How to cut back on salt… tips for healthier eating

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Don’t know about you, but I never worried too much about salt until I hit my 40s. Although it's definitely something I pay more attention to these days, I still love a bit of a salty snack! Read on to find out how you can cut back on salt...most of the time.

Salt is the main source of the mineral sodium, a vital nutrient helping to regulate the fluid in our cells. If we consume too much salt though, it can create excess fluid in the bloodstream. This, in turn, can lead to higher blood pressure and put us at a higher risk of developing heart problems.*

The average adult only needs around 1tsp (5g) of salt per day, according to the World Health Organisation(WHO)**, but most of us consume around 9-12g per day. The NHS recommends individuals over 11 years of age should consume no more than 6g of salt per day (equivalent to 2.4g of sodium per day).

One of the reasons many of us consume too much salt is because it’s often hidden in everyday foods. It is reported that 80% of our salt intake comes from processed foods.** It occurs naturally in many foods, but is added to many convenience and processed foods. Salt is added to enhance taste as well as preserve and extend the shelf life of foods. So eating a lot of processed foods can easily push up our salt intake without us even realising.

The range of processed foods here is far-ranging and includes many everyday items. Breads and processed cereals; Processed meats and fish that have been cured/brined, such as bacon, ham; table and jarred sauces; pizzas; ready meals, takeaway foods, biscuits and cookies, crackers… Some everyday items such as cheese can also have a lot of salt in them.

Top tips for cutting back on salt:

Here are some tips and tricks for being more mindful about your salt consumption:

  • Cut back on processed foods: You don’t need to exclude them all, but start by swapping out some of your favourites. e.g. swap processed sauces for a home-made version, opt for fresh meats in place of processed.

  • Prepare meals with whole-foods as much as possible: Many foods in their raw state contain low levels of salt. When you prepare your own meals from scratch, you are in control of how much salt you add to your meals.

  • Swap herbs and spices for your salt: You can create some really flavoursome sauces with herbs and spices. These can be added to dishes in place of adding salt, stock cubes, packet mixes and jarred sauces, which can be high in salt.

  • Limit salty snacks, such as crisps, crackers and salted nuts: Reduce them in your diet or swap to healthier options such as oat cakes, homemade popcorn, plain nuts and home-baked tortillas.

  • Create healthier options of your favourite takeaway meals: Takeaways and restaurant food often add a lot of extra salt, so you might want to limit these options if you want to reduce salt intake. e.g. home-made pizza, home-made chips. There are some amazing #fakeaway recipes out there.

  • Get savvy on reading labels and ingredients: Have a look at some of the products in your cupboards or look at the supermarket. The traffic light labelling system is used on most products. Steer away from products with a red label for salt. Look for processed foods that offer a low salt option e.g. Low salt stock cubes.

  • Think twice about adding salt to your dinner at the table: If you have already added seasoning during cooking, chances are you don’t need more. Removing the salt from the table may also reduce temptation.

  • Be mindful that #salt is not the same as sodium. 6g of salt is equivalent to 2.4g of sodium.

* Nutrition & Blood Pressure

** World Health Organisation - Fact Sheet on Salt Reduction

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