Is Sodium a Problem? Walk Away from the Shaker!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Added salt from the shaker has been a pet peeve of mine since beginning dietitian training in college. I used to go home for a visit and chastise my father as he added salt to his bologna sandwich or lettuce salads before ever tasting them. "Dad, salt is an acquired taste," I would tell him. "Leave the shaker alone for two weeks, and you will be amazed at how your tastes will change related to salty foods." My mother was always grateful for the interventions I attempted. My father would humor me with the nod of his head in agreement while smirking to indicate he did not intend to take my advice.
Offering the same advice to put away the salt shaker in favor of other flavorful seasoning alternatives while working at the hospital brought some of the same responses. The spouse was glad for the backup while the client would nod in agreement in a way that let me know change was not likely. It was always refreshing to see the occasional client who faced a new change in medical status take the advice to heart.
A few weeks ago, I was excited to read that Boston Market was taking a bold move and removing salt shakers from restaurant tables.

Boston Market received a small backlash from some crying "nanny creep" after their recent announcement they would be reducing sodium in several popular items and removing salt shakers from restaurant tables. Although the company's chief brand officer acknowledges that Boston Market will likely not become a healthy fast-casual chain, the chief executive officer believes the bold steps of removing the shakers are helpful in reducing the temptation of salting food before tasting it. Instead of finding a salt shaker, patrons will find a placard next to the pepper informing them that salt shakers are still available but located at the beverage station. In addition to removing the salt shakers from the table, Boston market aims to reduce sodium by 20 percent in three favorite recipes over the next six months. Planned sodium reductions include:

A serving of rotisserie chicken (quarter white meat) will reduce from 710 mg to 568 mg.
A serving of macaroni and cheese will reduce from 1,100 mg to 880 mg.
A serving of mashed potatoes will decrease from 820 mg to 607 mg.
This means that while the same serving size dinner of Rotisserie Chicken with a side of macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes (we can discuss the meal planning negatives of this selection on another blog!) would be reduced by 362 mg of sodium, the meal still contains 2,055 mg. (For reference, SparkPeople recommends no more than 2,300 mg sodium, or one teaspoon of salt, daily.)
Table salt (aka sodium chloride) is approximately 40 percent sodium. Here is how that breaks down.
1/4 teaspoon salt = 600 mg sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,200 mg sodium
3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,800 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium  
Estimates suggest that Americans consume an average of 3,400 milligrams or more of sodium per day--that's almost 50% more than we recommends, and more than twice what the  American Heart Association recommends (they suggest  less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day). Most sodium in the diet comes from packaged and processed foods. However, for those who regularly use a salt shaker, the simple step of removing it from the table is the best first step toward reducing sodium intake. Since not having the shaker within easy arm reach helps people think before they shake, I applaud Boston Market for this small but effective step. For those that really must use it, it is available and the exercise in retrieving it will likely be beneficial.

For those that like the salt shaker, what are some good alternatives to put in the salt shaker instead of salt?

Do you regularly use the salt shaker?

