It May Not Be Your Salt

Bagel, Lox and Cream CheeseBefore you blame the salt shaker, take another look around at your processed foods, fast foods and restaurant entrees. There may be more salt than meets the tastebud.

The Salty Truth: Adults and children consume excess sodium, and bread beats chips as a #1 culprit

No one strives to up the sodium in their diets. But the truth is, most consume more than intended. According to a the CDC, nine out of ten adults and children consume too much sodium on a daily basis. Much without your tastebuds even acknowledging it.

Did you know a bagel, lox and cream cheese can be close to 1000 mg of sodium? And that’s just one meal! The recommended limit is 2300 mg sodium per day, with many individuals exceeding 3000 mg quite easily. Let’s break this bagel-wich down:

  • 1 medium egg bagel can contain as much as 530 mg sodium
  • 1 oz of lox may have as much as 325 mg sodium, (the serving size on the smoked salmon in my fridge lists 2 oz at 650 mg sodium)
  • 1 oz of a common brand of cream cheese has about 115 mg sodium*

*And for some that may only be Schmearing it lightly.

Sure, it can be healthier than a Big Mac (estimated  at 1000 mg sodium) with less saturated fat, and somewhat lower in calories, but with the given breakdown, it appears to be only slightly lower in sodium. And even shunning the fast food for home-prepped meals and snacks can leave you at the high-end of the sodium scale, if you aren’t careful. So go for a mini-bagel instead or eat just half  – you’ll use less toppings, too!

Here are some things you can do to control the amounts of sodium you consume:

  • Can the canned items and nix the frozen (entreés), unless you know they are lower in sodium. The label can suggest a “lower sodium” variety, but even so, sometimes those claims reflect only slightly less sodium than the original. And, truth be told, these items should be more  of an occasional convenience instead of an everyday thing.
  • Watch the bread (and rolls), the leading culprits for excess sodium in the diet, according to a February 2012 CDC press briefing on sodium consumption. And go easy on cold cuts and cured meats such as salami, packaged ham, processed chicken and turkey slices. Sodium may also be high in certain sauces and meat dishes.
  • Read  your labels, and that includes the serving sizes. Even if one serving of peanuts is only 115 mg sodium, be sure your not eating the whole can (which can be 4 or more servings). Besides, calories add up that way, too!
  • Choose fresh, whole foods more often than highly processed. Sodium is used to preserve canned and other packaged goods and sadly we don’t often taste the saltiness that’s baked or embedded inside the product. When we eat salted peanuts or pretzels, we do because the salt crystals are on the outside and make direct contact with our taste buds.
  • Consider preparing your own salad dressing (or just use less). Store bought dressings often contain many additives, including sodium. A 2 Tablespoon serving of a common brand contains 450 mg sodium. Preparing your own dressing doesn’t have to be time-consuming, it can be as simple as a little lemon juice and a little oil or a common oil and balsamic vinegar combo (and you don’t need to add in the salt).
  • Choose to dine in, more than often than out. It is far less easy to gage how much sodium is in your meals when you dine out, because you don’t have control over the preparation. Since most people favor a more highly salted diet (whether or not they actually taste the salt), restaurants often use more.
  • Enjoy certain foods in smaller quantities. If something like a bagel, lox and cream cheese is what you desire, considering eating half and pairing it with a fresh garden salad, with oil and vinegar on the side.

So it may not be the salt shaker. And we commend you if you don’t add in that extra salt. But be wary of the sodium  hidden in your foods.

How do you control your sodium intake?

An RD Behind the Plate,


  1. […] occurs naturally in many foods and is also derived from our food in the form of salt. The recommended maximum daily amount for adults is 6 grams a day which is equivalent to 1 level […]