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Salt swaps! Make these three simple changes to lower your sodium intake

Trying to keep your salt consumption in check? These easy substitutions should do the trick.

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TIP #1: Slash salt in dressings

Commercial, store-bought salad dressing brands are notoriously high in salt, whether they're the "regular" fattening versions or a brand's lower-calorie option. On average, most dressings typically sock you with 250 mg per serving (a serving is considered 2 tablespoons and most of us use way more than that, so the salt adds up very quickly). Here's the simplest way to continue enjoying your favorite store-bought brands, by dramatically slashing the sodium by about 45%, whether you're using the regular varieties OR the low-calorie versions. Simply mix low-fat buttermilk into creamy dressings like ranch and caesar, or balsamic/red wine vinegar into vinaigrettes.

And if you are willing to go the extra mile, definitely make it yourself at home. It's so easy! Just mix together 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder into a mason jar with a lid. Shake it up to make a dressing that you can then keep in the fridge for the week.

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TIP #2: Sandwich swap

Most people don't realize just how much sodium is found in a simple homemade sandwich. Each component builds on the other and the numbers add up quite quickly. You'll see that reading labels and opting for lower-sodium brands whenever possible can make a huge difference. Let's take a simple ham and cheese sandwich as an example. The bread alone clocks in at 300 mg sodium. Then add in mayo at almost 90 mg, mustard at about 170 mg, cheddar cheese at 125, and of course deli ham at almost 1100 mg. Serve that up with a half pickle at 420 mg sodium and you've got a 2,185 mg sandwich! This is almost a teaspoon worth of sodium and is close to the recommended sodium limit for 1 day. In fact, it goes well over the recommended sodium limit for those with high blood pressure and high risk for heart disease.

A few simple swaps can make a huge difference. I use the same bread, but switch to roasted deli turkey breast and reduce the amount (just be sure to avoid smoked versions that tend to be higher in sodium) - which has almost half the sodium as the ham (540 mg -> 330 mg sodium for 2 ounces). And for people with high blood pressure, make it even lower with no-salt-added deli turkey for 110 mg per 4 ounces. Swap in Swiss cheese for the cheddar (125 mg sodium -> 35 mg sodium), go for hummus (57 mg) instead of mayo and mustard, and pile it up high with naturally low in sodium veggies like lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and red onion. Serve it up with sliced red bell pepper strips and you're down to 735 mg for your sandwich instead.

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TIP #3: In recipes, swap out table salt for coarse salt

One teaspoon of fine table salt has approximately 2300 mg sodium. On the other hand, coarse kosher salt has at least 500 mg sodium less per teaspoon. So, if you were to swap in this coarse kosher salt for the usual table salt in all of your recipes, making sure to keep volume amounts equal, you would save 1180 mg sodium each time.

If you're looking to go the extra mile there are even lower sodium "lite" salts and salt substitutes available. Keep in mind that salt substitutes are composed of potassium chloride and extra potassium may be problematic for people who have kidney problems or those who are taking certain medications so speak with your physician before going for salt substitutes that contain potassium chloride. There are other salt-free seasoning blends on the market (like Mrs. Dash) that can be used to add flavor to food and are safe for everyone to enjoy. Plus, you can experiment with other herbs, spices, and seasonings to give your dishes the flavor kapow you're looking for like cumin, cinnamon, dill, cilantro, basil, lemon zest, and flavored vinegars.

RELATED: Stick to your starch-free diet and save major calories with three easy swaps

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