This Nutritionist’s Trick Is an Easy Way to Eat Less Sodium

Pay attention to this number, and your sodium intake can go way down.

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No one *wants* to eat a diet that’s sky-high in sodium, right? For one thing, there’s the bloating. But that’s just the beginning, right?

You know high-sodium diets are linked to a host of health issues, from high blood pressure to kidney stones to osteoporosis.

But odds are, even if you’re trying to cut back on your sodium intake, you’re still eating more than you realize. (Here are some sneaky high-sodium foods to watch for.) While the government’s dietary guidelines recommend that most Americans consume 2,300 milligrams of sodium or less a day (and perhaps even less for people with certain health issues, like heart failure or high blood pressure), 90% of people age 2 and older are eating more than they should. The average sodium intake is more than 3,400 milligrams, per the CDC’s Division for Heart and Stroke Prevention.

The main reason for our sodium love affair: we literally can’t shake it. More than 70% of the sodium we eat has nothing to do with the salt shaker; it’s the sodium added to processed and restaurant foods for flavor or shelf life. (On the other hand, check out these processed foods that are healthier than you think.)

And as easy as it is for nutritionists or health sites to admonish people to cut way back on their processed food intake or read labels to watch their sodium, that’s not always so simple to do. LBH, are you really keeping  a mental calculator every time you eat a granola bar or grab a handful or trail mix to make sure you don’t go over 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day? Uh, no.

That’s where this helpful trick from NYC-based nutritionist Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, comes in. It’s basically a quick way to read food labels to see if they’re high in sodium or not.

“The way that I like to think about that is if you're having three meals, [you should eat] no more than about 500 milligrams [of sodium] at each meal,” she explains. “Then the rest of that would be taken up with snacks.”

Thinking of your sodium intake in 500-milligram chunks is much easier to keep track of, especially if your any parts of breakfast, lunch, or dinner come from a fast food or quick service restaurant where the nutrition information is readily available. Like to cook? It’s also a memorable number to keep in mind as you scan recipes for their potential heart-healthy traits.

Here are more ways to lower your sodium intake if you’re worried about heart failure, plus learn more about how to season your food without salt here.