Sodium-Controlled Diet

Sodium is an important mineral for maintaining normal water balance in the body. It is found naturally in foods and is also added to some foods. The daily sodium recommendation is 2300 mg per day. However, some patients may be advised to have smaller amounts.

Sodium guidelines

Sodium is a mineral found usually in foods and also added to them. Sodium plays an important role in maintaining a normal water balance in the body. It’s important to eat a low sodium diet in order to control your heart failure symptoms and prevent future heart problems.

  • Limiting your fluid and sodium intake will help control and prevent the amount of fluid around your heart, legs, or lungs.
  • When you carry more fluid, it makes your heart work harder and may increase your blood pressure.

A low sodium diet means more than removing the salt shaker from the table!

  • One tsp of table salt = 2300 mg of sodium

General Guidelines

  • Eliminate the salt shaker.
  • Avoid using garlic salt, onion salt, MSG, meat tenderizers, broth mixes, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, barbecue sauce, sauerkraut, olives , pickles, pickle relish, bacon pieces and croutons.
  • Avoid most “fast foods” and processed foods. Check the company’s website for nutritional information or read the package label for sodium content.
  • Use fresh ingredients and / or foods with no salt in it.
  • For favorite recipes, you may need to use other ingredients and remove the added salt. Salt can be eliminated from any recipe except those having yeast.
  • Try orange, lemon, lime, pineapple juice, or vinegar as a base for meat marinades or to add a tangy flavor.
  • Avoid ready-made meals such as canned soups, entrees, frozen meals, instant cereals, vegetables, pasta and rice mixes, and puddings and sauce mixes.
  • Select frozen meals with around 600 mg of sodium or less.
  • Use fresh, frozen, no-salt-added canned vegetables, low-sodium soups, and low-sodium deli meats.
  • Look for unsalted seasoning or spice blends, or try fresh herbs, onions, or garlic.
  • Do not use a salt substitute unless you first see your doctor or dietitian because of potential drug or nutrient interactions.
  • Be conscious and try to control the “Salty Six” (American Heart Association), which include:
    Breads, rolls, bagels, flour tortillas and wraps.
    Cold cuts and cold cuts.
    Poultry (Lots of poultry and other meats are injected with sodium. For sodium content, check the Nutrition Facts or read the package for a description of a solution.)

Learn to read food labels. Use the information on food packaging labels to help you make the best low sodium choices. Food labels are regulated by the US government’s National Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). An ingredient list and nutrition labels are required on most foods, so you can make the best choice for a healthy lifestyle.

Maintain a healthy body weight. This includes losing weight if you are overweight. Limit your total daily calories, eat a low fat diet, and include physical activity almost every day, if not all, to maintain a healthy weight. Eating a healthy diet to maintain or lose weight often means changing your current eating habits.

To make sure you’re meeting your specific calorie, vitamin and mineral needs, a registered dietitian can help. A registered dietitian can provide you with customized nutrition education, tailor these general guidelines to meet your needs, and help you implement a personal action plan.

Restaurant dining tips

  • Choose a restaurant that will prepare items to your request and substitute them.
  • Plan ahead by reducing your portions of foods high in sodium.
  • Order meals a la carte or individually to get only the foods you want.

Also Read: Is a gluten-free diet good for your health?


  • Avoid soups and broths.
  • Ask for fresh bread and rolls without salty and buttered crusts.
  • Avoid breaded foods.

Salads / vegetables

  • Avoid pickles, canned or pickled vegetables, olives, cold cuts, bacon and pieces of bacon, seasoned croutons, cheeses, salted seeds and nuts.
  • Order salad dressings on the side and immerse your fork in them before taking a bite of the food.
  • Ask for steamed vegetables.

Main dishes

  • Choose from meat, poultry, fish or shellfish choices that include the words grilled, baked, broiled, roasted and without breadcrumbs.
  • Ask for plain noodles or vegetable dishes.
  • Ask the waiter about low sodium menu choices and ask how the food is prepared.
  • Ask that the food be cooked without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Avoid restaurants that do not allow special food preparation, such as buffet style restaurants, diners, or fast food chains.
  • Avoid casseroles and mixed dishes. On the side, ask for gravies and sauces or exclude them all together.
  • In fast food restaurants, choose salad starters or non-fried, non-breaded starters, and avoid special sauces, condiments and cheese. *
  • Avoid breaded foods.

