This information describes what you can eat while you’re following a 2-gram sodium diet.

You have been instructed to follow a 2-gram sodium diet. Sodium is a mineral that helps balance fluids in your body. It is found in almost all foods. On this diet, you will limit the total amount of sodium you take in to 2 grams, or 2,000 milligrams (mg), daily. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium, so you will need to take in less than this amount per day.

This diet can be used to manage:

  • High blood pressure
  • Poor liver function
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Weight gain from water retention

Understanding Sodium Claims

The following table includes sodium claims you will find on packaged foods. Knowing what these claims mean can help guide your food choices. We have also included the recommended daily intake for foods that have these claims.

Sodium Claim Meaning Recommended Daily Intake
“Sodium-free” Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving Unlimited
“Salt-free” Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving Unlimited
“Low-sodium” 140 mg of sodium or less per serving Limit to 4 servings daily
“Very low-sodium” 35 mg or less of sodium per serving Unlimited

Other sodium claims include:

“Reduced sodium”

  • The product contains at least 25% less sodium per serving compared to the regular version of it.

“Light in sodium” or “lightly salted”

  • The product contains 50% less sodium per serving compared to the regular version of it.

“Unsalted,” “without added salt,” and “no salt added”

  • No salt was used in the processing of the product, when the product would normally be processed with salt (e.g., unsalted pretzels versus regular pretzels).
  • This does not guarantee that the food is “sodium-free.”

Although these items contain less than the original versions, that does not guarantee that they are low in sodium. Check the Sodium Claims chart above for guidance.

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Reading Nutrition Facts Labels

It is important to read the Nutrition Facts label on your foods and beverages to find the sodium content. Although many processed foods may not taste salty, they can still have a high sodium content.

The sodium content is always listed per serving. If you eat or drink 2 servings, you will get have to multiply the amount of sodium per serving by 2.

Checking the percent Daily Value for sodium is also a good way to monitor your sodium intake. If the percent Daily Value is 5% or less, that food is considered low in sodium. If the percent Daily Value is more than 20%, it is considered high in sodium.

The sodium content is circled on the Nutrition Facts labels below. You can see the milligrams of sodium and the percent Daily Values of sodium per serving. Use the guidelines above to check the sodium content.

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General Dietary Guidelines

  • Do not add salt to foods while you prepare them or at the table.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts on your food and beverage labels to check the amount of sodium per serving.
  • Cook more meals at home instead of dining out. This way, you can better control the amount of sodium in your diet.
  • Many items in restaurants are high in sodium, especially condiments like gravies, sauces, dressings, and marinated foods. When dining out, order your meal without these additions, or ask for them on the side. Dress your salads with oil and vinegar instead of with prepared dressings. Ask that your food be seasoned without salt or products high in sodium.
  • Choose unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice), and legumes (beans, peas, lentils). These foods are naturally low in sodium.
  • Do not use salt substitutes unless your doctor approves them.
  • Limit your intake of milk, yogurt, and ice cream to 3 (8-ounce) servings daily. These foods are moderately high in sodium. Be sure to check the food labels on puddings, as some are very high in sodium.
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High-Sodium Foods

The following is a list of high-sodium foods. Be very cautious of these foods while following your diet. When reading the Nutrition Facts labels, you will be surprised how much sodium is in them. Many of these products are available in a low-sodium version, so try to use those.

Food Group High-Sodium Items
Dairy
  • Buttermilk
  • Instant cocoa mixes
  • Cheeses: American, blue cheese, feta, Provolone, Swiss, Edam, cottage
Meats and Fish
  • Smoked, cured, dried, canned, or frozen processed meats
  • Deli meats: corned beef, salami, ham, bologna, frankfurters, sausage, bacon, chipped beef, turkey
  • Herring, sardines, caviar, anchovies, canned tuna, smoked salmon
  • Kosher meats
  • Frozen entrées, TV dinners
Starches and Breads
  • Breads, rolls, and crackers with added salt
  • Soda bread
  • Ready-to-eat cereals with more than 20% of the Daily Value for sodium
  • Pizza
  • Salted chips and pretzels
Vegetables and Vegetable Juice
  • Canned or jarred vegetables and vegetable juices
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tomato juice
  • Canned and instant soups
  • Bouillon (broth)
Condiments
  • Bottled salad dressings
  • Party spreads
  • Dips
  • Canned gravies and sauces
  • Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce
  • More than 1 tablespoon of ketchup
  • Onion salt, garlic salt, and other seasonings containing salt
  • Tartar sauce
  • Cooking wine
Miscellaneous
  • Leavening agents such as baking powder and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Preservatives such as sodium nitrate, sodium phosphate, and sodium benzoate
  • Flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Sweeteners such as sodium saccharine
  • Certain antacid tablets (check the label for sodium content)
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Helpful Hints

  • Try adding fresh garlic, onions, lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar to vegetables and salads. This will add more flavor to your food without adding sodium.
  • Marinate meat, chicken, or fish in balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, or other spices.
  • If you like spice, use hot peppers or hot sauce to season foods. Keep the amount of hot sauce to just a drop or 2, as it is high in sodium.
  • Try salt-free spice mixes such as Mrs. Dash® and Lawry’s® Salt-Free 17 Seasoning.
  • Make your own blend of ground spices or try the recipes below.

Salt-less Surprise

  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered lemon rind (or dehydrated lemon juice)

Spice as Nice

  • 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of dried marjoram

Put the ingredients of either recipe into a food mill and mix well. Then label and store the mixture in a glass container.

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Sample Menu

The following sample menu includes meals that are within a 2-gram sodium limit.

Meal Food/Beverage Item Amount of Sodium (mg)
Breakfast 4 ounces of orange juice 0
1 hard-boiled egg 60
2 slices of seven-grain toast 260
1 teaspoon of unsalted butter 0
1 tablespoon of jam or jelly 10
8 ounces of low-fat milk 120
Coffee or tea 5
Lunch 1 cup of low-sodium split pea soup 50
Turkey sandwich:  
  • 1 hard roll (3 ½ inches)
310
  • 3 ounces of low-sodium turkey breast
465
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
80
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard
65
  • Lettuce and tomato
5
Fresh fruit 0
12 ounces of plain or flavored seltzer 15
Afternoon Snack 4 graham crackers 160
2 tablespoons of no salt added peanut butter 10
Dinner 5 ounces of baked salmon 90
½ cup of broccoli 20
½ cup of carrots 50
½ cup of brown rice 5
8 ounces of iced tea 5
½ cup of frozen yogurt 65
Evening Snack 1.5 ounces of unsalted pretzels 75
Fresh fruit 0
Total mg of Sodium 1925
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If you have any questions or concerns, talk with a member of your healthcare team. You can reach them Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at ____________________. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, please call____________________. If there’s no number listed, or you’re not sure, call 212-639-2000.
2-Gram Sodium Diet
©2016 Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Generated on May 2, 2016