Reducing your sodium intake is much easier when you stock your pantry with low sodium foods and ingredients. Get started with these simple tips.
The key to sticking to a low sodium diet is having low sodium foods on hand when you need them. It’s much easier to grab a high-sodium, processed meal or snack when there’s nothing healthier available and when it comes to getting a meal on the table, especially at the end of the day, convenience is key. Stocking your pantry with low sodium items and getting rid of high sodium foods and snacks are excellent ways to set yourself, and your pantry, up for success.
Stock Your Pantry with Low Sodium Foods
Stocking your low sodium pantry begins in the grocery store. The items you fill your shopping cart with will make or break your efforts to cook and eat lower sodium foods. For every trip to the grocery store, remember the two Ls of low sodium shopping – location and labels.
Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store, the outside walls, or the aisles where fresh, unprocessed foods are sold. The perimeter is home to produce, dairy, fresh meats, poultry, and seafood. These minimally-processed items allow you to control the amount of sodium you’re consuming when you eat them. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Some meats and seafood are injected with or soaked in high sodium preservatives, so even when you’re shopping at the right location, it’s still important to pay close attention to the second L of shopping – labels.
Checking the labels of every single item before you purchase it is the best way to keep your kitchen low sodium, even when shopping the store’s perimeter. Because it’s often used as a preservative in processed, boxed, and canned foods, high levels of sodium can sometimes be found in foods you might not expect, like bread and fresh poultry.
Be careful of Lower Sodium labels. These items aren’t necessarily low in sodium; they just have less than the regular version of that product. If a can of beans contains 400 mg of sodium per ½ cup, the manufacturers could produce a version with 300 mg of sodium per ½ cup and label it lower sodium. It is lower in sodium but likely still too high for most low sodium diets. Look for items marked No Salt Added, Unsalted or Salt-Free for the best options. You can learn more about low sodium labels here and here.
Low Sodium Pantry Essentials
These commonly used foods will get your low sodium pantry off to an excellent start. Of course, you can also fill in your favorite low sodium items or brands.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fresh is best where fruits and vegetables are concerned, but they often take longer to prepare, and their shelf lives can be limited. For convenience, frozen is the next best option. Most frozen vegetables are minimally processed, and unless they have a sauce or seasoning added, they are good low sodium options. If you prefer buying canned fruits and vegetables, look for fruits in no or lite syrup, and No Salt Added canned vegetables.
Meats, Poultry & Seafood
Choose fresh, lean cuts of meat and poultry and seafood without seasonings or marinades. You can prepare your own low sodium version at home. Most seafood is sold frozen or previously frozen, which means it was initially frozen and then thawed by the grocery store. If it’s prepackaged, check the label to ensure it hasn’t been injected with a high sodium preservative. If you’re getting it from the seafood counter and it doesn’t have a nutrition label, ask the store employee for nutrition info before you purchase.
Broth, Stocks & Soup
Broths and stocks are a sneaky source of sodium. One cup of standard chicken broth can contain more than 800 mg of sodium in one cup! For many people on a low sodium diet, that’s more than half of their daily sodium allowance. The same goes for canned soups, as well. Thankfully, there are low sodium options available.
Look for low sodium or unsalted broth or stock. My favorite is Aldi’s Simply Nature Organic Chicken Bone Broth. It’s rich in flavor and contains only 95mg of sodium per 1 cup serving. If you don’t have an Aldi in your neighborhood, don’t worry! Target’s Good & Gather brand’s Organic No Salt Added Chicken Broth has only 35mg of sodium per 1 cup serving.
Walmart’s Great Value Unsalted Chicken Broth has 45mg of sodium per cup.
Spices & Baking
You might be surprised to find out that some spices contain sodium. Some lemon pepper seasonings, paprikas, and chili powders contain salt as an added ingredient. The only way to be sure your chili powder is only chili powder is to check the label on the spice bottle. There are numerous sodium-free seasonings and spice blends readily available in grocery stores. Look for brands like Mrs. Dash or unsalted or No Salt Added bouillon cubes for added flavor. I love the Stonemill Salt Free Seasonings at Aldi, and companies like Penzey’s and Spiceology can deliver assorted salt-free seasonings to your door.
