Low-Salt Diet

This diet removes foods that are high in salt. It also limits the amount of salt you use when cooking. It is most often used for people with high blood pressure, fluid retention (edema), and kidney, liver, or heart disease.

Table salt has the mineral sodium. Your body needs sodium to work normally. But too much sodium can make your health problems worse. Your healthcare provider advises a low-salt (low-sodium) diet for you. Your total daily allowed amount of salt is 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams (mg). This is less than 1 teaspoon of table salt. This means you can have only about 500 to 700 mg of sodium at each meal. People with certain health problems should limit salt intake to the lower end of the advised range.  

When you cook, don’t add much salt. If you can cook without using salt, even better. Don’t add salt to your food at the table.

When shopping, read food labels. Salt is often called sodium on the label. Choose foods that are salt-free, low salt, or very low salt. Note that foods with reduced salt may not lower your salt intake enough.

Beans, potatoes, and pasta

OK: Dry beans, split peas, lentils, potatoes, rice, macaroni, pasta, spaghetti with no added salt, canned beans with no added salt

Avoid: Salted potato chips; regular (salt added) canned beans

Breads and grains

OK: Low-sodium breads, rolls, cereals, and cakes; low-salt crackers, matzo crackers

Avoid: Salted crackers, pretzels, tortilla chips, popcorn, and other salty snacks; French toast, pancakes, muffins, regular bread

Dairy

OK: Milk, chocolate milk, hot chocolate mix, low-salt cheeses, yogurt

Avoid: Processed cheese and cheese spreads; Roquefort, Camembert, and cottage cheese; buttermilk, instant breakfast drink

Desserts

OK: Ice cream, frozen yogurt, juice bars, gelatin, cookies and pies, sugar, honey, jelly, hard candy

Avoid: Most pies, cakes and cookies made with salt; instant pudding

Drinks

OK: Tea, coffee, fizzy (carbonated) drinks, juices

Avoid: Flavored coffees, electrolyte replacement drinks, sports drinks

Meats

OK: All fresh meat, fish, poultry, low-salt tuna, eggs, egg substitute

Avoid: Smoked, pickled, brine-cured, or salted meats and fish, and processed poultry injected with salt or marinade. This includes bacon, chipped beef, corned beef, hot dogs, deli meats, ham, kosher meats, salt pork, sausage, canned tuna, salted codfish, smoked salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies.

Seasonings

OK: Most seasonings are okay. Good substitutes for salt include: fresh herb blends, hot sauce, lemon, garlic, curry, vinegar, dry mustard, parsley, cilantro, horseradish, tomato paste, margarine, mayonnaise, unsalted butter, cream cheese, vegetable and olive oil, cream, low-salt salad dressing and gravy.

Avoid: Regular ketchup, relishes, pickles, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauce, tartar sauce, meat tenderizer, chili sauce, regular gravy, regular salad dressing, salted butter

Soups

OK: Low-salt soups and broths made with allowed foods

Avoid: Bouillon cubes, soups with smoked or salted meats, regular soup and broth

Vegetables

OK: Most vegetables are okay, including canned vegetables with no salt added, and plain frozen vegetables; low-salt tomato and vegetable juices

Avoid: Sauerkraut and other brined vegetables; pickles and pickled vegetables; tomato juice, olives, canned vegetables with salt, frozen vegetables with sauces

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