Only a quarter of your sodium intake comes from the salt you add to food; the rest is from packaged products (sauces, soups, canned foods, and baked goods). This means the first step in creating a healthy recipe should be to start with whole, unprocessed foods. Use fresh vegetables, fish, chicken, meat, and beans whenever possible.
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6 Ways to Use Less Salt
Eat Fresh Food Often
Increase Flavor Naturally
Bring out the natural sweetness in vegetable dishes by roasting or grilling them. For more intensity, finish with a flavored oil. Condiments like ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, and dips are sodium minefields, so use sparingly and experiment with spices and a variety of salt-free seasoning blends by Mrs. Dash or McCormick.
Read Nutrition Labels
If you are an adult age 50 or younger, try to trim your intake to 2,300mg of sodium or fewer a day. For those over 50, African-Americans, and others at risk of elevated blood pressure, aim for 1,500mg or fewer. Pull out those reading glasses and your calculator—check labels for sodium content and keep your daily target in mind.
Keep Track of Salt Usage
Use a measuring spoon when adding salt to a recipe. Start with 1/8 teaspoon and add more if you find you need it after tasting. Consider switching to kosher salt—it has less sodium per teaspoon than regular salt.
Avoid adding salt to recipes if it doesn't contribute to flavor. For example, don't use when boiling pasta or rice. Sprinkle on salt when you've finished cooking your food, so you'll get the maximum impact. Give a grind of fresh black pepper a try.
Swap Salt for Other Ingredients
Balsamic vinegar (which also comes in varieties like cherry and fig), rice wine vinegar, and lemon or lime juice all bring out the savoriness in a dish. Garlic, ginger, fresh or dried herbs, spices, and grated lemon zest also wake up the flavor in foods.
Originally published in the February 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.