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Watching your salt intake

Do you ever have one of those “my fingers are puffy, my shoes feel tight, and I have bags under my eyes” kinds of days? Sodium, rather too much sodium may be the culprit. Sodium affects not just our appearance, but also our heart health. This excess fluid can cause our hearts to overwork.

Sodium overload is a major health problem in the United States. On average, we Americans consume more than 3,400 mg sodium every day. The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 1,500 mg every day. A large part of this over-consumption is because of our food supply. More than 75% comes from processed and restaurant foods and is not just the first things that come to our minds such as French fries and potato chips. The sodium monster lurks everywhere. ¼ teaspoon of salt contains 600 mg sodium and 1 teaspoon contains 2,400 mg sodium – way over the daily recommended amount.

Look over the following “Salty Six”:

  1. Breads and rolls – we have these several times every day. Find a lower sodium variety (yes, it will require us to read the label)
  2. Cold cuts/cured meats—6 thin slices of deli meat can be ½ of the daily recommended amount of sodium
  3. Pizza – 1 slice with several toppings can again, be more than ½ of the daily recommended amount. Limit cheese and add more veggies as toppings.
  4. Poultry – this one is based mostly on preparation. Check labels for seasonings and add more fresh herbs to season.
  5. Soup – little is as fast as opening a can of soup for a quick meal BUT 1 cup of canned soup may contain 100-940 mg of sodium – more than ½ the daily amount of sodium recommended.
  6. Sandwiches/burgers – from fast food restaurants can contain more than 100% of your daily sodium. Try a ½ sandwich and a side salad. Sharing is always a nice thing to do if you are dining with a companion or take ½ home for lunch the next day.

Making small changes in your diet and food prep can have big payoffs with your health. Some other practices to put into place include limiting your portion sizes and consumption of processed foods, choosing fresh fruits and vegetables (canned may have sodium added for preservation), specify how you wish your food to be prepared when eating out and ask to have prepared without salt, taking control of what you are eating by cooking at home (It is fun and delicious), and choosing foods containing potassium as these counter the effects of sodium and may help to decrease your blood pressure. Remember also that sweet foods, including raisin bran and commercial cereals may contain added salt to enhance sweetness.

Get out there and enjoy fall with your teen — they will be out of the nest as fast as the leaves fall!

Jayne Dwyer-Reff, RN,
School Nurse