Sodium guidelines: Foods to choose

Sodium guidelines: Foods to choose

Protein - choose 2-3 servings/day

  • 2-3 ounces of fresh or frozen fish, shellfish, meat (beef, veal, lamb, pork) or poultry
  • 1/2 cup cooked dried beans or peas
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium canned fish (such as salmon or tuna)
  • 1 low-sodium frozen dinner (less than 600 mg sodium per meal) - Limit to one per day
  • 1 egg (no more than 3 whole eggs per week)

Dairy products - choose 2 or more servings/day

  • 1-1/2 ounces of low-sodium cheese
  • 1 cup milk (non-fat or 1% recommended)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium cottage cheese
  • 1 cup soy milk

Vegetables and fruits - choose 5 or more servings/day

  • 1/2 cup fresh whole, chopped, cooked, frozen or canned fruit
  • 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, frozen or no-salt added canned vegetables
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium tomato juice or V-8 juice
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables

Bread and grains - choose 6 or more servings/day

  • Low-sodium breads, rolls, bagels and cereals (1 serving = 1 slice bread, 1 small roll, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 English muffin or a 4-inch pita)
  • 1/2 cup pasta (noodles, spaghetti, macaroni)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • Low-sodium crackers (read label for serving size)

Sweets and snacks (include sparingly)

  • 1 ounce unsalted nuts
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium pretzels or chips
  • 3 cups popped low-sodium popcorn
  • 3 fig bars or gingersnaps
  • 1 slice angel food cake
  • 1 tbsp jelly or honey
  • 1 cup sherbet, sorbet or Italian ice; 1 popsicle
  • 8-10 jelly beans; 3 pieces hard candy

Fats, oils and condiments (use sparingly)

  • Olive and canola oils
  • Low-sodium butter and margarine
  • Low-sodium soups
  • Low-sodium salad dressing
  • Homemade gravy without salt
  • Low-sodium broth or bouillon
  • Low-sodium catsup
  • Low-sodium mustard
  • Low-sodium sauce mixes

Fats, oils and condiments (can use freely)

  • Lemon juice
  • Vinegar
  • Herbs and spices without salt

Sample Menu


  • Fresh fruit
  • Low sodium cereal (hot or cold)
  • Milk
  • Low sodium wheat bread
  • Reduced sodium margarine or peanut butter


  • Lean roast turkey on whole wheat bread with low sodium mustard
  • Raw carrot sticks
  • Applesauce
  • Unsalted pretzels


  • Grilled Chicken
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Steamed fresh vegetables
  • Tossed salad and low sodium dressing
  • Low sodium roll with low sodium margarine
  • Fresh melon
  • Angel food cake


  • Fresh fruit

Note: For a diet in which you consume 2,000 mg of sodium per day, a sample plan might involve eating 500 mg at breakfast 500 mg for snacks twice daily, 500 mg for lunch, and 500 mg for dinner.

Sodium guidelines - Seasonings


  • Get rid of the salt shaker. Do not add salt when cooking.
  • Do not use any seasoning with salt in the name.
  • Find alternatives to salt for flavoring foods while cooking, like Mrs. Dash® or McCormick® products.
  • Avoid salt substitutes (may have potassium chloride) or anything that says less salt, such as Salt Sense® or NoSalt®.
  • Try lemon, orange or pineapple juice as a base for meat marinades.
  • Use fresh herbs and spices such as garlic or garlic powder, onions or onion powder, rosemary, oregano, basil and dill.

Seasoning recipes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend well. Spoon into shaker. Store in a cool, dark place.

Spicy blend

  • 2 tbsp dried savory, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder

Saltless surprise

  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp powdered lemon rind or dehydrated lemon juice

Spicy seasoning

  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander seed (crushed)
  • 1 tbsp rosemary

Herb seasoning

  • 2 tbsp dried dill weed or basil leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp (pinch) dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • pinch freshly ground pepper

Restaurant dining tips


  • Select fresh fruit or vegetables
  • Avoid soups and broths
  • Stay away from bread and rolls with salty, buttery crusts


  • Select fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid pickles, canned or marinated vegetables, cured meats, seasoned croutons, cheeses, salted seeds
  • Order salad dressings on the side and use small amounts of them

Main courses

  • Select meat, poultry, fish or shellfish choices that includes the words broiled, grilled or roasted
  • Select plain vegetables, potatoes and noodles
  • Ask the server about the low sodium menu choices, and ask how the food is prepared
  • Ask for a vegetarian sandwich with fresh vegetables
  • Request that food be cooked without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Avoid restaurants that do not allow for special food preparation (such as buffet style restaurants, diners or fast food chains)
  • Avoid casseroles, mixed dishes, gravies and sauces
  • At fast food restaurants, choose the salad entrees or non-fried and non-breaded entrees (such as a baked potato) and skip the special sauces, condiments and cheese*
  • Add your own small amount of mustard or mayonnaise to a sandwich

*Avoid salted condiments and garnishes such as olives and pickles.


Select fresh fruits, ices, ice cream, sherbet, gelatin and plain cakes

Alcohol guidelines

Because alcohol can slow your heart rate and worsen your heart failure, your health care provider may tell you to avoid or limit alcoholic beverages. Alcohol may also interact with the medications you are taking. Ask your health care provider for specific guidelines regarding alcohol.

This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.