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Low Sodium Diet - 3 Tips to Help Calculate Your Daily Sodium Intake

By Debbie Benson

You are told to go on a low sodium diet. The dietitian or doctor may tell you to keep your daily sodium intake below 2000mg or 2g. Perhaps you are told to stay below, 1800mg, or 1000mg, 500mg or even 100mg of sodium per day. How do you calculate how much sodium you are consuming every day?

 

Here are 3 tips to help teach you how to figure this out and stay below your recommended daily sodium allowance.  

Tip #1. How to calculate your daily sodium intake. On the nutritional label, take the serving size (which is usually your serving size) and look at the sodium amount. Add all of the sodium amounts together to get the total amount of sodium in your meal. If you are allowed 2000mg of sodium per day, then you will want to stay around or below 500mg of sodium per meal and about 250mg per snack. This would allow you approximately 3 meals and 2 snacks. Staying below 350-400mg per meal is actually better because you just might forget (most folks do) to add-in something you have consumed during the day. Make sure to count, all snacks and drinks, even cream for your coffee, etc. Be honest here. Cheating on sodium totals will only hurt the one on a low sodium diet, not anyone else. Be sure to look closely at the serving size. This is where many sodium counting mistakes are made. For example, the sodium may be listed for a serving size of 1/2 cup of soup, when you are actually eating 1 cup of soup or more. Don't forget to add-in the condiments, as they are usually high in sodium. Just one teaspoon of a condiment could easily add 50-100mg of sodium or more.

With practice, you will learn to calculate the sodium amounts very quickly. Especially when eating many of the same foods, as you will have already learned their sodium values. In the beginning this can be very time consuming, looking-up everything and adding-up the totals, (double-check your math, no mistakes here). In time, this does become faster and easier.  

Tip #2. Time saving sodium calculations. List the foods you commonly eat on a sheet of paper with the serving size and sodium amount. You can make this low sodium list even easier when listing the foods by a group and in alphabetical order. This reference sheet lets you quickly look-up and add-up the sodium amounts of your meals.  

Tip #3. Keep a daily food log. This might sound hard but this log is especially helpful when beginning a low sodium diet. It is easy to forget everything you have eaten all day. By forgetting one snack, you could easily go over your daily allowance of sodium. If you go over your daily sodium allowance one day, then be more careful the next day and go a little below your daily sodium allowance. Stay around 14,000mg of sodium a week or less. It is better, if you go over the sodium amount in one meal, to then lower your sodium amount for the next meal. Don't forget about it and let it go. Sodium adds up quickly. Don't try saving up your sodium count to splurge on a meal or a snack. Sodium counting is not like counting calories. A higher sodium splurge can cause your heart or kidneys to work harder. This is what you want to avoid and is usually why you are following a low sodium diet.

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