Reducing sodium intake


March 24, 1992|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

If you rely heavily on processed, convenience or fast foods, and/or are a heavy salter, you may be part of a group of people eating 9 1/2 grams of sodium daily.

A recent Johns Hopkins study notes that people with "high normal" blood pressure can reduce their risk of stroke and heart disease significantly by slightly lowering sodium intake to 7 grams per day (still high by American Heart Association standards, which recommends only 3 grams per day).

If you're wondering how to get your sodium consumption down by 2 1/2 grams per day, here's the scoop.

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, cereals and grain products. Eat modest amounts of meat, chicken, fish and dairy foods. Then start reading, and make some trade-offs.

Take breakfast, for instance. Even if your habit is to grab breakfast at a "drive-thru," you can save plenty of sodium. Switching from a biscuit with sausage and egg at 1,250 milligrams of sodium to an English muffin with sausage at 830 milligrams reduces your sodium intake by more than 400 milligrams.

Better still, a more balanced breakfast of an apple-bran muffin, a carton of 1 percent milk and a container of orange juice totals only 460 milligrams of sodium, saving 790 milligrams of sodium.

Fast food lunches can offer big savings, too.

Compare McDonald's Quarter Pounder with cheese (1,150 milligrams), large fries (200 milligrams) and a chocolate shake (240 milligrams) to their own regular burger (500 milligrams) small fries (110 milligrams) side salad (85 milligrams) with "lite" vinaigrette dressing (75 milligrams) and a low-fat frozen yogurt cone (80 milligrams) for a savings of 740 milligrams of sodium.

At Wendy's, a Big Classic (1,085 milligrams) and a bacon-and-cheese baked potato (1460 milligrams) could be replaced by a single burger with lettuce and tomato (500 milligrams), a baked potato with sour cream and chives (155 milligrams) and a salad with vinegar-and-oil dressing (0) for a savings of 1890 milligrams.

Comparable savings are possible at all fast food shops. Ask for their nutrition information, or get a copy of "Fast Food Facts" by Marion J. Franz (available at local bookstores).

And, of course, whatever you eat, every time you don't salt, you save. Each teaspoon of salt contains 2 grams of sodium. But beware of substituting other condiments. Many are quite high in sodium. Soy sauce adds 350 milligrams per teaspoon. Catsup adds 50 milligrams per teaspoon. Teriyaki marinade contributes 750 milligrams per teaspoon.

And be sure to read the labels on all the convenience foods you use at home. Many frozen entrees, including the "lite" and low calorie ones, contain 1000 milligrams per serving.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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