By Marla H. Withey, Gundersen Lutheran registered dietitian
According to the American Heart Association, America has a major problem with sodium or salt. The average American consumes about 3,400 mg sodium per day - more than twice the 1,500 mg recommended by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Is this because we add a lot of table salt when eating at mealtime? Or snack on dill pickles and potato chips? Not necessarily.
In large part, it is due to our food supply. More than 75 percent of our sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods. That is why the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has identified the "Salty Six."
The Salty Six are common foods that may be loaded with excess sodium and can increase our risk for heart disease and stroke. Many feel that excess sodium in our diets has less to do with what we are adding to our food and more to do with what is already in the food.
So what are the Salty Six? Here are some of the sodium-rich foods that we eat, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. You may find some of the items on the list surprising.
- Breads and rolls. We know that bread provides carbohydrates, calories, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but salt too? While a lot of breads don't even taste salty, one slice can have as much as 230 mg sodium. That is 15 percent of the recommended daily amount from only one slice of bread. Check the nutrition labels, as different brands of the same foods may have different sodium levels.
- Cold cuts and cured meats. Foods that would otherwise be considered healthy may be high in sodium content. Deli or pre-packaged turkey may contain as much as 1,050 mg sodium. One 2-oz. serving or six thin slices of deli meat can contain as much as half of the daily recommendation for sodium intake. Why? Because most cooked meats would spoil in only a few days without the added sodium solution. Look for lower-sodium varieties of your favorite lunch meats.
- Pizza. Yes, pizza is plenty salty. One slice can contain up to 760 mg sodium. Two or three slices can send you way over the daily sodium recommendation. When including pizza in your meal plan, limit the cheese and add more veggies.
- Poultry. Reasonable portions of lean, skinless grilled chicken are great. But if you are eating items such as chicken nuggets or poultry injected with added sodium solutions/marinades, then the sodium starts to really add up. Just 3 oz. of frozen and breaded chicken nuggets can add nearly 600 mg sodium. And most folks probably are not stopping at a 3-oz. portion! Poultry can be a very nice addition to your meal plan, but you will find a wide range of sodium in poultry products - choose wisely.
- Soup. The sodium content in one cup of canned soup can range from 100 to as much as 940 mg - more than half of your recommended intake for a day. Soup can be part of a healthy meal plan. Always check the nutrition labels to find lower-sodium varieties that taste just as great!
- Sandwiches. We already know that breads and cured meats can be high in sodium. Add them together, and you can quickly surpass 1,500 mg sodium in one sitting. A sandwich or burger from a fast-food restaurant can contain more than 100 percent of your daily suggested sodium intake. Instead, try half a sandwich with a side salad and raw veggies. Top sandwiches with plenty of vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and
To decrease your daily intake of sodium and find healthier options of the Salty Six, be conscious of and look at the food labels when grocery shopping. Compare different products' sodium content and strive to eat more fresh foods like produce, fresh meats and fish. Aim to have more home-prepared foods made from scratch. This will give you more control over the sodium content of the food you eat. To help you with this endeavor, why not try one of the following recipes? Enjoy!
Crunchy Chicken Salad Stuffed Pitas
Makes 4 pita sandwiches
1 (3-oz.) pkg. reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. light mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1 cup cubed cooked chicken breast
2 medium-size oranges, peeled and sliced into pieces
4 whole-wheat pita pockets
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in celery, almonds and orange peel. Gently stir in chicken and orange pieces. Stuff chicken mixture into each pita pocket and top with lettuce.
Per serving (1 pita): 280 calories, 11 g fat, 18 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 350 mg sodium
Quick Pasta Casserole
Makes 20 servings
1 lb. whole-wheat pasta
1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
1 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups diced zucchini
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 (8.5-oz) can cream-style corn
1 (8.5-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. powdered unflavored fiber supplement or wheat bran
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large pot, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Remove from heat, rinse pasta under cold water and drain. In a large skillet, cook meat over medium heat until brown; drain off excess fat. Add onion and cook for 3-5 more minutes; add mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini and Italian seasoning and cook for 3-4 more minutes. In a large bowl, combine meat mixture, pasta, corn, soup, sour cream and fiber; mix well. Place mixture into a baking dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
Per serving: 160 calories, 3 g fat, 9 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 220 mg sodium
Chuck Wagon Chili
Makes: 12 (1-cup) servings
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. lean venison or beef
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
4 cups canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16-oz.) can chopped tomatoes
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. cornmeal
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
In a large pot, cook venison or beef in oil; drain fat. Add peppers, onion and garlic to pot, and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; simmer uncovered on low heat for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Let chili cook down to desired thickness.
Per serving: 150 calories, 1.5 g fat, 11 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 125 mg sodium
Butternut Squash Soup
Makes 6 (1-cup) servings
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 cups water
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 (8-oz.) pkg. reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
In large saucepan, sauté onions in butter or margarine until tender. Add squash, water and black pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat, then simmer 20 minutes or until squash is tender. Puree squash and cream cheese in a blender or food processor in batches until smooth. Return to saucepan and heat through. Do not boil.
Per serving: 130 calories, 7g fat, 3 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 140 mg sodium
Source: Enjoy the 500 Club® at Home cookbook, Gundersen Health System 500 Club®, 2012.
If you would like more information about nutrition and healthy eating, please call the Gundersen Lutheran Nutrition Clinic at (608) 775-3447 or visit their website.