Tips for Reducing Sodium Intake

vegetables and spices used for sodium substitutes on cutting board

High sodium intake can increase your risk of multiple negative health conditions. But especially for those with CKD, it is important to reduce salt consumption. High sodium intake can exacerbate chronic kidney disease, and leads to high blood pressure—one of the top two leading causes of CKD in the United States.

We’ve gathered some tips, both for choosing low-sodium foods and for improving behavioral factors, that you can use to help decrease your sodium intake:

Choosing Your Food

Check The Nutrition Facts

The best way to be conscious of the amount of salt you’re eating is to get into the habit of checking food labels. Packaged foods list the ingredients from highest to lowest quantity used. So if sodium appears near the top of the ingredients list, you should probably avoid that food. And watch out for the different names salt could use—monosodium glutamate (MSG, common in Chinese food), sodium alginate, and sodium citrate are all still salt!

The nutrition label also shares the Percent Daily Value for different nutrients, including sodium. The recommended daily sodium intake for an average person should be under 2,400 mg, so the Percent Daily Value will show what percentage of that 2,400 mg the food contains per serving.

Pay attention to the serving sizes too—most packages contain more than one, so you’ll have to do some math to figure out the actual amount of sodium if you’re eating more than one!

You might be surprised at the number and types of foods that have high amounts of added salt. Salt is used in many foods as a preservative, so even foods you wouldn’t normally think of as salty could surprise you by containing more sodium than you thought.

Buy Fresh Foods and Cook From Scratch

An easy way to control your sodium intake is to cook from scratch using fresh foods. Processed foods often contain unhealthily high levels of salt because salt is added as a preservative. But when you eat fresh foods, they won’t need preservatives, and you can control the amount of salt you choose to add. This gives you much more control over your sodium intake than eating packaged and processed foods.

Replace Salt with Other Spices

If you find that you miss the taste that salt adds to your food, try using some different spices to add flavor. Experiment with spices like paprika, chili, or spice mixes. Look up new recipes that use spices online, or choose a few at random off the shelf to try out. Experimenting with different spices can make cooking fun, and you might fall in love with the variety of flavors you can create.

Behavioral Factors

Get Counseling or Group Support

Even when you know that sodium can negatively affect your health, giving it up can still be very difficult. But if you have strong support from people you trust, quitting can be made much easier. One recent study on sodium intake and web-based coaching showed how online counseling can help individuals learn healthy behaviors and actually cut back on sodium.

Group up with friends or family members with similar goals, or find an online community that can lend support. And counseling, whether in person or online, can teach you self-regulation techniques to better aid your self-control. 

Learn Self-Monitoring Tactics

Temptation can be a big challenge when you’re making a diet change of any kind. So to avoid falling back into old habits, you need to find ways to resist these temptations when they arise. For example, snacks in the office are a common downfall for anyone trying to eat healthier while working. One self-monitoring tactic could be to keep natural, healthy snacks that you enjoy in your desk so if anyone offers you a salty snack, you can confidently say no without feeling like you’re missing out on having a treat.

If you drive past a fast food restaurant that tempts you every day, change your driving route. Learning tricks to replace unhealthy foods with healthy ones or to make it harder to access unhealthy food can help you self-monitor.

Get Educated About Processed Foods

You can make better choices if you educate yourself about the food you eat. Lots of us rely on processed foods for speed and convenience, but, as mentioned above, these kinds of foods usually have a lot of sodium added to them.

Spend some time familiarizing yourself with which foods have added sodium and the different terms you might see on ingredient labels that mean. With a better understanding of what you’re looking for, you can make informed choices even on days when you do need to buy processed food.

Using these behavioral and nutritional tips to lower sodium intake can help you remain healthy in many aspects of your life, and it may also decrease the risk of progression of your chronic kidney disease.