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Hi, my name is Arielle Rosenberg and I’m a registered dietitian for the clinical nutrition department at Johns Hopkins Bayview, and I’ve worked with many cardiac patients throughout my time at Bayview.
I wanted to walk through the grocery store with you and help you look at the foods with a keen eye to help you figure out which foods are high in sodium and which foods are lower in sodium that would be prefect for your shopping cart.
Many people think that they are in the clear if they don’t pick up a salt shaker and use it in their cooking, when in fact most of the sodium that Americans consume daily come from processed foods that they may buy at the grocery store. Watching your sodium intake is really important, since high amounts of sodium in your diet can lead to:
So for Tip #1, I would recommend sticking to the outside of your grocery store. All grocery stores are pretty much set up alike. If you stick to the outside of the grocery store and stay away from the center aisles, you’ll be choosing more low sodium foods there. A lot of these foods are natural and they are not processed, so this would be a good place to start.
For Tip #2, if you happen to make it into the center aisles of your grocery store, the most important thing you can do is actually read the food label. The food label does not lie, and I always tell my patients “knowledge is power,” so if you know how to read a food label, you can be in the clear. You can make healthy decisions.
So, for example, when looking at this packaged rice, one serving is one cup of cooked rice, so in one cup of cooked rice, you have 666 milligrams (mg) of sodium in just that one cup. This is a really high sodium food. The American Heart Association recommends that the average American consume 1500 mg or less of sodium in a day. Anything that is 140 mg or less in sodium per serving is a low sodium food and anything higher than 300 mg per serving is a high sodium food. So this, as you can see, would be a high sodium food.
For Tip #3, I would recommend watching out for those canned goods. Canned soups and canned vegetables are huge culprits when it comes to consuming high sodium foods. So, as you can see, we’re in the canned food section. For example, if you pick up a canned soup, and it said it has 25% less sodium, this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a low sodium food. It just means that this can of soup has 25% less sodium than the average canned soup. So, as you can see, if you turn over the food label, this soup has 650 mg of sodium, which is still considered a high sodium food. Instead of choosing canned soup, I recommend making homemade soups, this way you can control how much salt you are adding to your soups.
So another good tip if you make it to the center aisles is to look above and below eye level, because a lot of times at eye level are the unhealthier, higher sodium foods. So, for example, over here we have the nut section. The unsalted peanuts are down here [leans towards lower shelf], and the salted peanuts and almonds are right at eye level.
For Tip #4, I really want you to try to avoid those TV dinners or microwavable meals. Those are really high sodium foods – those are some of the worst culprits. So, for example, this pre-made shrimp dinner over here, one package is your whole serving size, and in this one package, you get 960 mg of sodium. That’s more than half the amount of sodium you need in an entire day. Remember, you want to stay less than or equal to 1500 mg of sodium.
Another great tip is look into the dried herb section of the grocery store. This is a great way to add some taste and flavor into your foods. One of my personal favorites is Mrs. Dash. Mrs. Dash offers a wide variety of different spices and they are all salt free, which is excellent. Another choice is the McCormick, so McCormick offers a couple of different salt-free herb blends as well.
Another thing I would recommend to try to stay away from is your prepackaged lunch meats. If you do like lunch meats, I would recommend going to your deli counter and asking for a low sodium option.
So now that your basket is full of some low sodium foods, I encourage you to go home and make some low sodium meals. It’s always healthier to make your meals at home rather than going out to eat, but if you do decide to venture out, I encourage you to ask your waiter or waitress for low sodium options. My favorite request is “Please hold the salt.”
For more information, go to hopkinsmedicine.org/heart