You have most likely heard that consuming too much salt is bad for you, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many Americans are just not taking the advice. In fact, nine out of 10 adults still consume too much salt.

Why is eating too much salt bad?

Ingesting too much salt can lead to many health and performance issues with your mind and body. Salt causes blood pressure to rise, and high blood pressure can lead to type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. An overabundance of salt intake can also increase your likelihood of developing stomach cancer, osteoporosis and obesity.

Many believe the best way to combat salt intake is to simply limit the amount of salt you put on food, but limiting yourself at the dinner table is only part of the change you need to make to have a successful diet with lower sodium. Many popular food items have too much salt before you ever have the chance to add your own personal flair.

Do you enjoy any of these foods?

  • Lunch meat
  • Soy sauce
  • Pickles
  • Cured meats
  • Salted nuts
  • Frozen entrees
  • Fast food or takeout
  • Canned soups
  • Ramen
  • Pizza
  • Potato chips
  • Processed foods

Many of the listed favorites have a lot of sodium per serving, and many adults and children do not stick with serving size recommendations. Often, we think something is healthy just because it has few calories. For example, a pickle might have fewer than 10 calories; however, that same pickle most likely has well over 500 milligrams of sodium. That’s one-third of what the American Heart Association recommends of sodium per day.

The American Heart Association recommends adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium on a daily average, but the ideal limit is closer to 1,500 milligrams a day. These numbers vary based on a variety of personal factors. If you’re not sure how this applies to you, contact your local health department for a free consultation with a registered dietitian.

Unfortunately, many favorite foods in America have too much sodium. This does not mean we must cut them out completely, but it does mean as a collective, we need to practice more moderation for processed foods.

Instead of seasoning with salt, try

  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Lemon zest
  • Onion powder
  • Red pepper flakes

Instead of chips for snacks, try

  • Unsalted nuts
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Fresh fruit
  • Baby carrots

Instead of TV dinners or frozen entrees, try

  • Preparing fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauce
  • Slow cooking chicken, so it’s ready when you need it
  • Cooking in bulk one day a week and freezing your own meals for later
  • Steaming lean meats with whole grain brown rice and vegetables

For one to two weeks, keep a journal of your daily salt intake to get a clear picture of just how much salt you’re consuming. Change does not happen immediately, and once you begin cutting down on salt, your cravings for it may skyrocket. Instead of trying an all-or-nothing approach, start cutting out and replacing salt one step at a time.