Healthy Living: Controlling Sodium Intake Part 3

by CJFosdick on March 4, 2010

When you read how much sodium is in prepared foods, you probably will be shocked. So many products we eat have so much salt added, that it is easy to see why Americans get more salt than is healthy for them. Study the chart below. These are products that I often use from my own kitchen:

Kraft dinner                             1/3 of box                  * sodium = 670mg          =    36%
Stove Top                                1/6th box                    *sodium  = 500mg          =    24%
Pasta-Roni                               1c prepared                *sodium  = 780mg          =   33%
Hamb Helper                           1 c prepared               *sodium = 770mg           =   36%
Sides and Rice                         1 c prepared               *sodium  = 870 mg         =   38%
Peanut Butter Crackers          1pkg/6 crackers          *sodium  = 330mg           =   14%
Generic Beanie-Wienies        1 can/7.75 oz.             *sodium  = 990 mg          =    41%
Cream of Chicken Soup        1/2c soup                    *sodium  = 870mg           =   36%
Tortilla Corn Chips                 7 chips                       * sodium =  75mg            =     3%
Pringles Potato Chips             1/3 can                       *sodium =   210mg          =     7%
Sargento Cheese                     1 slice                        *sodium =   190mg          =      9%
Grated Cheese                        1/3 cup                       *sodium =   75mg            =      7%

*Based on a 2000 calorie diet = Daily amount recommended = less than 2400mg

I included a variety of products from main courses like “Hamburger Helper”, to side dishes like “Sides and Rice”, to snacks like potato chips. I personally was surprised at some of my results. For example, cheese was on my list of high salt products that I researched.* Cheese actually is not that high. A toasted cheese sandwich using 1 slice of cheese, a handful of tortilla corn chips, (Watch how many) and some carrots sticks, even an apple, make a healthy, tasty, meal of low-sodium content, much better, say, than a can of Beanie-Wienies where you can get 41% of your daily recommended salt take in just this little can. And this doesn’t make a full meal for most people.

The government has mandated that all food products list the ingredients, the calories per serving, and the chart that shows the contents of things like proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc. I know it’s a pain, but if you read these, you will become so much more aware of what goes into you mouth than if you don’t. But, BEWARE. Reading these and trying to compare servings is tricky at best. For example, Pringles list a serving size as 1/3 can, while Tortilla Corn Chips say the serving size is seven (7) chips. How do you compare a third of a can to seven chips? “Kraft Dinner” is 1/3 box of dry ingredients while “Pasta-Roni” is 1 cup prepared. Again, you’re comparing dry weight with prepared weight. Hard to do.

In addition, very often serving size is quite misleading. A small can of Campbell’s soup is supposed to have 2 ½  servings. Really? I’ve often wondered what unfortunate family member gets the half serving? If you can feed two and a half people from one can of soup, you’re a better magician than I am. Thus, people invariably eat more and might eat a whole day’s salt intake or more at one meal. Then, there are potato chip products. Who on earth can stop with 7 chips. Come on. It’s easier to not eat any than it is to stop with 7 chips. So when you read, make sure you get all the facts and try to compute all the different ways of listing contents and serving sizes. I’m sure food manufacturers deliberately try to mislead us.

I personally have found ways to use these high salt products and cut the salt intake. For example on a “Sides and Rice” dish, add ½ cup Instant Rice as you cook. I personally use Instant Brown Rice because it is healthier for you than processed white rice.

For foods like “Hamburger Helper” and “Pasta-Roni” keep a supply of dry macaroni  on hand and add about 1/2 cup as you cook. Of course, in both rice mixtures and pasta mixtures, add the needed water to accommodate the extra added ingredients. Also, in all casseroles, you can add vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, corn, tomatoes, and the like, which will give you more vegetable servings in your day. Since it is recommended that we need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, this is one way to help get these servings down a recalcitrant child.

Other additives with low and no salt content that you can add to cut the sodium intake include: Barley, pearl macaroni, hash brown potatoes, dry spaghetti, Cous-Cous, and dry bread crumbs (added to processed foods like “Stove Top Dressing” mixes.)

Good luck in cutting salt intake if you need to. It can be done, but you need to be vigilant, a smart shopper, and a dedicated cook. But it can be done.

*See my blogs on healthy living 2/24/10 and government control of salt 2/17/10 for more on “Healthy Living: Salt Intake”.

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