What you Must Know
As Much as I hate saying there are rules to follow, there are rules to follow. This is a diet that doesn't allow you to "cheat." This is a diet designed to make your heart do it's normal functions easier, keep you out of the hospital, and give you more "quality of life." There are things you MUST know. Take the time to commit them to memory. As you learn and practice the rules they become second nature and they are "just what you do" But you need to learn them first, and we are here to help.

The Basics

  • The most obvious. Put the Salt Shaker out of sight. It is a habit to grab and shake.

  • Learn to not only read, but to also understand the nutrition label on all foods

  • If you can't verify salt/sodium content levels in food ( ex: it has no label) Do Not Buy It.

  • Learn what spices to avoid.
If it has the word  "Salt" in it, move on. Garlic Salt, Onion Salt, Celery Salt are all off limits.

  • Some sauces are also basically "salt licks" and must be avoided at all cost, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce  are all off

  • Never, ever assume that if you can't taste or don't associate a food with salt it doesn't have any. Ice cream has a high sodium level, as does cookies, bread etc.

  • Canned food can be the worst for sodium, canned vegetables, pasta sauces, meats etc will ruin your day.

  • Keep track of your daily sodium intake. Everyday.

Be aware of and try to limit the “Salty Six” (American Heart Association), which include

  • Breads, rolls, bagels, flour tortillas, and wraps.
  • Cold cuts and cured meats.
  • Pizza.
  • Poultry (much poultry and other meats are injected with sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts for sodium content or read the package for a description of a solution, we will discuss this more indepth in our Let's Go Shopping pages)
  • Soup.
  • Sandwiches.

Learn to read and understand food labels.

Use the label information on food packages to help you make the best low-sodium selections. Food labels are standardized by the U.S. government’s National Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). Nutrition labels and an ingredient list are required on most foods, so you can make the best selection for a healthy lifestyle. Know what they not just mean, but what they mean for you.

All the numbers are important on a Nutrition Label fats, sugars, cholesterol etc. But for us, at least on this site, we are concentrating on the Sodium numbers. Here is how the numbers break down and how to read the label.

1. This is the absolute number of our concern. This number tells us to buy it, or put it back, eat it or don't. If your magic numbers are 2000, 1500, 1000 how does this number fit into your daily budgeting of sodium to stay within your magic numbers? If using 300 mg as the label says is for an entire meal it could be a good number for you. If this label is just for one ingredient this may not be a good idea and should be returned to the self. A standard Rule of Thumb is that if an ingredient exceeds 140 mg it should be avoided. In the beginning of this diet it is best to adhere to all the rules to get a very good understanding of how all of this works in general as well as for you. One thing for sure, this number becomes extremely important, always, always be aware of this number for everything you are going to eat.

2. This is also very critical information you MUST take into account and goes hand in hand with the sodium number in #1. This is the serving size on which the sodium level in MG is based. What does that mean? It's easy. If you look at the label to the right. You see in #1 that there is 300mg of sodium per serving. If you look at #2 you will see that the 300 mg of sodium is based on a serving size of One Cup, and that the container holds 2 cups. Basically if you were to eat the entire package of this food you would consume 600 mg of sodium. This is a very critical and often very overlooked piece of the sodium puzzle. It is up to the manufacture to decide on the serving size of their product. Some are in cups, tsp, Tbs, ounces, or grams. Get in the habit as early as possible to look at the sodium number and then immediately look at serving size. If someone tells you "it's only 100 mg" have them also look at the serving size. 100 mg is a great number for a meal, or an ingredient unless the serving size is a 1/4 tsp. and you need 1 tsp for your recipe as you actually need 4 servings of this ingredient bringing your total to 400mg for just one item.

3. I have been told that for the most part to disregard #3. It gives you the sodium percentage of a daily intake of 2,300 mg of sodium as recommended by the American Heart Association. If we are at a lower sodium intake like 2000, 1500, or 1000 the percentage is skewed. The real number we always want to use to make good decisions lie with #1 then implied on #2 this gives us our true Total

What does it actually look like, this "low sodium" thing?

So when we say, or when you are told to watch your sodium intake, that you should never exceed 2000 mg in a 24 hour period. What does that "look like?"
Imagine putting some salt on a table and looking down at it from above. That's what the image on the left represents. 2000 mg of salt is what every person on a sodium restricted is restricted to. That is a teaspoon of salt. Not a big ol' tablespoon or multiple teaspoons, A TEASPOON of Salt. Some people have even tighter restrictions. I personally try to stay at or below 1500 mg as recommended by my Cardiologist. The idea is to create a very flavorful menu that you can enjoy while carefully rationing, or portioning out the daily amount of sodium we may have. We do that by being smart and checking out labels, finding flavorful substitutes, find low or no sodium products. Is it easy? No it's not, at first, but it goes get better and better as you learn to understand how it works, have numbers and menus committed to memory, and know what your body and taste buds like and don't like. The following sections of this website will address how to shop, what to look for, and to look out for in stores. Sourcing ingredients to get the most of your foods while keeping in line with your restrictions. Click "Let's Go Shopping" to get started.