Are you eating too much sodium?
Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day on average, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That’s 1,000 mg more than the USDA’s daily recommended value for healthy adults and nearly 2,000 mg more than the American Heart Association recommends for optimal heart health. The FDA recommends that healthy adults eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day or about 1 teaspoon, and yet the average American eats 5 or more teaspoons each day.
A high sodium intake can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. While eating less sodium is widely recommended for people already diagnosed with high blood pressure and heart disease, a low sodium diet can also help lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular conditions for healthy adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because blood pressure typically rises with age, reducing sodium intake may be particularly important for older adults. Reducing daily sodium intake to 1,500 mg lowers blood pressure even more than the general 2,300 mg recommendation, according to the FDA.
Chances are, you are eating more sodium than you know. Where is all of that sodium coming from? It’s not the saltshaker on the table. Restaurant, processed, and prepackaged foods like frozen meals account for more than 75 percent of the sodium that Americans eat. Sodium is widely used in packaged foods to preserve, thicken, or enhance flavor. Even foods that don’t taste salty may have high levels of sodium.
What to look for
Not all frozen meals are created equal. A single slice of frozen pizza can pack a whopping 370 to 730 mg of sodium and more than 300 calories. Many meals have more sodium and fat than you should eat in the entire day.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends you look for frozen meals that have less than 600 mg of sodium, less than 500 calories, and less than 3 grams of saturated fat. Be careful to avoid “empty calories,” or meals that are low in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Meals packed with vegetables and whole grains will keep you full longer and have a higher nutritional value. Avoid meals with added sugar and high fat content.
10 healthy options
Made with organic tortillas, black beans, and vegetables, this gluten-free, vegan meal has 190 mg of sodium and 160 calories per serving.
Look forward to getting out of bed in the morning. Luvo’s steel cut oatmeal is packed with heart-healthy fiber and protein to keep you full longer. It has only 120 mg of sodium and 260 calories in the entire package.
Who said fish sticks were just for kids? These allergy-friendly fish sticks are made with sustainable Alaska Pollock, and they are free of gluten, dairy, nuts, soy, eggs, and wheat.
With 190 calories and 170 mg of sodium per serving, you don’t have to feel guilty for eating some too.
Perfect as a side dish or main course, this quinoa has only 10 mg of sodium and 140 calories per serving. Made with organic quinoa, zucchini, and sweet potato, this frozen meal is high in iron, potassium, and vitamin A.
Organic vegetables and quinoa are wrapped in a flaxseed tortilla for a healthy, nutrient-dense meal. The entire burrito has 270 calories, 270 mg of sodium, and 10 grams of protein.
Take your breakfast on the go with these French toast sticks. Made without common allergens like wheat, diary, and eggs, each serving has 120 mg of sodium and 270 calories.
Forget trying to portion out a tiny frozen meal. This hearty vegan shepherd’s pie has only 160 calories and 290 mg of sodium in the entire package. Amy’s organic vegetables are covered in creamy mashed potatoes for a low-fat, healthy twist on the classic.
Sukhi’s samosas and chutney bring home a taste of India. The award-winning potato samosas come with cilantro chutney for a delicious side dish or snack. The sharable dish has 190 calories and 300 mg of sodium per serving.
Pair Trader Joe’s Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burger with a lettuce wrap for a filling, healthy entrée at 150 calories and 270 mg of sodium.
Satisfy your craving with Lean Cuisine’s snack pizza. At 300 mg of sodium and 210 calories per serving, this snack is best shared.
With a quick look at the nutrition facts and ingredients, you can choose a healthy, heart-friendly meal from the freezer isle.
To find heart-healthy frozen meals, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recommends looking for low-sodium varieties with less than 300 mg per serving and no more than 500 calories. Depending on your sodium intake the rest of the day, you may be able to increase your intake to 600 mg per frozen meal and still meet your daily sodium goal. Ignore the percent daily value of sodium on the nutrition label and instead focus on the total milligrams in each serving.
Be sure to always read the nutrition facts to avoid hidden sodium in packed and frozen foods. Packages that say “reduced sodium” or “25 percent less sodium” may still be high in sodium. Always check the milligrams in each serving and how many servings are in a package to avoid eating excess sodium. Ingredients like salt, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium nitrite, sodium benzoate, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) all contribute added sodium and are included in the total milligrams.