Low Sodium Diet Guidelines, Tips and Recipes - Healthy recipes and cooking tips for a healthier lifestyle

Low Sodium Diet Guidelines, Tips and Recipes

July 8, 2024
Low Sodium Diet Guidelines, Tips and Recipes

Thinking about following a low sodium diet but not sure what the best low sodium foods, meals and snacks are? Wondering how much sodium is too much sodium if you have high blood pressure and want to keep your heart healthy? Looking for low sodium diet recipes that don’t taste bland and boring? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve come to the right place! We have answers to many common questions about sodium and share ideas for low sodium diet meals and recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

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Sodium and Where It Comes From

Sodium is a mineral that the body needs in small doses to function properly. But when you consume too much of it, as many Americans do, it can increase your blood pressure. When this happens, it can negatively affect your health because high blood pressure is one of the primary risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

One of the best ways to improve your heart health is to follow a low sodium diet. You may think table salt is the main source of sodium in your diet, but it turns out that even if you don’t add salt to food at the table or use a lot of salt when cooking, there are many other sources of sodium in most people’s diets. Packaged and prepared foods are often high in sodium. Restaurant meals are another major source of sodium. That’s why one of the best ways to consume less sodium is to cook more and eat less restaurant, prepared and convenience foods.

Benefits of Low Sodium Diets

The biggest benefit of reducing sodium in your diet is that it helps keep blood pressure lower. In addition to being heart healthy, sodium reduction may also lower your risk of kidney disease and may make it easier to lose and maintain weight because it makes it less likely you’ll retain excess fluid that causes swelling and bloating. Reducing sodium can be difficult if you do it too quickly, but making small changes to how you prepare foods gives your palate time to adjust to eating foods that taste less salty.

Low Sodium Guidelines for Meals and Snacks

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most adults limit sodium intake to 2,300mg (milligrams) or less, which is the amount of sodium in about 1 teaspoon of table salt (the average American consumes about 3,500mg daily). But if you are trying to follow a low sodium diet, it’s best to keep sodium levels even lower.

According to the American Heart Association, it’s a good idea to keep sodium levels to no more than 1,500mg per day. Lowering daily sodium intake to this level may help you better manage blood pressure and heart health. Some doctors may recommend that a person with high blood pressure follow an extremely low sodium diet (with limits closer to 1,000 – 1,200mg per day), but reducing sodium that much may be very difficult to do.

If you are following a low sodium diet that limits sodium to 1,500mg per day and you eat three meals and two snacks daily, here’s an example of how the numbers can break down for each meal and snack:

  • Meals: 400mg each (400 x 3 = 1,200)
  • Snacks: 150mg each (150 x 2 = 300)
  • 1,200mg (meals) + 300mg (snacks) = 1,500mg total daily sodium

If your goal is to keep to the recommended daily guidelines of 2,300mg of sodium per day, here are a few ways you can get to that number:

  • Meals: 500mg each (500 x 3 = 1,500)
  • Snacks: 400mg each (400 x 2 = 800)
  • 1,500mg (meals) + 800mg (snacks) = 2,300mg total daily sodium


  • Meals: 600mg each (600 x 3 = 1,800)
  • Snacks: 250mg each (250 x 2 = 500)
  • 1,800mg (meals) + 500mg (snacks) = 2,300mg total daily sodium

It’s not always possible to split your sodium intake that evenly so a good rule of thumb is that if you have a meal or snack that is higher in sodium, aim to make up for it by reducing sodium in other meals and snacks throughout the day. The daily totals of your low sodium diet menu are more important than what you consume at any one meal.

What to Eat on a Low Sodium Diet

You may think that following a low sodium diet is bland and boring, but it doesn’t have to be! There are plenty of low sodium dishes that are loaded with taste. The best way to lower sodium is to focus on eating mostly fresh foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats and healthy fats. Do more cooking and eat less packaged, convenience and restaurant foods. By making a few tweaks to how you cook and what you choose to eat, you can make a big difference in how much sodium you consume.