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I have kidney disease and my nephrologist wants me to have no more than
1300mg of salt per day. Needless to say I rarely eat out. I have learned to make
my own taco sauce, etc. and by doing so am averaging about 1100mg a day.
They have so much sodium in their food what does it matter? I also think it's silly treating adults like children. I will avoid Boston market because there is nothing healthy about their food. An I can make up my own mind. Report
I think that making people walk further to salt foods, especially when the sodium content is already pretty high, is not a bad thing. My blood pressure is so low that every time I have it checked I have to reassure the technician that its my normal blood pressure, so a little salt is actually good for me, but that's just me. Report
The only thing I put salt on is fresh tomatoes and luckily that is only during the summer months. I bake my own bread and never add salt. Any recipe I try out I never put the salt in. My family is used to the way I cook and they know that if it is too bland for them they can add salt, but we can never take it out once it is in there. Report
I use the salt shaker for a few things-I love a sprinkle on top of sliced garden tomatoes and on my popcorn but we've been trying to be diligent about using other seasonings to flavor our food.
There are some things I add salt to, but mostly I don't add it. I'm sure there is salt in the marinades for chicken, otherwise I use a no-salt herb mixture. My Mom used to salt everything, but I think I was just too lazy. I've never salted my hamburger unless something was going in with it and I used seasoned salt. I don't use it on fish or eggs or much of anything else like that. Report
Although I applaud Boston Market for reducing salt in its food--after all, once it is in there you can't take it out--but disagree about removing the salt shaker from the table. I have HBP and need to keep my sodium low so I love it when prepared foods have as little sodium as possible. However, there are a lot of people who can eat salt without negative effects, so why shouldn't they eat the foods they pay for the way they like it. My fella, who loves salt and does not have sodium dependent HBP, and I compromise by making food without salt and then he can add as much as he wants from the shaker--no harm done and everybody is happy.
There are LOTS of alternatives out there, but it's been more than a notion for me to stop putting salt in the water for the frozen veggies that are a well-used staple in our meals . . . especially the lima beans!! However, it's one small step at a time, so each time the shaker does not approach the pan, we claim a success!
Mrs. Dash makes some really tasty blends these days . . . and have helped around our lunch table at work as well as at home.... Kudos to those of you who never created or have kicked the habit !! Report
I dislike salt, so I never add it to anything I'm eating. I always omit it from any recipe, just because otherwise it's all I can taste. It's such a distinct flavor that it seems to overpower everything else. My tongue is thankfully weird I guess! Report
I grew up in a household where my stepfather was watching sodium due to high blood pressure, so therefore we all were. My Mom used Ms. Dash a lot and so do I now when I cook. I was raised that it is very rude to salt your food before tasting it because you are inferring that the chef/cook didn't season it enough or to your liking before even trying it. Report
Our bodies need sodium, true, but most people would get plenty in foods eaten in their natural (i.e., unprocessed) states. Living in the desert, or being an extreme athlete might require one to up the salt some, but not much.

Iodizing salt was a way of trying to avoid goitre, but that's no longer much of a problem, and there are other ways of getting needed iodine.

When I use salt, I get pure sea-salt, but that's still sodium. It just tastes better. Report
How many calories does salt have again? Oh yeah... ZERO.

The biggest reason the food police are down on salt is its effect on blood pressure. My blood pressure is fine (even a little on the low side), and I'm 52 years old. In fact, there is only a small percentage of people whose blood pressure shows a direct causal relationship to salt intake. Most people have high blood pressure due to heredity, smoking or obesity... NOT because of salt intake.

I'm getting so tired of the food police telling us not to eat this or that. First it was butter, because butter has saturated fat. Eat margarine instead. Then it was OH NO, margarine has trans fats and they're bad! Don't eat any fat at all! Then it was, oh, wait. You need healthy fats. Eat MUFAs.

Really? When are they going to admit that they just don't know? I tune them out completely. Report
It depends on the type of salt.Table salt has additves. I buy only grey ground salt from the sea.We do need some salt. Report
No problem here - don't have salt shakers at home, and never think to use them when
/desserts/*chocolate*.......that's a whole 'nother thing altogether :( Report
Some people do have a problem with a salt shaker. Years ago when I was visiting my father in the hospital with my mother we went down to the hospital cafeteria. Sitting in one of the other booths this man after tasting his vegetable soup proceeded to add so much salt that I could see it sitting on top of the vegetables floating in the soup from about 6 feet away. It could only have tasted like brine he added so much salt. I couldn't believe it when he actually ate the bowl of soup. Report
I agree with those who say the salt shaker is insignificant when compared to the amount of sodium that's already in processed foods. I sincerely wish that manufacturers would allow me to salt my own food. I think I'd be better off. Report
According to this article the Mac and cheese at Boston Market contains about 3/4 teaspoons of sodium. It sounds to me like the solution is to stay away from restaurant food and processed food. One teaspoon of table salt is a lot to shake on to food. It amazes me when doctors and articles advise to stay away from the salt shaker and only casually mentions cutting processed foods. Report
We eat very few processed foods and I have also read recently that if you don't not have a blood pressure problem than drastically reducing your salt isn't necessary. I don't have a blood pressure problem so I think I will keep my salt shaker on the table and add a little sometimes. Report
I try to never add additional salt to my meal. Report
the salt shaker adds a minimal amount of sodium to a clean diet, whereas most sodium the typical American consumes is from processed foods. Added salt-shaker sodium is practically nil. Report
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I have drastically reduced the amount of salt that I add to food. I do still add salt to some things, but very little. I shake it into the palm of my hand so that I can see how much I'm using. I noticed I occasionally get a craving for salty foods but I do keep it in check. I have experimented with spices and other seasonings. Mrs. Dash is great. So yummy on broiled fish with a squeeze of lemon. Report
I think it's more important to reduce the salt used in preparing restaurant foods than taking away salt shakers.

