Tips for a lower-salt diet

If you've read up on salt facts, you'll know that too much salt can cause raised blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. The following tips can help you to cut down on salt.

You don't have to add salt to your food to eat too much of it – around 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals.

Remember, whether you're eating at home, cooking or eating out, don't add salt to your food automatically – taste it first. Many people add salt out of habit, but it's often unnecessary, and your food will taste good without it.

Shop for low salt foods

Use nutrition labels to help you cut down on salt:

  • high is more than 1.5g salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
  • low is 0.3g salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)

When shopping for food, you can take steps to cut your salt intake:

  • Compare nutrition labels on food packaging when buying everyday items. You can really cut your salt intake by checking the label and choosing the pizza, ketchup or breakfast cereal that's lower in salt. Try choosing one food a week to check and swap when you're food shopping.
  • Go for reduced-salt, unsmoked back bacon. Cured meats and fish can be high in salt, so try to eat these less often.
  • Buy tinned vegetables without added salt. Do the same with tinned pulses.
  • Watch out for the salt content in ready-made pasta sauces. Tomato-based sauces are often lower in salt than cheesy sauces or those containing olives, bacon or ham.
  • For healthier snacks, choose fruit or vegetables such as carrot or celery sticks. If you are going to have crisps or crackers, check the label and choose the ones lower in salt.
  • Go easy on soy sauce, mustard, pickles, mayonnaise and other table sauces, as these can all be high in salt.

Cook with less salt

Many people add salt to food when cooking. But there are lots of ways to add flavour to your cooking without using any salt. Check out these salt alternatives:

  • Use black pepper as seasoning instead of salt. Try it on pasta, scrambled egg, pizzas, fish and soups.
  • Add fresh herbs and spices to pasta dishes, vegetables and meat. Try garlic, ginger, chilli and lime in stir fries.
  • Make your own stock and gravy instead of using cubes or granules, or look out for reduced-salt products.
  • Try baking or roasting vegetables such as red peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, fennel, parsnips and squash to bring out their flavour.
  • Make sauces using ripe flavourful tomatoes and garlic.

Eating out: salt tips

If you're eating in a restaurant or cafe, or ordering a takeaway, you can still eat less salt by making smart choices of low-salt foods.

Pizza: choose vegetable or chicken toppings instead of pepperoni, bacon or extra cheese.

Pasta dishes: choose one with a tomato sauce with vegetables or chicken, rather than bacon, cheese or sausage.

Burgers: avoid toppings that can be high in salt, such as bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce, and opt for salad instead.

Chinese or Indian meal: go for plain rice. It's lower in salt than pilau or egg fried rice.

Sandwiches: instead of ham or cheddar cheese, go for fillings such as chicken, egg, mozzarella, or vegetables such as avocado or roasted peppers. And try having salad and reduced-fat mayonnaise instead of pickle or mustard, which are usually higher in salt.

Breakfasts: instead of a full English breakfast, go for a poached egg on toast with mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. If you do have meat, have either bacon or a sausage but not both.

Salads: ask for dressings or sauces on the side, so you only have as much as you need. Some dressings and sauces can be high in salt and fat.

You can learn more about salt and your diet in Salt: the facts.

Soluble vitamin supplements or painkillers

If you routinely take an effervescent (dissolvable) vitamin supplement, or take effervescent painkillers when necessary, it's worth remembering that these can contain up to 1g salt per tablet. You may therefore wish to consider changing to a non-effervescent tablet, particularly if you have been advised to watch or reduce your salt intake.

Page last reviewed: 10/02/2013

Next review due: 10/02/2015

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