Diet and nutrition

Tips for maintaining a low-sodium diet

Don’t add salt to your foods. This simple rule can help you reduce your sodium intake by as much as 30%. Just one teaspoon of salt contains about 2300mg of sodium.

Read labels. Stay away from foods that contain more than 250mg of sodium per serving or have more than 8% of the recommended daily intake listed on the package. Pay attention to the serving size when you look! Breads and other baked goods are often high in sodium; it pays to spend the time looking for the lowest-sodium option in the bread aisle.

Eat at home as much as possible. It’s difficult to control the sodium content of foods prepared by others, whether you’re eating at a restaurant, or at somebody else’s home. Try to make a habit of carrying low-sodium snacks with you so you won’t be tempted to grab something on the go that’s likely to be high in sodium.

Avoid processed foods. Fresh produce, meat, and freshwater fish are typically salt-free or extremely low in sodium. Processed and restaurant foods, like soups and frozen dinners, are usually quite high in sodium. If you don’t have access to fresh vegetables, then sodium-free or low-sodium canned or frozen vegetables are best.

Check the sodium content of your seasonings. Many products, such as boullion, bacon bits, grated parmesan or romano cheese, condiments, and assorted ‘seasonings’ are mostly salt, so avoid those whenever possible.

Visit web sites for sodium content. Many restaurants have websites with nutritional information, including sodium content. A good general website that lists nutritional data for fresh foods, processed foods, and many fast food restaurants is www.nutritiondata.com. 

Be cautious of ‘softened’ water. Water softeners sometimes add a substantial amount of sodium. Avoid drinking such water; instead use bottled water or a reverse osmosis filter.

Watch what you drink. Sodium hides in drinks too! For example, a small Burger King chocolate shake contains almost 300mg of sodium. Sports drinks are especially high in sodium and should be avoided.

Sweets can be salty too. Just because it doesn’t taste salty doesn’t mean a food is low in sodium. Cakes, cookies and other baked goods are often quite high in sodium.

Use ‘cheats’ when you have to. If you find yourself in a situation where eating high-sodium foods is inevitable, try using ‘cheats’ to minimize the problem. For example, you can brush off excess salt from ‘salt on top’ crackers or pretzels; ask for seasonings or dressings on the side; or dilute high-sodium foods like soups.

Tips for managing fluid intake

Restricting fluids can help avoid or decrease swelling and fluid retention. Patients are often placed on a fluid restriction ranging from 1.2 – 2 litres per day, but each patient is different, so check with your PH specialist. Keep these tips in mind:

Measure the amount of fluid you are drinking every day, at least for the first few weeks. Two litres of fluid equals just over 8 cups. Remember to count the fluid in your food too – soups, ice cream, popsicles, and many fruits and vegetables contain a lot of fluid and need to be included in your count.

Space out your liquids throughout the day. You might find that you get very thirsty if you drink up your allowable fluids early on in the day. Drinking small amounts of fluids throughout the day can help you avoid getting too thirsty.

Weight gain is often one of the first signs that you are retaining fluid. Weigh yourself daily. If you gain 2-3 pounds in a day, or 5 pounds in a week, call your healthcare provider.

Try keeping a food journal including how much fluid and sodium you have consumed each day. Writing it down can help you stay on track. If you use a mobile device, look for an app to help you track your eating and drinking habits. 

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