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How to start living life on just a 2400 mg low sodium per day diet

Updated on February 1, 2012

Did you know the daily recommended sodium intake is only 2400 mg and for those over 51 it is only 1500 mg? Yet Americans consume up to 5000 mg of sodium a day.

It sometimes takes a real wake up call to make people change long standing habits with unhealthy consequences. Obliviously smoking and high alcohol usage are well publicized risk factors.

High sodium intake also has very serious health consequences but many don’t consider themselves salt addicts. I sure didn’t as I watched my dad cut his life short with a heavy hand on the salt shaker, I vowed to never add salt at the table or while I cooked.

It’s not until the doctor breaks the news to that you now must restrict your diet to 2 grams of sodium per day or risk ending up in End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) that you wake up and begin to realize just how the high sodium content in everything we consume can add up and also have such an impact on our blood pressure, health and well being.

Like me the first reaction will probably be that you are well aware of the health hazards of added salt but it can’t be an issue for you. You don’t pour on the salt at meal times and you never up size the French fries as many people do, so it just must all be a big mistake.

The next referral will probably be to a dietitian to provide education on how to prepare and select foods with low sodium. That is kind of like having 29 year old dental hygienist trying to show you how you should be brushing and flossing at age 50.

As you begin to review the labels and focus in on everything in the pantry and freezer for sodium content you begin to realize just how much sodium you have consumed over the years and just hard it will be to maintain a 2 gm = 2000 mg diet. After clearing just about everything out you begin to wonder if just eating the card board boxes maybe your only options left.

You will probably become angered and then outraged as I did on just how ridiculous the level of sodium that is in the average American daily diet. Realizing just how close you were to being placed on the kidney transplant list brings a whole new perspective on looking at sodium content.

To make things worse, the required labels on food which list out the level of sodium and other contents can be very misleading to the average person. The levels such as sodium content shown on those labels are based on a relative small serving size.

For example some items such as a simple can of soup may show a sodium content of 500 mg but that sodium content is based only on a serving size of ½ cup. When was the last time that you only ate only ½ cup of soup?

Most will consume double to triple the listed serving size so that large bowl of soup becomes equals to two cups or 2000 mg of sodium in just one meal. This is before the crackers or a drink. Even tap water ran through water softener will contain sodium and did you know one soft drink can contain between 45- 50 mg of sodium?

Just for breakfast a bowl of dry cereal may contain 200 mg of sodium based on only a one cup serving size. Most will easily eat double that serving plus use one cup of low fat milk adds another 150 mg of sodium. To top it off, add another 10 mg of sodium just in the coffee creamer for each cup of coffee.

2 grams (gm) of sodium is equivalent to 2000 milligrams (mg), one teaspoon of salt equals 2300 mg. Considering a serving of canned soup or one serving of a frozen prepared meat dish can contain as much as 400- 1200 milligrams of sodium. Living on 600 mg of sodium per meal becomes a real challenge. One slice of bread contains 115- 150 mg of sodium so two slices can equal up to 300 mg and that’s before adding anything in the middle to make a sandwich.

A standard size hamburger bun can contain 250 mg without the beef. Many purchase the lager buns. Add another 140 mg with three dill pickles, then another 150 mg with some mustard and ketchup and you are maxed out without adding any seasoning on the burger.

Now why is it that the serving size on pickles is 8 and on the other items they so much undersized the portions, really who eats 8 pickles slices on a burger?

What is really is crazy is that the actual recommended sodium intake is only 2.3 gm 2400 mg and for those over 51 the recommended daily sodium intake level drops to 1500 mg.

So I’m still consuming more than the recommended sodium intake based on my age for a person without any health problems. Tell that to a Type A personality as you are in their way trying to frantically read all the labels in the supermarket to find something that can eat. Add the electric scooter because you’re unable to walk due to just being released from the hospital and well, people are just not very sympathetic or nice when it comes to dealing with your diet restrictions. Note: to self never do that again just before a big Holiday.

No wonder our health care system is so overwhelmed with patients who have conditions probably directly attributed to a long history of high sodium consumption.

