Watch that sodium!

Low sodium convenience foods for seniors

According to the USDA, nearly all Americans 2 years old and older consume more sodium than they need – approximately 3,400 mg. Americans are recommended to reduce sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg. according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for sodium intake. That number is reduced further to 1,500 mg. for Americans over 51, African Americans of any age and those who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

Most sodium intake is from salt added to a variety of foods during processing (bread, chicken dishes, pizza, lunchmeat, etc.) In most cases, the higher the sodium consumption, the higher an individual’s blood pressure. Evidence shows that when sodium intake decreases so does blood pressure.

Americans are also recommended to increase potassium intake. Potassium is an essential nutrient that helps to counter the effects of sodium and assist in lowering blood pressure. Potassium is found in all food groups, but higher amounts are found in fruits, vegetables and dairy food groups.

For many senior citizens living alone and living on a budget, highly processed convenience foods are often a way of life. It is next to impossible to reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg. if eating processed convenience foods. In working with people through my duties as a Michigan State University Extension educator, I have found there are easy, budget friendly options for those shopping and cooking for one. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Reduce the amount of processed foods overall (frozen entrees, regular canned soups, white bread, canned pasta or casseroles, boxed dinners, lunchmeat)
  2. Choose foods high in potassium (baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, prune juice, tomato juice, orange juice, nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt, lima beans)
  3. Buy frozen veggies when on sale and portion out just the right amount that you need. Buy varieties with no sauce or added sodium.
  4. Make homemade soup using low sodium broth, beans, frozen veggies and herbs. Regular canned soup typically has high amounts of sodium.
  5. Baked potato with plain Greek yogurt and chives and a side salad is a quick and filling meal
  6. Fight the urge to grab the salt shaker when cooking. Try using black pepper, rosemary, garlic and other herbs and spices to season your food.
  7. Look for foods labeled “low sodium” or “no sodium”

For more ideas, check out the USDA’s MyPlate Ten Tips on Salt and Sodium.

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