Surprising Salty Foods

Blog banner with salt crystals on left and the blog title: Surprising Salty Foods on the right.

Do you focus on the salt shaker when you want to reduce the salty foods in your diet? You are not alone if you believe skipping the salt shaker is enough to keep your salt intake low. But what is surprising is that is not the main source of salt in your foods. Read on to find out which foods are surprising salty foods.

Myth or Fact?

I don’t have to worry about my sodium because I don’t use the salt shaker at meals or when cooking?

This is a MYTH!

Wait. What? Why???

Let’s start by saying that salt is technically sodium chloride, but it is usually just called sodium. In fact, “sodium” is what you will see on food packaging and nutrition labels.

Most of the salt in the average American diet – a whopping 70% – comes from processed foods and restaurant foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is not the salt that we add during cooking or sprinkle on to our food at the table that is the concern. But if you are interested in using the salt shaker less often, check out our info on Flavoring Your Foods With Less Salt or join one of our online cooking classes.

It is the foods that we don’t think of as salty, the ones with hidden sources of salt, that are the biggest offenders since many do not realize they are so high in salt. The American Heart Association has dubbed these surprising salty foods the “Salty Six.”

The Salty Six includes:

  • Breads and rolls
  • Deli lunch meats
  • Sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Soups
  • Burritos and tacos

Recently processed chicken products fell off this list. And, if they asked me, I would make it the Salty Seven and added

  • Sauces, dressings, and condiments

But wait, there’s more. In addition to the above, the CDC also adds a few more to the list:

  • Chips, crackers, popcorn
  • Poultry
  • Pasta dishes
  • Burgers
  • Omelets and other egg=based dishes

Well, great. Thanks much. That’s a lot of the foods many of us eat regularly.

So, what are we do to?

Well, if you are lucky enough to have good food security, you may choose to eat mostly home-cooked meals with whole-food ingredients.

But that isn’t a legit option for those living with food insecurity. In this case, you may look to the food packages for information. So, that begs the question…

Can you Trust the Food Packages?

You can always look at the nutrition label (technically, the nutrition facts panel) to find the milligrams (mg) per serving. Also be sure to check how much food is considered one serving on that label. You may have to double or triple the amount depending on how much you eat (because who only 1/2 can of soup at a time, right?)

Those nutrition claims on food packages are a little trickier. Let’s quickly go over what those nutrition claims really mean.

First, realize that some of the claims are based off comparing the lower sodium version to the regular or conventional version of the same food.

If you see “reduced sodium” on the label, that means there is at least 25% less salt than the regular version. So, if your food is a salty one – like soup that can have 2000 mg in one can, then reduced sodium may still have 1500 mg which is not what I would consider low in sodium at all.

Claims that mean low sodium include “low sodium” with 140 mg or less per serving, “very low sodium” with 35 mg or less per serving, and “salt / sodium free” which means less than 5 mg per serving.

Finally, “no salt added” means just that – salt was not added during the food processing. The food may or may not be high in salt naturally.

So getting rid of the salt shaker may not be enough to get you to your salt intake goals.

Which may make you wonder… just how much salt should I actually eating? Stay tuned – that info is coming soon!


1.Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Salt.

2.American Heart Association: Salty Six Infographic.


4.US FDA: Use the Nutrition Facts Label to Reduce Your Intake of Sodium in Your Diet.

Published by Alexia Lewis RD, LD/N, CHC, CPT

Culinary Nutritionist (RD), Certified Health Coach (ACE), heart attack survivor, late-blooming home-cook, and your biggest cheerleader, confidence builder, and forever reminder-er to stop making things so darn complicated. DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is the opinion of the author(s) and is not medical advice, in fact, it may not be appropriate for you at all. Consult with your medical professional before making any changes. If you follow information on this site without consulting your healthcare provider, you are doing so at your own risk.

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