Hello again! This is Christine here with a different kind of Sweet-Tooth Friday post; in fact, it’s down-right salty! Sodium made some controversial headlines recently, and as a healthy-eater I was shocked by how much my pantry was affected by the news.
No Deli-Meat, No Cheeto’s, No Problem?
Salt is an essential part of survival, and is extra important for distance runners. The recommended amount is only about a teaspoon per day, or 2300 milligrams. Most people eat at least twice that much!
The sneaky part is, only a small amount of this comes from actually using the shaker in the table. Seventy-five percent of salt intake comes from processed foods.
Two weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report that recommends the FDA to regulate the amount of salt allowed in processed foods. They believe this will prevent over 100,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
“Phew, I hardly eat any processed foods. I’m in the clear, right?”
Though I’m torn on the idea of there being a legal limit on salt, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the sodium issue wouldn’t really affect me. After all, I cook the majority of my meals at home.
But as I dug into my pantry and freezer, and took the time to look up the nutrition facts for my favorite take-out, I was hit with the salty reality.
Sodium fills my kitchen just like everybody else’s, even if disguised under my favorite natural brand names and organic labels. Anything below 5% of the daily value is considered low salt, and over 20% is considered high…but where does my snacking land?
Fifteen Sneaky Sodium Sources
Ingredients: A Salty Start
Sure, most of our dishes start with lots of fresh veggies, but what pulls it all together as a meal?
1. Kikkoman Less-Sodium Soy Sauce 575 mg sodium per 1 tbsp (24% DV)
Ouch, that’s for the reduced version too! I don’t think I could ever ditch the soy sauce, so try to use with a light hand and turn up the flavor with 5-spice and chilies instead.
2. Prego Traditional Italian Sauce 480 mg sodium per 1/2 cup (20% DV)
I choose Prego for the short, pronounceable ingredient list and reasonable price. I’ve been so busy reading labels to avoid corn syrup, I never even thought about checking the sodium level. The best solution is to do like my dad does, and make a big homemade batch and freeze in single serving portions.
3. Swanson Organic Vegetable Broth 550 mg sodium per 1 cup (23% DV)
And that’s 1/3 less sodium than Swanson’s original version! Making your own broth is a lot cheaper, and you get to control the ingredients.
4. Canned beans 430 mg sodium per 1 cup (18% DV)
Some people say rinsing beans removes up to 40% of the sodium, others say they need to be soaked in hot water to remove about 30%. Either way, it’s a lot more than dried beans. Save some time by cooking up large batches and freezing in two-cup portions.
5. Texas Pete Buffalo Wing Sauce 500 mg sodium per 2 tbsp (21% DV)
A lot of sauces and condiments are saltier than you’d think. Load up your sandwich with more onions and other fresh fixins’ and layer on the heat with ground spices instead.
Snacks: Beyond carrots and celery
6. Grapenuts cereal 290 mg sodium per 1 cup (12% DV)
Instead of reading the back of the cereal box, take a gander at the nutrition facts next time! Most are a sugary, salty mess. Try Bear Naked All Natural Fruit and Nut Granola, for no sodium but lots of taste, or make my flax granola.
7. Nature’s Promise Organic Mac and Cheese 570 mg sodium per 1 cup prepared (24% DV)
Ah ha, I thought I was special by avoiding the dreaded blue box. Still, powdered cheese sauce is…well, what is it exactly? Drizzle whole-grain macaroni with olive oil, dried herbs, and a sprinkle of sea salt for a just-as-quick snack.
8. Blue Diamond Jalapeno Smokehouse Almonds 180 mg sodium per 1 oz (7% DV)
Remember, if it looks too good to be true, check the serving size! I know I’m guilty of eating much more than an ounce at a time. Get your tastebuds used to the joys of raw nuts, or grab some smoked paprika and season them yourself.
9. Newman O’s Salted Rounds 400 mg sodium per 8 small pretzels (17% DV)
Even my sacred Newman O’s aren’t safe from scrutiny! When the munchies strike, try Nature’s Promise Organic Blue Corn Chips for only 60 mg of sodium per serving.
10. Kashi Frozen Veggie Chana Masala 690 mg sodium (29% DV)
At least that amount is for a whole meal instead of a snack! Chana masala does in fact freeze wonderfully, so make your own large batch and freeze it yourself! Also try Amy’s 290 mg Light Sodium Burritos.
Eating-out: The Healthiest Stuff on the Menu
There aren’t always a lot of meatless options at convenience restaurants; these five are my standards around town when I forget to pack my lunch. If these numbers scare you, check out Matt’s post on vegetarian lunches for some better options.
11. Taco Bell Fresco Bean Burrito 1290 mg sodium (56% DV)
Gulp…don’t even think of washing this one down with a sodium-rich soda!
12. Einstein Bros. Bagels Veggie Deli Melt 1350 mg sodium (59% DV)
Ask for half the amount of cheese and extra greens. And for gosh sakes, don’t order the salt bagel!
13. Baja Fresh Tostada Salad 1930 mg sodium (84% DV)
Nix the sour cream and cheese; the guacamole is plenty indulgent. And don’t eat the bowl!
14. Panera Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich 1450 mg sodium (63% DV)
PaneraNutrition.com has a cool feature that recalculates nutrition totals by checking and unchecking certain ingredients—for example, hold the feta and lose 180 mg sodium too.
15. Starbucks Farmer’s Market Salad 470 mg sodium (21% DV)
Though technically “high” in sodium, it’s still less than a tablespoon of soy sauce! Use half the packet of dressing to lower the sodium even more.
Sodium haunts even the healthiest of diets. The more convenience foods you can make at home and freeze yourself, the better. When you buy packaged foods, look for sea salt as an ingredient instead of sodium benzoate and other forms of sodium used as a preservative.
So what do you think—would we all be a lot healthier if the government regulated sodium? Are mandated jazzercize classes next? No one will dare mess with the inherent saltiness of my pickles, olives, and capers…will they?
According to the Washington Post, one member of the Institute of Medicine Committee says “We can’t just rely on the individual to do something. Food manufacturers have to reduce the amount of sodium in foods.”
On one hand I find that statement insulting, but on the other I know I am someone with the knowledge, means, and most of all time to prepare my own healthy foods.
Do you think regulation is a good idea? Is your sodium intake undermining your attempts at a healthy diet?
Until next time, stay sweet (not salty)!
I believe that plant-based is the healthiest way you can eat -- both for how you feel and perform in the short term, and for long-term health. But there are a few nutrients that are hard to get from plants, and I didn't want to take a whole multivitamin with so much extra that I'm already getting from my food. That's why I created Complement Plus, the perfect nutrient formula for plant-based athletes.
Complement Plus brings together, in one place, the essential nutrients that are missing from a reasonably diverse, whole food plant-based diet:
- DHA/EPA Omega-3s
- Minerals like zinc, iodine, and selenium
Click here to learn more.