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Lower your sodium and change your salty ways in 21 Days: Week 2

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AHA Salty Six 3 and 4A Focus on Poultry and Pizza

Have you started to feel a transformation? We hope you are taking on our January challenge: Change your Salty Ways in 21 Days. For three weeks this month, we encourage you to lower your sodium intake and curb your salt habit by choosing wisely, reading nutrition labels, and watching your portions. And, we’ve been getting to know the salty six—common foods that may be loaded with excess sodium.

Now that we are on week 2, we’ll take a closer look at pizza and poultry. And, we’ll explore tips and tricks about how to cook and order food with more moderate levels of sodium.

Tips for making food at home

When you prepare your food at home you have more control over the amount of sodium in your food compared to the ready-to-eat foods you buy in stores or restaurants.

Here are a couple of tips for cooking at home:

  • Limit the amount of packaged, pre-prepared foods you eat.
  • Use herbs, spices, and aromatics like onions, garlic, in place of some or all of the salt to add flavor to foods.
  • Drain and rinse canned beans (like chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.) and vegetables – this can cut the sodium by up to 40 percent.
  • Follow our heart-healthy recipes and use our cookbooks!

Tips for dining out

It is especially important when you dine out to watch for sodium. Here are some tips:

  • Specify how you want your food prepared, and ask for your dish to be prepared without extra salt.
  • Taste your food before adding salt. If you think it needs a boost of flavor, add freshly ground black pepper or a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime and test it again before adding salt.
  • Watch out for foods described using the words pickled, brined, barbecued, cured, smoked, broth, au jus, soy sauce, miso, or teriyaki sauce. Foods prepared this way tend to be high in sodium.
  • Control portion sizes. When you cut calories, you usually cut the sodium too. If smaller portions aren’t available, ask for a to-go box when you order and place half the meal in the box to eat later.

Now, let’s take a look at this week’s Salty Six focus: Pizza and Poultry.

Pizza

Did you know that a slice of pizza with several toppings can contain more than half of your daily recommended dietary sodium? It doesn’t take a lot of math to realize that a few slices can send sodium skyrocketing. For a more moderate sodium option:

  • Top your pizza with more veggies
  • Choose less cheese on your pie
  • Swap in a salad for some of your slices

Poultry

Sodium levels in poultry can vary based on preparation methods. You will find a wide range of sodium in poultry products, so it is important to choose wisely. To pay more attention to the sodium in your poultry:

  • Pick fresh and frozen poultry that hasn't been injected with a sodium solution. Check the fine print on the packaging for terms like “broth,” “saline” or “sodium solution.” Sodium levels in unseasoned fresh meats are around 100 milligrams (mg) or less per 4-ounce serving.
  • Compare the nutrition labels of similar foods and pick the one with the lowest sodium option.
  • Find products with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark for foods like poultry that can be part of an overall healthy dietary pattern. The Heart-Check mark is not necessarily a sign that a product is “low-sodium”, but it does mean that the food meets AHA’s sodium criteria.

Stay tuned for next week, when we explore the last two items in the salty six: Soup and Sandwiches!

Take a look at last week's post for week 1: A focus on breads and rolls.

Now that you are halfway through the January sodium challenge, have you started to feel a transformation? Let us know in the comments.