Because many processed and prepared foods contain high levels of sodium, you could be consuming too much salt, even if you don’t add salt to your phasing. The average American consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium each day – far more than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommendation of no more than 2,300mg/day. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension or high blood pressure, the FDA recommends an even lower threshold: 1,500 milligrams per day. 

You’ll never be able to eliminate salt from your diet completely – nor do you want to; it’s actually vitally important for ,, physiological processes in the body – including electrolyte balance. Most of the sodium we consume is not salt that we add in the kitchen, rather it comes from processed and restaurant foods. Therefore, the first step to reducing your salt intake is to begin to eliminate fast food and processed foods. At restaurants, you can talk to your server about food prep and ask them to keep the salt on the low end of your meal. Cooking for yourself is obviously the best way to control your sodium intake because you’re in the driver’s seat as far as what goes into the pot. Let’s put away the saltshaker and find some more creative ways to add flavor to your home-cooked meal.

1) Use Fresh and Dried Herbs and Spices

Salt is not the only way to make bland foods tastier. Odds are that you have a whole spice rack full of mouthwatering seasonings, just waiting to be used. Swap out salty meat rubs with your own blend of onions, garlic, herbs, and citrus juices. Instead of adding salt to vegetables, try a little olive oil and pepper.

2) Make Your Own Dressings

Salad dressings can have as much as 500 mg of sodium per serving because of the sodium-containing preservatives included to increase shelf life . But the basic ingredients that you would use to make them yourself – oil and vinegar – have no sodium at all.

Here’s a great step-by-step video for making a simple dressing at home.  

3) Opt for Low-sodium Stocks and Broths – or Make Your Own

Canned varieties of chicken stock and chicken broth are loaded with sodium. Opt for the low-sodium, or simply make your own at home and freeze it for when you need it. Here’s a great recipe for homemade chicken broth.

4) Read Labels

It is important to read labels on the food items you buy to ensure that they aren’t packed with too much salt. Different brands of the same food can have vastly different sodium levels. Some varieties even have reduced-sodium versions. You may not tend to favor these low-salt varieties but … read the next tip.

5) Gradually Phase Out Saltier Varieties

If you don’t like the taste of lower-sodium foods right now, try combining them with a regular version of the same food. Over time, as your taste buds adjust to prefer less salt, start phasing out the saltier version altogether.

6) Avoid Canned Vegetables

For home-cooked meals, choose fresh over canned vegetables whenever possible. If you must use canned vegetables, look for the ones that say, “no salt added,” and give them a rinse before you use them. The American Dietetic Association estimates that rinsing canned vegetables reduces their sodium content by about 40 percent. 

7) Minimize Processed Meats (Smoked, Pickled, Canned)

Processed meats are loaded with salty preservatives – but again, read the label! Some canned fish has no added salt and offers a healthy snack option if you’re increasing your protein intake. Luncheon meats are frequently injected with brine solutions. Cold cuts and cured meats are one of the top six sodium sources in the U.S. diet. Opt for the fresh version instead: slice whole chicken breasts for your sandwiches and skip the bacon and beef jerky.

8) Skip the Instant Oatmeal

Don’t you love those little packets of instant oatmeal? They are delicious and convenient, but one small packet has up to 250 mg of sodium. You are better off swapping them out for plain old-fashioned oats, which have zero sodium. Even if you add a bit of your own salt, you’ll likely use far less than the folks at the Instant Oatmeal Factory! To add some pizzazz, add a few drops of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of real maple syrup. For a protein boost, add ground flax meal and walnuts. Yum!