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Be salt savvy

Be salt savvy

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Tara Dunker

Tara Dunker

As I set out to write this I realized I had never, in 10 years of being a dietitian, analyzed my own sodium intake.

That’s 10 whole years of being able to recite the recommendations in my sleep.

Most adults should shoot for less than 2300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, while adults needing to lower their blood pressure should reduce that even further to 1500mg per day.

With the average sodium intake in America being 3440mg per day, what good does it do to recite recommendations without being able to demonstrate firsthand that they’re doable?

So, I analyzed a typical weekday full of boring breakfasts and snacks, reheated leftovers, a semi-homemade dinner and a not-so-boring bedtime snack. And for better or worse, I decided to share it with you.

I kicked off my day, like usual, with a good size bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats and skim milk. I don’t skimp on my cereal or my milk, so I rounded up to 160mg of sodium.

For lunch, I reheated a 1 ½ cup serving of green bean casserole from the night before. You know the one. It is warm, salty goodness in the form of lean ground beef, no-salt-added green beans, reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup, some salt-free seasonings and topped with crispy tater tots. This added around 790mg to my day.

Quick side note: See a trend with the types of ingredients I used?

While I worked I had a couple snacks, both of which happened to be fruit. My mid-morning banana and mid-afternoon bowl of frozen fruit clocked in at a whopping 0mg. Nice.

For dinner, I whipped up a quick favorite—chicken tikka masala—using a jar of store-bought sauce. If this dish is new to you, no worries. It’s a somewhat spicy Indian-inspired dish of rice topped with chunks of chicken, cooked in a curry sauce. 

Since my day was a little light on the vegetables, I filled half my plate with a salad. While the salad itself contributed 0mg of sodium, the two tablespoons of Dorothy Lynch added a quick 160mg to the 500mg in the chicken tikka masala sitting on the other half of my plate.

To quench my thirst throughout the day, I had a combination of coffee, water, sparkling water, tea and one 8-ounce cup of skim milk. In all, these came in around 145mg of sodium.

But the real treat came right before bed, when my husband dished up a pretty decent bowl of ice cream for me. I’d say I had around a cup, meaning I tacked on 100mg of sodium in the last hour of my day.

Drum roll, please. With a total of 1855mg of sodium, I was able to stay within the looser recommendation of 2300mg but was unable to meet the stricter standard of 1500mg.

I hope by sharing my own eating pattern, you can see the wins, the room for improvement and the application for your own life.

I’m going to focus on enjoying fruits and vegetables, comparing food labels for lower-sodium options and using seasonings other than salt at home—and I think you should, too.

We’re in this together.

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

If you have any further questions, please contact Tara Dunker at 402-223-1384, tara.dunker@unl.edu, or visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu.

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