Americans love salt and eat way too much of it: popcorn at the movies, pretzels at the ballpark, potato chips in front of the TV. Sodium intake should be limited to 2,400 mg a day, but the average American consumes 6,000-18,000 mg daily. Although there is no need to restrict your sodium intake during pregnancy, too much sodium can cause excess fluid retention, especially later in the 3rd trimester.
You don't have to eliminate all of the sodium in your diet, but cutting down is a good idea. Start by reading food labels. Foods that are high in salt include canned and dry soups, cured meats (ham, bacon, sausage), processed meats (hot dogs, deli meat), canned tomatoes, cheese, peanut butter, some breakfast cereals, packaged frozen dinners, fast food, seasoned rice, snack foods (potato chips, pretzels, tortilla chips), gravy, and flavor enhancers such as taco seasoning, cooking sherry, chili sauce, meat tenderizer, soy sauce, steak sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
Once you start reading labels, you'll discover that there's salt in foods you never imagined would contain salt. For example, a serving of light Caesar salad dressing has 520 mg of sodium, and 1/2 cup of canned spaghetti sauce contains 580 mg of sodium.
Try these painless ways to decrease your sodium intake:
- Take the saltshaker off your table.
- In restaurants ask that your food be cooked without salt.
- Use lemon juice, herbs, and spices instead of salt to flavor food.
- Avoid MSG.
- Choose low-sodium versions of your favorite foods.
- When grilling meat, use low-sodium or salt-free marinades.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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