Sure, salt shakers add sodium, but that amount is usually nothing compared with how much was used to make the food. So good on BM for reducing the salt used in making the food. Report
I use a small amount of salt in my cooking but rely largely on fresh herbs from my extensive herb garden for flavoring our food. My husband does sometimes add salt to his food. He also eats processed frozen entrees every day for lunch at work and I worry about that. He also likes frozen pizza one night a week but lately he's been buying the Amy's organic cheese pizza and adding a bit of pepperoni on his side. Its a start! Report
I've taken to using garlic powder instead of salt in most of my foods. I occasionally hit the canister of Mrs Dash Herb and Garlic and I LOVE their Table Blend (dark green cap!) and HIGHLY recommend it to anyone looking for an alternative to adding flavor to their dishes. I even use it in my lettuce wraps. :D Report
I do love salty foods. I don't add any salt when cooking, and I try to avoid the shaker most of the time....but I am guilty of using it on certain foods. Old habits die hard! Report
Fortunately, I've never been big on salty foods. I do eat deli meat (turkey) and figure I'm getting plenty of sodium from that without adding any more. Report
We haven't had a salt shaker on the table in over 30 years (since my Dad had his first heart attack). My husband still likes and eats salty foods, but the only time he uses salt at the table is for french fries (which he only gets when he eats out). Now if only I could break him of the french fry habit! Report
Salt has been a tremendous problem for me. However, I have learned to use Mrs. Dash and McCormick's. I season with herbs. It's been fun playing around with all the different herbs/spices. Yet, I do still love salt. I've reduced that love of salt to 2 things - tomatoes and eggs. I'm working on it. Oh, and I also use sea salt. Report
I've never been much of a salter. I mostly use it as noted in recipes, not added to cooked food. In fact, even when fast food was a big thing, I only ever bought french fries when I had salt cravings - meaning I was too low (often from drinking so much water), not too high.

I'm a big dairy person, drinking a lot of milk, so I get much of my sodium naturally that way. Report
I am one of the rare ones who needs salt. I slough it off. If I don't get enough salt my blood pressure drops and I am on the floor. Drives my granddaughter crazy that my Dr. actually tells me to eat salt. Report
I used to add salt a lot - whether it was for the taste, or for the texture - now, the only thing I really, really use salt on is my popcorn. Red Hot is also an exception, since it's pretty salty.

My boyfriend, though, uses salt on a LOT of stuff, and it makes me nervous!!! D-: Report
There are only 2 things I will add salt to and those are potatoes and eggs. In fact, I don't even own a salt shaker! Report
I do not salt anything when I cook and I am amazed at how much sodium there is still in our foods. And, the salt shaker does not go on the table!! And guests very seldom ask for it.
Last night we had pot roast with mashed potatoes - no salt added - and there was plenty of flavor!! Report
A squeeze of lemon is a good substitute, although healthy *unrefined* celtic sea salt in moderation is healthful. Report
Sounds good to me. I can't remember the last time I used a salt shaker. The only thing I miss it on is avocados and hard boiled eggs. Nothing else really needs it. I love using my other spices. Especially making things nice and spicy :) Report
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