Part VI – Savvy Shopping and the Bottom Line
Read the Labels

Get into the habit of reading labels to determine sodium content on all of the food you purchase.  Whether they are frozen, canned, or in a box, most processed foods are high in sodium. However, there are exceptions and the only way to know for sure is to read the nutrition information on the label. bag of healthy groceries

Label Terminology

  • Sodium free or salt free = Less than 5 mg per serving
  • Very low sodium = 35 mg or less per serving
  • Low sodium = 140 mg or less per serving
  • Reduced sodium = At least 24 percent less sodium than a regular serving
  • Light = 50 percent less sodium than regular
  • Unsalted = No salt added during processing (not sodium free)

If the label lists over 300 mg sodium per serving, that food is not suitable for a low sodium diet. Aim for foods that are less than 5 percent of the daily value of sodium. Foods with 20 percent or more per serving are considered high. 
Additionally, check the volume of a serving. Sometimes the serving size given is unrealistically small for the purpose of minimizing the stated number of calories, sodium, sugar, or fat per serving. 

Medications can be high in sodium as well. This list includes some prescription antibiotics such as cephradine, ticarcillin, and metronidazole. A number of over-the-counter drugs can also be high in sodium. Fizzy antacids can deliver as much as 761 mg of sodium. 

Compare Foods

You may be surprised at how much sodium is contained in many food items that we don’t normally consider salty such as bread, instant grits, minute rice, instant mashed potatoes, stuffing, most mixes, canned meats and vegetables, frozen entrees and vegetables, processed meats, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and cold cereals. Likewise, almost everything served in fast-food eateries is high in salt with pizza and breakfast sandwiches topping the list. 

For example, most canned, diced tomatoes contain 150 to 200 mg sodium per half-cup serving while a select few contain only 10 to 20 mg per serving. The ones low in sodium are mostly from small manufacturers and are not labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added.”  Aside from scrupulously examining and comparing brands, we can easily miss huge differences in sodium. 

Canned soups are very high in sodium.  An examination of labels reveals that most brands claim that a can contains two servings. However, most people consume a whole can, and they will be eating twice the amount of sodium indicated. In many cases, this adds up to as much as 2,000 mg which is more than the recommended daily intake of sodium. Low-sodium varieties contain half as much sodium which still adds up to an excessive amount. 

For more information on reduced sodium foods, check out, an information-rich resource for products, recipes, dining, and much more. Their Fast Facts page has eye-opening tips regarding concentrated sources of sodium that you might not be aware of such as, “a healthy garden salad with low-fat dressing often has more sodium than a hamburger and french fries.” 

Some Reduced Sodium Items at Publix Supermarket

Low Sodium Ezekiel bread (in the freezer)
Ready-to-Eat Cereal:

Shredded Wheat
Kashi Cereals
Some Granolas and Musili
Some Natural Food Brands of Flaked and Puffed Cereals 

Reduced Sodium Canned Tomato Products:

 - Cento San Marzano Whole Tomatoes, Tomato Puree, and Crushed Tomatoes
 - Publix No Sodium Added Diced Tomatoes
 - Pomi Strained Tomatoes 

Protein Foods:

- Sargento Baby Swiss Cheese
- Publix Fresh Mozzarella
- Pita Pal Hummus
- Bumble Bee Very Low Sodium Solid White Albacore Tuna
- Reese Sardines in Water with Low Sodium 

As you go about your shopping, compare brands and observe the dramatic differences in sodium content. It takes some time to acquaint yourself with the best options among foods you normally eat, but once you accomplish that, shopping is simple. Often when a grocer doesn’t carry a brand you prefer, they’ll stock it if requested.
Concluding Thoughts
The cause of both hypertension and heart disease normally involves a combination of many factors, and either diagnosis typically lasts for the remainder of life. In most cases, both can be controlled through diet, lifestyle changes, and/or medication. 

Often, prescription drugs are chosen for controlling blood pressure without making changes in eating habits and physical activity. However, when a lifestyle of a healthy diet, exercise, and effective stress management is adopted, these changes will be more effective in reducing morbidity and mortality than drugs alone. 

These healthful regimens also confer none of the negative side effects frequently experienced with blood pressure medications, particularly when that is the only control measure. What many believe to be the easier option –- pharmaceuticals alone -- often results in a far lower quality of life in addition to a shorter lifespan than what may be achieved by including healthy habits as an essential part of a doctor’s orders. 

Don’t hesitate to contact  Haven Hospice Registered Dietitian Verna Groger for advice and suggestions. She will be more than happy to assist you in taking the steps you need to be successful in improving your diet. 



A list of sources for this series of articles can be found here.