DES MOINES — Sodium: the everyday meal offender that might make your face feel puffy and your jeans look, and feel, tighter. Did you know that by reducing your sodium intake during a three week period you can change your sodium palate and start enjoying foods with less sodium? On On Monday, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association launched the Sodium Swap Challenge.
The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day — more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Changing your salty ways may be difficult, especially since you have acquired a taste for salt, but making the swap or taking the challenge doesn’t have to be hard. With the help of the Salty Six (common foods that may be loaded with excess sodium that can increase your risk of heart disease), you’ll be able to identify, and keep track of, top food culprits.
Here’s an outline of how you can kick off your own Sodium Swap Challenge:
Week 1 — Start by tackling your consumption of breads and rolls as well as cold cuts and cured meats. For example, one piece of bread can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium while a serving of turkey cold cuts could contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium. When your recommended daily intake is kept to 1,500 milligrams or less, it’s amazing how fast it all adds up. Check your labels on these items, look for lower sodium items and track your sodium consumption each day and log how much you’ve shaved out of your diet. Portion control does make a difference.
Week 2 — Keep that momentum going! This week’s foods include pizza and poultry. If you’re going to eat pizza, try to aim for one with less cheese and meats or lower sodium versions of these items or try something different and add veggies instead. When cooking for your family this week use fresh, skinless poultry that is not enhanced with sodium solution rather than fried or processed. Keep your eyes on the 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day and, again, log your results.
Week 3 — As you round out your challenge and embark on the last week of your challenge, your focus includes soups and sandwiches. The two together typically make a tasty lunch or dinner duo, but one cup of chicken noodle or tomato soup may have up to 940 milligrams and, after you add all of your meats, cheeses and condiments to your sandwich, you can easily surpass 1,500 milligrams in one day. When choosing a soup, check the label and try lower sodium varieties of your favorites and make your sandwiches with lower sodium meats and cheeses and try to eliminate piling on your condiments.
By the end of the challenge you should start to notice a change in the way your food tastes and how you feel after you eat. You might even start to lean towards lower sodium options and will be aware of how much sodium you are consuming in a day – keeping that sight on the goal of only having no more than 1,500 milligrams in a day.