How to Reduce Sodium in Your Diet

Here are some tips for lowering sodium in your diet:

  • Eat fresh foods as much as possible rather than foods that come in a box, can or bag.
  • Season foods generously with fresh or dried herbs instead of salt.
  • Use seasonings like garlic, citrus and flavored vinegar in place of high-sodium sauces.
  • Use high-sodium foods as accents only, such as cheese, olives and pickles.
  • Lay off the salt shaker at the table. Taste food before adding salt and give your palate time to adjust to eating less salt – before you know it, you won’t even miss it!
  • Cook as much as possible rather than relying on processed foods like canned soups, frozen pizza, boxed mac and cheese or instant mashed potatoes. Cooking more also means you’ll eat less takeout, convenience and restaurant foods, which are often high in sodium.

How Cooking Lowers Sodium

When you prepare meals at home, you have more control over what goes into the food you eat. Many packaged, prepared and convenience foods are high in sodium, even if they don’t taste salty. In fact, you may be surprised by how much sodium some foods contain – just look at the labels of some foods in your fridge and pantry, such as soups, sauces, condiments, cheese, frozen meals, cereals, breads and more. When you learn to cook low sodium meals, recipes can be adapted so you use less salt and high sodium sauces, seasonings or condiments without sacrificing taste. Or check out some of the delicious low sodium recipes on our site – you won’t be disappointed!

Low Sodium Meal Ideas

Here are some recipes for low sodium meals you can make at home. They’re so good you won’t even miss the salt!

Low sodium breakfast recipes:

Low sodium lunch recipes:

Low sodium dinner recipes:

Low Sodium Snack Ideas

Looking for low sodium snacks? Skip the packaged snacks from the supermarket and make some of these low sodium recipes instead. You’ll find they’ll satisfy your cravings whether you want something crunchy, creamy, spicy or sweet.

Low sodium snack recipes:

Answers to Common Questions About Low Sodium Diets

What is a low sodium diet?

A low sodium diet is typically one that limits sodium levels to 1,500 milligrams or less per day. However, some people consider a diet low sodium as long as it’s under 2,300 milligrams per day, which is the amount that’s in one teaspoon of table salt. Reducing the amount of sodium you consume is one important aspect of following a heart healthy diet, but it is not the only one.

Why would you follow a low sodium diet?

The main reason most people follow low sodium diets is to help manage their blood pressure and reduce their risk of stroke. Low sodium diets may also be recommended to people who have heart failure, kidney disease or problems with fluid retention.

Are there other diets that can help you manage blood pressure?

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is an effective way to help prevent or treat high blood pressure. It focuses on eating lots of colorful fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils. It also limits foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt but doesn’t put the main focus on just reducing one individual nutrient in your diet, like sodium. The DASH diet is considered one of the best heart healthy diets you can follow.

What are naturally low sodium foods?

Foods that are naturally low in sodium include most fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh meats, dried beans, peas, lentils and whole grains. The focus should be on “fresh” foods. If any of these foods are canned or contain a sauce or brine, they’re likely higher in sodium. Some meats are injected with a high sodium solution (such as poultry) and meats that are smoked, cured or processed are typically high in sodium. Some dairy products are lower in sodium than others. Most fresh foods naturally contain less sodium than similar foods that are processed.

What do low sodium food labels mean?

A food can be labeled as low sodium if it contains 140mg of sodium or less per serving. It can be labeled as very low sodium if it has 35mg or less per serving. It can be labeled as sodium-free if it has less than 5mg of sodium per serving. Be careful of foods that are labeled reduced sodium or light in sodium – they can be very deceiving. Reduced sodium means there is at least 25% less sodium than the regular product and light in sodium means there is at least 50% less sodium, but these labels may appear on foods that are typically very high in sodium so even though there is less sodium than usual, they may not be low sodium foods.

What are low sodium meals?

Low sodium meals are typically those that are about 500mg of sodium or less for the full meal. To keep sodium levels in check, limit the amount of salt you cook with and add to food at the table. Also watch out for sauces, marinades and condiments that may be high in sodium. By adding lots of fresh vegetables or fruit and eating unprocessed lean meats and whole grains, you’ll likely find that you can enjoy a filling and delicious meal that is still low in sodium. If you eat a meal that’s higher in sodium, balance out what you eat the rest of the day to keep daily sodium levels in check.

What are low sodium snacks?

Low sodium snacks typically contain no more than 150 – 250mg of sodium, but how much sodium you eat when you snack needs to be balanced with the amount of sodium in your meals so you don’t exceed the total sodium limit you are aiming for. Examples of low sodium snacks include fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, smoothies and unsalted nuts.

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