into is removing the sodium and not replacing it. It’s why low-sodium foods have gained the reputation for being tasteless. If something uses a lot of salt and you take it away, you’re going to lose that taste!

Instead, replace that flavor with something. Remember, there are five culinary tastes — sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Instead of putting salt on your fish, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on it. For other proteins or vegetables, spice it up with fresh peppers, garlic, or onions. Adding fresh herbs, spices, and flavors can keep a new diet exciting and tasty. Now’s the time to try new things.

Try Out Salt Replacers

If you’re still craving a salty flavor, there are several alternatives that you can try out. In moderate amounts, sea salt can replace table salt. While sea salt has roughly the same amount of sodium as table salt, you can get away with less of it due to its larger granules and natural flavors. There are also many retail salt substitutes available at your grocery store.

If you’re looking for something a little different, you can turn to our old friend, seaweed. We’ve already looked at how you can add seaweed to your diet as a salt substitute. Seaweed flakes offer all the benefits of seaweed and a salty flavor to food, without most of salt’s sodium.

Become a Label Reader

Even if you follow these tips, there’s still a chance you’ll struggle to keep a low-sodium diet. The CDC’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that you should aim for 2,300mg of sodium per day. That’s less than a teaspoon of table salt. It’s estimated that Americans get about 3,400mg per day.

So, if we replace salt or remove it from our own cooking, where is all that sodium coming from? Processed or prepared foods are the culprits here. The worst of these is the Salty Six, identified by the American Heart Association as breads/rolls, deli meats, sandwiches, pizza, soup, and chicken.

It’s important to read the nutrition labels, because what you find may surprise you. For example, a can of chicken noodle soup has 890mg of sodium. A single slice of white bread has 148.5mg of sodium. Avoiding sodium pitfalls can be important for sticking to your diet.

Before You Start Your New Diet

One important thing to note is that a low-sodium diet shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Sodium is an important nutrient for humans. It balances fluids, regulates blood pressure, and assists the nervous system. If your doctor is telling you to adopt a low-sodium diet, go for it.

But you shouldn’t self-diagnose. Low sodium levels cause hyponatremia and symptoms like muscle weakness, nausea, and even death. Check with your doctor before making major changes to your diet.

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Americans love their salt, but for good reason. It adds a lot of flavor to food. Unfortunately, we love it a bit too much. Doctors around the nation are telling their patients to cut back, but it can be difficult to do this. Following these suggestions will help you follow the doctor’s orders.

Further Reading

Everyday Health — 10 Satisfying Low-Sodium Snacks
Health — 24 Tasty, Low-Sodium Recipes for Every Meal
Livestrong.com — Low Sodium Foods That Taste Good