Baking Soda & Baking Powder
Leaveners, like baking soda and baking powder, are a big source of sodium in baked goods. Luckily, there are sodium-free options available.
Ener-G Baking Powder has zero sodium. Use twice as much Ener-G Baking Powder as regular baking powder in your recipes for good results.
Hain Pure Foods Gluten-Free Featherweight Baking Powder is another sodium-free baking powder substitute. Replace regular baking powder with the same amount of this version.
Ener-G Baking Soda Substitute has zero sodium. Use twice as much of this in recipes calling for baking soda.
These specialty products can be expensive and hard to find in your regular grocery store. If they’re not an option for you, check your local market for reduced sodium versions. Rumford is one brand that produces a reduced sodium baking powder readily found in supermarkets.
Canned goods are a staple in my low sodium pantry. Cooking healthy meals is much easier when I can pull items like canned beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste off the shelf instead of always having to prep them from scratch. Look for canned items marked No Salt Added to avoid high sodium counts. I’ve had good luck finding No Salt Added canned good – everything from stocks to vegetables to beans – in my regular grocery stores. Dried beans are your best no sodium option if you have time to prepare them, but if not keep cans of no salt added beans on hand.
Bread can be a source of sneaky sodium if you’re not careful. The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that one slice of white bread can contain more sodium than a small bag of salted potato chips, containing more than 170mg of sodium per slice. If you’re making a sandwich with two slices of bread, that total will start to add up. If you’re not up for baking your bread, check the labels to choose the bread with the lowest amount per slice of sodium. I buy Pepperidge Farm Light Style Soft Wheat Bread. The slices are smaller and thinner, but the bread is tasty, with only about 67mg of sodium per slice.
Dressings & Condiments
Salad dressings and condiments like mayo, ketchup, and mustard can be high in sodium. If you don’t have time to make homemade dressings, check the labels of the dressings in your supermarket for low sodium options.
Ken’s Lite Sweet Vidalia® Onion salad dressing has 80 mg in 2 tablespoons, and Aldi’s Specialty Selected Gourmet Greek Vinaigrette Dressing is my husband’s favorite – when I don’t make a homemade dressing. It only contains 20mg of sodium per 2 tablespoon serving.
Choose no salt added condiments like ketchup and mustard, which are sold in most grocery stores.
Where to Find Low Sodium Options Online
If you can’t find the low sodium items you need in your local grocery stores, talk to the store managers and request them. You can also find many heart-healthy, low sodium products online at https://healthyheartmarket.com and on Amazon.com.
Shipping costs can be prohibitive. If you have a low sodium buddy or know anyone else with similar dietary requirements, place your order together to split the shipping costs.
FAQs for Stocking Your Pantry with Low Sodium Foods
How do I know which items are low in sodium?
Labels, labels, labels – always check the labels of any foods you buy, even if you’ve bought them before. (Companies often change recipes and use different ingredients, which can alter the sodium count significantly.) Some doctors or nutritionists advise patients to look for items with a certain percentage or less sodium. If your health care professionals have given you a specific number of milligrams of sodium per day, check labels to ensure the ingredients you’re buying will allow you to stay within your limits. (Get more help reducing sodium in your diet here.
What do I do with my old, processed or sodium-filled foods?
Getting rid of the unhealthy foods in your pantry can be daunting in more ways than one. It can be hard to say goodbye to items you love but can no longer safely enjoy, and no one wants to waste money by throwing away perfectly edible food. If you can, consider donating your high sodium foods to a food bank where someone in need might be able to use them or offer them to friends and family who don’t have the same dietary restrictions. If you can’t take the financial hit of giving those items away, mix them with your new, healthier food items. For example, if you’re making a tomato sauce with four cans of diced tomatoes, use one can of the high sodium tomatoes and three cans of no salt added or reduced-sodium canned tomatoes. You’ll still lower the sodium count for your recipes without wasting food.