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Heart Health

Sodium and Food - Information For Better Nutrition

Know your salt measurements and what they mean:

Sodium and Specific Foods

Food Foods Allowed Foods to Avoid
Milk & Milk Products

Limit milk to 16oz./day :

  • any milk - Whole, low fat, skim milk; or chocolate
  • cocoa
  • yogurt
  • eggnog
  • milk shake
  • 8 oz. milk substitute
  • buttermilk


Make salt-free buttermilk by adding 1-tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup of milk.  Let sit till thick.



Limit to ½ cup or 1 oz Dry: 

  • curd cottage cheese
  • low fat or skim milk ricotta
  • farmer cheese
  • part-skim mozzarella
  • Neufchatel
  • regular cheeses
  • cheese spreads
Vegetables   2+ servings:
  • fresh or frozen vegetables without sauces
  • low-sodium canned vegetables and juices
  • white or sweet potatoes
  • salt free potato chips
  • regular canned vegetables and vegetable juices
  • sauerkraut
  • pickled vegetables and other prepared products that use brine
  • frozen vegetables in sauce
  • regular potato chips
Fruit  2+ servings:
  • all fruits
    • canned
    • fresh or
    • frozen
  • fruit juices
  • None – Fruits are naturally low in sodium.
Breads, Cereal or Pasta  6-11 servings:
  • breads - all types
  • rolls
  • salt free crackers
  • pasta, rice, and noodles cooked without salt
  • cooked cereal without salt
  • dry low-sodium cereals
    • shredded wheat
    • puffed rice & wheat
  • breads and rolls with salted tops
  • quick breads
  • instant hot cereals
  • dry cereals with added sodium
  • regular crackers
Meats or Substitutes 6oz/day:
  • any fresh or fresh-frozen:
    • meats
    • fish
    • poultry
    • game meat
  • low-sodium canned tuna
  • sardines
  • salmon
  • eggs
  • low-sodium cheese
  • dried peas and beans, not canned
  • low-sodium peanut butter
  • salt free nuts
  • tofu
  • any meat, fish or poultry that is smoked, cured, salted or canned
  • bacon
  • chipped beef
  • corned beef
  • cold cuts
  • ham
  • hot dogs
  • sausage
  • regular canned tuna or salmon
  • pickled eggs
  • regular hard and processed cheese
  • cheese spreads
  • regular peanut butter
  • unsalted butter or margarine
  • unsalted salad dressings
  • vegetable oil
  • shortening
  • mayonnaise
  • light or sour cream
  • regular butter or margarine
  • commercial salad dressings
Sweets and Desserts
  • any sweets and desserts made without salt
  • Desserts made from milk should be made from milk allowance.
  • frozen juice bars
  • fruit ice
  • sorbet
  • sherbet
  • jelly, jam, preserves
  • plain cookies
  • animal crackers
  • ginger snaps, etc.
  • prepared mixes
  • store-bought pies
  • store-bought cakes & muffins
  • baked goods made with baking powder or soda
  • all beverages
  • Limit caffeine if necessary.
  • If you have a water softener, obtain water for drinking and cooking before it is processed.
  • commercially softened water
  • beverages and foods made with commercially softened water.
  • sports drinks
  • canned tomato or vegetable juice, unless salt – free
  • low-sodium commercial canned or dehydrated soups
  • homemade soups with meat, fresh or frozen vegetables and/or allowed milk, and cooked without salt
  • regular bouillon
  • broth
  • consommé
  • regular canned or dried commercial soups
  • salt substitute -with physician’s approval
  • pepper
  • herbs
  • spices
  • flavorings
  • vinegar,
  • lemon & lime juice
  • salt-free seasoning mixes
  • seasoning salts
    • garlic
  • celery, onion, seasoned, rock, kosher; and any other seasoning salt. Sodium compounds such as MSG – Accent

  • low-sodium condiments:
    • catsup
    • chili sauce
    • mustard
    • pickles
    • Tabasco sauce,
  • low-sodium baking powder
  • regular condiments:
    • catsup
    • chili sauce
    • mustard
    • pickles
    • relishes
    • olives
    • horseradish
  • gravy & sauce mixes
  • barbecue sauce
  • soy and teriyaki sauce
  • Worcestershire and steak sauce
Snack Items
  • unsalted snacks:
    • nuts
    • seeds
    • pretzels
    • popcorn
  • salted snacks:
    • nuts
    • seeds
    • pretzels
    • popcorn
  • all regular commercially prepared conveyance foods


Note: When shopping for frozen dinners or convenience meals, choose items that provide 600mg or less per serving. Sodium levels can be found on the nutrition foods labels on the box.


Reading Labels Label

To the right is a sample nutrition label. The "Nutrition Facts" label lists sodium in milligrams (mg). When reading labels, try to choose foods that contain less than 300 mg of sodium. Main-dish entrees, such as TV dinners, should contain less than 600 mg.

Always check to see how many servings are in the box or can. If you eat a portion greater than a serving size, you end up with more salt intake than as is listed on the label.


Food Labeling Definitions

Sodium (salt) free - Less than 5 mg

Very low sodium - 35mg or less

Low sodium - 140 mg or less

Reduced sodium - At least 75% reduction of sodium

Unsalted - No salt added during processing

For more information:

Go to the Heart Health health topic, where you can:

This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Feb 11, 2009

Ileana L Piña, MD Ileana L Piña, MD
Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University