Authors as Published

Brittany York, undergraduate assistant, Family Nutrition Program

Sodium is a necessary part of our diet. Sodium helps our bodies keep the right amount of water, 

but we only need a little bit. 

The most common form of sodium is found in table salt, which is called sodium chloride. Most foods naturally have at least a small amount of sodium in them. Processed foods, on the other hand, have much more. Sodium is an cheap way to add flavor and to keep foods fresh longer.

Rate Your Sodium Intake
How often do you…Less than one time per week1 or 2 times per week3 to 5 times per weekAlmost every day
eat cured or processed meats, such as ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, or lunch meat?    
choose commercially prepared foods, such as canned or instant soups, or frozen dinners?    
eat potato chips, popcorn, corn chips, pretzels, or salted nuts?    
salt your food before tasting it?    
add salt, salad dressing, or condiments such as ketchup, steak sauce, mustard, or soy sauce to your foods?    
If you have three or more checks in the last two columns, you probably need to cut back on some of these foods. However, not all foods contribute the same amount of sodium. Learn to read food labels and choose foods lower in sodium.


It is recommended that we eat no more than 2,300 mg of sodium –about 1 teaspoon of table salt – each day. To do that, choose lower-sodium foods more often.



These foods are often high in sodium. Limit these foods:

Take it Slow!

Some of these foods are high in sodium – check the label to decide if it is a healthy choice. Go easy with these foods:

Go! Go! Go!

These foods are often low in sodium. Eat more of these:

Canned spaghetti rings
Chicken nuggets
Hot dogs
Chicken noodle soup
Potato chips
Ramen noodles
Salted nuts
Smoked meat and fish
Soy sauce
Baked beans
Cakes and pastries
Cooking sauces
Instant breakfast cereals (oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc.)
Instant rice
Macaroni and cheese
Pasta sauces
Ready-to-eat meals
Salad dressing
Saltine crackers
Tomato ketchup
Fresh fruits
Fresh vegetables
Graham grackers
Old-fashioned oatmeal
Pasta and rice
Peas, beans, and lentils
Plain popcorn
Unsalted nuts
Whole-grain breads


United States Dietary Guidelines (USDA);

American Dietetic Association (ADA);


Reviewer: Stephanie K. Goodwin, RD, FNP graduate assistant

Reviewed by Kathy Hosig, Ph.D., MPH, RD, Associate Professor, Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine


This publication was partially funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low incomes. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, contact your local county or city Department of Social Services (phone listed under city/county government).  For help finding a local number, call toll-free: 1-800-552-3431 (M-F 8:15-5:00, except holidays).  By calling your local DSS office, you can get other useful information about services. 

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religious creed, age, disability, or political beliefs.
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call, toll free, (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

This publication was partially funded by the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, USDA, CSREES.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

October 19, 2010

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