We know you love chips, deli sandwiches. But a key ingredient lurks in these foods

·2 min read

I was surprised when my medically savvy friend Jeanne told me she avoids buying frozen meals that contain around 500 mg of sodium.

If Jeanne is confused, then I know many others are too. Frozen meals are convenient and can certainly be part of a nutritious and sodium-appropriate diet.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium a day and a limit of not more than 1500 mg per day for most older adults, especially for people with high blood pressure. The average American is eating about 3400 mg of sodium a day.

Salt’s connection to high blood pressure, heart disease

Too much dietary sodium increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. High sodium intake can also cause calcium to be pulled from bones.

What I told Jeanne is that it is everything you eat in a day that counts, not just the sodium content of one food. I analyzed a one-day intake of cereal and milk for breakfast, a morning snack of fruit, egg salad sandwich and a 100-calorie snack bag in the afternoon and a frozen dinner with 520 mg of sodium.

This day’s food intake, which I don’t think is ideal, was 1534 mg of sodium. So a frozen meal can fit. More vegetables and fruit would improve this intake without adding any sodium.

Fruits and vegetables are naturally sodium free. Fresh meat, poultry and fish are low sodium choices. Processed meats like bacon, sausage and deli meats may contain high amounts of sodium.

Here are foods filled with sodium

About 70% of the sodium in the typical American diet comes from prepackaged and processed foods.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40% of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from the following foods — deli meat sandwiches, pizza, burritos and tacos, soups, pasta mixed dishes, savory snacks and burgers.

Two tips to lower sodium intake. As much as possible, prepare your own foods and season with herbs. There are recipes online to meet every taste and time constraint. And when buying prepared, frozen or processed foods, read the labels for sodium content. Compare brands and choose the one with the lower sodium content.

Sheah Rarback
Sheah Rarback

Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutrition in private practice in Miami.