Medical studies have proven that people who have maintained a 1500 mg diet have lower blood pressure and maintain overall better health. I can personally attest that those people have a real up hill battle in finding the foods they can eat and live and feel normal in society.

After cleaning out the pantry and the freezer it will be time to start all over. First go online or to the book store to find recipes and ideas to prepare low sodium diets. Then plan your first few supermarket shopping trips during slow times of the day when others aren't rubbing elbows with you, so that you can spend time reviewing the labels and finding the combinations of foods that you can consume on a low sodium diet.

You will quickly realize that cooking from scratch will become the norm and processed foods will no longer be on your shopping list. Even the box dry mixes such as biscuit and pancake mixes will no longer fill your pantry. Just plan on walking by the packaged meats, such as luncheon meats, hot dogs and sausages, walk on past the beautiful smoked ham and don’t even worry about trying to find anything good on the canned soup and meats aisle.

Most tomato based sauces are out instead you will use low sodium tomato sauces to make your own spaghetti and pizza sauces. Be cautious of the products marked lower sodium as most manufactures may reduce the sodium content but it will still be far too high to maintain a 2000 mg low sodium diet. So they went from 1200 mg to 800 mg whoopee! Maybe that is why they say reduced sodium and don’t claim to be low sodium. Oh, the marketing gimmicks to trick us in feeling better about buying their high sodium product.

With this entire dismal look at what you can’t eat I’m happy to report there are blessings and like me you to can quickly discover cooking from scratch eating more fresh vegetables and using fresh meats brings an entire new venture in discovery fun foods and new ways to prepare them.

More important having a second chance to regain your health without being on dialysis for life just can’t be summed up in words. Going without all the sodium, MSGs, and other additives is probably not going to hurt you or your family health either.

Experimenting with salt free spices and herbs can add a new dimension to foods some of your old favorites such as garlic salt and onion salt can be changed to garlic and onion powder. Oregano and Italian seasonings add taste to soups and vegetables, and if you still just have to have a bit of the salt taste salt replacements such as Mrs. Dash products can fill the bill.

Be careful of salt substitutes that contain high levels of potassium that has its own contribution to health issues, especially those with kidney diseases.

Be careful with frozen poultry products such as chicken breast, even whole chickens or the Thanksgiving turkey, as processors will inject salt brine to add flavor to many of these products.

Eating out can be also be a challenge but you will quickly find foods that will fill the low sodium requirements and most waiters are very accommodating to make sure salt is not added after you explain your needs. Just this past weekend a waiter who I never met before brought me a grilled chicken sandwich and explained he had the cook use a chicken breast that had not been marinated as he knew it would contain sodium.

Restaurants, especially now required in the large chains should be able to provide you with the nutritional content of all their menu items. Be careful of the vegetables, such as green beans as they can contain high sodium. Instead ask for steamed or grilled vegetables with no added salt.

We generally tip a bit higher but the restaurants we generally frequent have my needs down and I don’t even have to ask any longer. There are people who care they are just not the shoppers at the grocery store.

We still even go to a Mexican restaurant occasionally, I always ask for the grilled vegetables with no added salt and I limit myself to just a couple of chips without the salsa.

Pizza joints are off the list, but Italian dishes with olive oil tossed pasta and vegetables work. Even the waiter at Olive Garden brought out the salad and bread sticks without the added dressing and garlic salt. Homemade pizza nights have become very popular in our home. You can also make pizza boats using long sliced zucchini squash and adding a bit of low sodium tomato sauce and traditional vegetable and hamburger toppings.

Regular small hamburgers or hamburgers off the kid’s meal fulfills the taste; at home we do a lot of grilling using only garlic powder and no salt seasonings, with just a splash of low sodium BBQ sauce.

Here is to a new healthy you! Begin living on a low sodium diet, if it is not 2400 gm just being aware and cutting down the ridiculous amounts of sodium being dished out to the American consumer everyday has to be a good thing.

Your taste will adapt, I can taste salt in food and so can my family now, it is like something bitter. My family is also staying away from the higher sodium products because their taste has naturally adjusted to less sodium over the past year and a half as well. Over all this has been a blessing and probably a good thing for our entire family.

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