Eat Less Sodium
Sodium is an essential nutrient used in our bodies as an electrolyte. Electrolytes are important for muscle contractions, nerve transmissions, fluid balance and blood pressure. However, when too much sodium is consumed blood pressure can increase, causing damage to your heart and arteries.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend sodium to be limited to 2300mg per day for adults and children 2 years and older. For those that have high blood pressure, are African American, or are 51 years or older, sodium should be further reduced to 1500mg per day.
It is estimated that the average American consumes about 3400mg of sodium every day. Most of the sodium consumed comes from processed foods and restaurant meals. If you start looking at the sodium content of restaurants foods and processed convenience items it is easy to see how we consume so much sodium.
Applebee’s Sizzling Skillet Fajita with Chicken has 4730mg of sodium!!! Even if you eat only half you are still consuming 2365mg which is still more than the recommended amount for the whole day!
And in the frozen food aisle, Bertolli’s Chicken Marsala and Roasted Red Skin Potatoes contain 920mg of sodium per portion. If you add a salad with 2 tablespoons of wishbone italian dressing to your meal you are adding another 340mg of sodium.
A good rule of thumb is to try and keep sodium intake to around 500mg at each meal and 250mg for each snack. That way if you eat 3 meals a day and 2 snacks you will be around 2000mg for the day.
Making your meals yourself and avoiding processed foods is the easiest way to decrease your sodium intake but that is not always possible due to busy schedules and sometimes you only have time for fast foods or frozen meals. Or maybe you had a long day and are tired and just don’t feel like cooking and having to wash all the dishes afterwards.
So here are a few lower sodium convenience food item recommendations for those days:
-Healthy Choice frozen entrees. Healthy Choice has a number of meals that have around 500mg of sodium such as their honey balsamic chicken, grilled chicken marsala with mushrooms, chicken pasta primavera and sweet and spicy orange zest chicken.
-Wendy’s 4 piece chicken nuggets (350mg sodium) and a sour cream and chive baked potato (50mg sodium) give you 400mg of sodium.
-Wendy’s 6 piece chicken nuggets (520mg sodium) and Apple Slices (0mg sodium) give your 520mg of sodium.
If you are going out to eat and nutrition information is available online, go ahead and take a look at it before you leave the house and take into account the sodium content when you are making your decision.
Say you are going to PF Changs and you always have a hard time deciding between the sweet and sour chicken or the kung pao chicken. You take a look at the nutrition info and notice the kung pao chicken has more than twice the amount of sodium as the sweet and sour chicken… problem solved. Sweet and sour chicken it is. While it is still 760mg of sodium you can decide to eat half at the restaurant and save the other half for later and still be able to stay under your sodium goal. And 6 ounces of brown rice has only 5mg of sodium so you can definitely add the rice and make two good meals out of it.
Bottom line…. try and cook at home using fresh ingredients whenever possible and read your food labels so you know exactly how much sodium you are consuming.
References and Further Reading