Who doesn’t love a great cup of soup?  It is a quick-lunch option, warm you up on a cold rainy day and just an all around yummy large meal alternative.  But, if you are like me, you do not always have time to cook a large pot of soup unless you set aside time to make it in the crock pot.  So we go to quick alternatives like canned soup.

One of my all time favorites was Campbell’s Ministrone Soup and until the past few months when criticizing the labels, I found that just one small can of Ministrone Soup is not just 2 servings but that each serving packs in 960 mg of sodium, yes, if you eat the whole can you have consumed 1,920 mg of sodium in just one little meal.  A soup that only has 90 calories packs in the awful extra ingredients that we sometimes overlook basing everything on lower calorie and lower carb options.

In most processed foods, like processed soups, the manufacturing company packs in the sodium so that they can keep the freshness of the product until purchased from grocery shelves.  Shelf life, I think I’d rather keep up my shelf life and not waste a few days because I consumed a sodium packed, quick fix soup.

BUT we do need some sodium in our diets, just how much do we need?  2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older and even less if you have chronic health issues.

Here is a list of some common high-sodium foods:

  • Breakfast Cereal – 50-60% more sodium than salty snack items
  • Chocolate Milk – High in sodium to extend the shelf life
  • Flavored Rice – Generally containing more than 700 mg of sodium per cup
  • Salad Dressings – 350 mg of sodium per serving (that’s just 2 tablespoons!)
  • Breakfast Pastries – 200 mg in just one pastry (yes, 1 DONUT)
  • Wheat Crackers – 340 mg of sodium (not all wheat crackers are even whole wheat, read your labels)
  • Cottage Cheese – Generally first on the list of high sodium foods at more than 400 mg of sodium per serving

We must have sodium for our bodies to work properly, but taking into consideration more often how much we consume may help you down the road.  Hydration is also a very important part your body’s sodium levels and for proper kidney function.

So you may say, I eat healthy most of the time including my afternoon cottage cheese and fruit blend snack, and I just cannot understand why I keep gaining weight or why I am at a plateau?  Consider this, excess sodium plays a major role in excess weight gain and water retention.  Sodium may also be increasing the mass of white fat cells or unilocular cells, which increase fourfold before dividing.  High sodium may also create a condition known as hypertension or even metabolic syndrome.

Here are some ideas to help cut your excess sodium intake –

  1. Instead of adding salt and premade flavoring seasonings to your dishes, consider adding fresh herbs that act as flavoring such as garlic, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, basil, etc.
  2. If you must buy processed foods, read your labels.  Choose more heart healthy options, which generally have reduced amounts of sodium and cholesterol.  Also, don’t recognize those long ingredients?  Chances are you probably don’t want to ingest it.
  3. Low-fat and/or low-calorie DOES NOT always mean healthy!  Low-fat is generally packed with more sugar additives and low-calorie can be packed with more sodium.
  4. Choose fresh vegetables instead of frozen vegetables when possible.  Frozen vegetables, though frozen, are still a processed food.  Unless you are making a dish that requires an out of season vegetable, I would always opt for the fresh version and your dish will be packed with more flavor.
  5. Limit your store-bought pickled items such as pickles, specialty olives, etc.  These items are loaded with preservatives for their brine.
  6. Lastly, FAST FOOD . . . Yes, we are all guilty of the occasional indulgence of fast food, but these meals contain enormous amounts of sodium along with added fat and calories that will blow your clean eating plan.

So take a little time at the store or before you shop to make a meal plan.  Have screaming children running around that you have to take care of and don’t have time for that?  Well consider working the outside aisles at the grocery store instead of the inner aisle to give yourself more fresh options and less sodium packed processed items.  And if you must, at least take the few minutes to read your labels on the processed, sodium packed items.