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Watch the salt. How to reduce your daily salt intake without compromising on flavour

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Watch the salt. How to reduce your daily salt intake without compromising on flavour

Salt is made up of two chemical elements, sodium and chloride. High intakes of sodium are linked with an increased risk of kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. A dose response meta-analysis reported cardiovascular disease risk increased up to 6% for every 1g increase in dietary sodium intake.

In Australia the Suggested Dietary Target for sodium is 2000mg/day for adults. This suggested target includes the sodium that people get from foods with naturally occurring sodium, sodium added during processing, and any added during cooking or at the table. Processed foods, including processed meats like ham, salami and devon, chips, takeaway foods, and also sauces, spreads and condiments are often high in sodium. Most Australians consume twice the recommended amount of sodium per day. In Australia, whilst processed foods contribute about 38% of average daily sodium intakes, core foods like bread and margarine still contribute the biggest proportion (62%). This means that we need to eat less processed foods AND purchase salt-reduced products to help reduce total sodium intakes.

Why are foods high in sodium?

Before fridges, the only way to preserve foods was to salt them. This meant bacteria would then not grow in the food and it increased the time it took for that food to spoil. Sodium also enhances food flavors, which is why high salt food taste yum! Additives high in sodium include monosodium glutamate (MSG), chicken salt as well as products such as spice mixes such as Mexican or all- purpose seasonings, and pre-prepared sauces. It can also mask bitterness or sweetness meaning that sometimes, you do not even know that it (or things like sugars) are there. In cooking processes such as bread making salt is used as a raising agent.

Eating foods high in sodium often, or habitually adding salt to meals and cooking means you develop a higher tolerance for salty foods, or that foods taste bland without it. The good news is that you can gradually reduce your sodium intake.

Check out the difference in sodium in these foods:

Food high in Sodium

Amount of Sodium per serve (average)

Lower sodium Alternative

Amount of sodium per serve

Processed meats e.g. ham, bacon, sausages.

1 x 50 g serve ham

= 790 mg

Chicken breast

1 x 50 g chicken breast, grilled

= 22mg

Snack foods e.g. biscuits, potato crisps, muffins

1 x Fruit muffin (85g)

= 300mg

Raisin toast

2 x raisin toast (28g)

= 118mg

Takeaway foods e.g. piece, sausage rolls, pizza

1 x serve pizza (300g)

= 1497mg

Sandwich press pizza

1 x Sandwich press pizza

= 219mg

Canned foods

1 x serve of soup (200g)

= 560mg

Salt-reduced canned foods

1 x salt reduced canned soup (200g)

= 260mg

Savoury cooking sauces (e.g. pasta and stir-fry sauces), condiments (e.g. tomato sauce, mayonnaise) and stocks

1 x cup chicken stock


= 886mg

Salt-reduced chicken stock

1x 1 cup salt reduced chicken stock (250mL)

= 268 mg

Pre-made Mexican spice Mix

1 x serve (6.5g) pre-made Mexican spice mix

= 467mg

Home made Mexican spice mix

1 x serve (6.5g) homemade Mexican spice mix

= 120mg

Try these tips to reduce your sodium intake!

  • Eat less processed foods - Buy less ham and salami and swap processed sandwich meat for egg or tuna and salmon canned in water.
  • Choose salt reduced. Salt-reduced versions of many foods, including canned foods, packet seasonings, sauces, table spreads, breads and breakfast cereals are now readily available in the supermarket.
    1. Cooking tip: When using stocks, use half the recommended amount and dilute the rest with water.
  • 'Hold the salt'. Ask to ‘hold the salt’ on takeaway foods, café, club and restaurant meals or reduce how much, and how often you eat them. Don’t add salt to cooking water. Hide the saltshaker and taste before you shake.
  • Spice it up by using herbs and spices to add variety and flavour to meals. Replace store bought seasonings and packet mixes with homemade combos. This can help save money too.
    • Studies show that fresh herbs and spices have antioxidant properties and health benefits including supporting heart health and reducing inflammation.
      • Cooking tips: Crush or rip fresh herbs to maximise flavour. Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking to help pack a flavour punch.
      • Cooking tip: Dried spices work best when added before or during the cooking so be sure to let it simmer to ensure all the flavour is released.
  • Onions and garlic are versatile ingredients to have on hand. They are part of the allium family which includes shallots, chives, brown or red onions. Each one brings a different flavour!
    • Cooking tip: The longer onions and garlic simmer or sauté the more enhanced the flavour can be within the dish.

Here are some of our favourite combinations to use instead of salt:

  • Ground cinnamon and nutmeg onto porridge, cereal, or French toast
  • Paprika, rosemary or thyme on potatoes and roasted vegetables
  • Turmeric, cumin, and pepper mix for a Thai green curry!
  • Chilies or ginger to savoury dishes and stir-fries.
  • Citrus juice or zest with fish, chicken, salad and vegetables, as well as dips such as tzatziki or lime - chilli yoghurt marinade.

The bottom line

A preference for salt is learned. Research studies have shown that as you reduce your salt intake your taste buds adapt and your preference for salty foods reduces. There are endless ways to add flavour. Check out the recipes on our NMNT website.

Your Personal Healthy Eating Quiz

What you eat or don’t eat affects how you look, feel and perform. Take our short quiz to find out what foods you could introduce to help you be your best.

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What is healthy eating?

Eating healthy is making sure you enjoy a wide variety of foods from each of the five major food groups daily, in the amounts recommended. The five major food groups as recommended by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating are:

  1. vegetables and legumes/bean
  2. fruit
  3. lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes/beans
  4. grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
  5. milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat.

Foods are grouped together because they provide similar amounts of key nutrients and eating a variety of foods from the list above helps to promote good health and reduce the risk of disease.

How do I improve my diet?

If you want to improve your diet you have come to the right place. By completing the Healthy Eating Quiz you’ll receive instant personalised feedback and a report on your diet quality to highlight any areas where you can improve your overall eating habits. Your score is based on the frequency and variety of the foods consumed from the five major food groups mentioned above. No Money No Time can help you improve your score by providing tips, goals and suggestions. On top of this we will provide quick, cheap and healthy recipes as well as credible answers to diet hacks, myths and FAQ’s.

Is my diet healthy?

Dietary habits are different between people. Some people choose to follow a particular diet (i.e., Keto diet or vegan diet) while some have to make changes due to certain food restrictions or health conditions. If you want to know if what you usually eat is healthy, then do the Healthy Eating Quiz today to give you the answers in less than 10 minutes.

Why is healthy eating important?

Your HEQ score and personalised feedback report is based on the frequency and variety of healthy core foods you usually eat. This is important because no single food contains all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Some foods are higher in nutrients than others and people who have a lot of variety in the foods they eat are more likely to be healthy and to stay healthy. In other words, if you can eat a large variety of vegetables as opposed to only 2-3 types of vegetables, the benefits are much greater. This type of diet also helps you to feel better, think better and perform better during your usual daily activities.

Take the Healthy Eating Quiz