* Avoid salty condiments and toppings such as olives, pickles and relish.


  • Select fruits, sorbets, gelatin and plain cakes.

Meat, Fish, Eggs, Poultry, Bean

  • Choose – 2-3 servings per day
    Fresh or frozen meats (beef, veal, lamb, pork), poultry, fish or shellfish.
    Low sodium canned meat or fish.
    Dried or frozen beans and peas.
  • Take it slow
    Low sodium processed meats like ham, corned beef, bacon, sausages, cold cuts, hot dogs.
    Low sodium frozen dinners (sodium less than 600 mg per meal).
  • Avoid
    Frozen, salted meat or fish.
    Processed meats like ham, corned beef, bacon, sausages, cold cuts, hot dogs, ribs, salted pork, ham shanks, meat spreads.
    Canned meat or fish.
    Breaded meats.
    Canned beans like kidneys, pinto, black-eyed peas, lentils.
    Frozen dinners or side dishes with salt.


  • To choose
    Cheese naturally low in sodium (Swiss, goat, brick, ricotta, fresh mozzarella).
    Cream cheese (light and skimmed).
  • Take it slow
    Milk (1% or skimmed).
    Ice cream and frozen yogurt (light and skim).
    Yogurt (light and skimmed).
    Pudding, custard (light and skimmed).
    Sour cream (light and skimmed).
  • Avoid
    Hard and processed cheeses (American, Cheddar, Muenster) and cheese spreads.
    Cottage cheese.

Fruits and vegetables

  • Choose – 5 or more servings per day
    Fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit.
    Fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces.
    Low sodium tomato juice or V-8 juice.
    Low sodium tomato sauce.
  • Take it slow
    Regular tomato sauce.
  • Avoid
    Canned vegetables.
    Canned beans.
    Pickled vegetables such as sauerkraut, pickles, olives.
    Regular tomato juice or V-8 juice.

Breads and cereals

  • Choose – 6 or more servings per day
    Low sodium breads.
    Low sodium cereals (old-fashioned oats, quick-cooking oatmeal, oatmeal, cream of wheat or rice, shredded wheat).
    Pasta (noodles, spaghetti, macaroni).
    Low sodium crackers.
    Low sodium breadcrumbs.
    Granola / li.
    Corn tortillas.
    Plain taco shells.
  • Take it slow
    Ordinary bread.
    English muffins.
    Cold cereals.
    Pancakes, waffles.
  • Avoid
    Croissants, sweet rolls, Danish, donuts.
    Regular crackers.
    Pasta and rice prepared with butter, cream or cheese sauces.
    Scalloped potatoes.
    Instant cooked cereal packs.
    Bread, pastry and stuffing mixes.
    Frozen or canned mixes for rice, pasta and potatoes.
    Regular breadcrumbs.
    Muffins, cookies, cornbread.
    Flour tortilla.

Sweets and snacks

  • Choose – In moderation
    Unsalted nuts.
    Low sodium chips, pretzels, popcorn and other snacks.
    Sorbet, sorbet, Italian ice cream, popsicles.
    Fig bars, ginger cookies.
    Jelly beans and hard candies.
  • Take it slow
    Angel Cake.
    Homemade cakes, cookies and pies.
  • Avoid
    Regular chips, pretzels, popcorn and other salty snacks.
    Salted nuts and seeds.
    Pork rinds.
    Breaded meats.

Fats, oils and condiments

  • To choose
    Low sodium butter and margarine.
    Vegetable oils.
    Low sodium dressing.
    Homemade sauce without salt.
    Low sodium soups.
    Low sodium broth or broth.
    Lemon juice.
    The vinegar.
    Herbs and spices without salt.
    Low sodium mustard.
    Low sodium catsup.
    Low sodium sauce mixes.
  • Take it slow
    Regular butter or margarine.
    Regular dressing.
    Regular mustard, ketchup.
  • Avoid
    Bacon fat, salt pork.
    Pickles, olives.
    Canned or instant gravy mixes.
    Regular canned soups and broths.
    Regular broth.
    Soup mixes, seasoned salts.
    Meat tenderizers and marinades.
    Sodium preservatives or flavorings like monosodium glutamate (MSG).
    Lemon pepper.
    Soy and teriyaki sauces.
    Worcestershire sauce.
    Steak sauce.
    Barbecue sauce.
    Shortening, lard.
    Trans fats.