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3 Gram Sodium Diet

What is a 3 gram sodium diet?

A 3 gram sodium diet limits the amount of high sodium foods and table salt in the diet. High amounts of sodium in your diet can make your blood pressure go up and can cause other health problems. The goal of a 3 gram sodium diet is to prevent or lower high blood pressure. This diet can also keep your body from holding extra fluid. Problems with your liver and kidneys are another reason to follow this diet.

What can I do to make a 3 gram sodium part of my lifestyle?

Changing what you eat and drink may be hard at first. Think of these changes as "lifestyle" changes, not just "diet" changes. You may need to make these changes part of your daily routine. Following a 3 gram sodium diet may help to improve your health. Three grams of sodium is the same as 3000 milligrams (mg) of sodium.

  • Keep a list of items allowed on this diet in your kitchen to remind you about the diet. Take this food list with you to the grocery store to help you choose foods that are low in sodium.
  • Carry a list of items allowed on this diet to remind you about the diet when you are away from home. Tell your family or friends about this diet so that they can remind you about it.
  • Ask your caregiver, a dietitian (di-uh-TISH-in), or a nutritionist (noo-TRI-shun-ist) any questions you may have about your diet plan. A dietitian or nutritionist can work with you to find the right diet plan for you.

How can I use food labels to choose foods that are low in sodium?

Reading food labels is a good way to learn how much sodium is in foods. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to read food labels. Food labels list the amount of sodium in the food in milligrams. Avoid foods that contain more than 600 mg of sodium in one serving. Buy low-sodium substitutes for the foods you enjoy. Many foods are prepared with less than the usual amount of sodium. Following are some words about sodium that may appear on a label.

  • Sodium-free: Less than five mg for each serving.
  • Very low sodium: 35 mg of sodium or less for each serving.
  • Low sodium: 140 mg of sodium or less for each serving.
  • Reduced sodium: At least 25 percent less sodium for each serving. For example, if the food usually has 800 mg of sodium, the same food made with reduced sodium would contain 600 mg of sodium.
  • Light in sodium: 50 percent less sodium for each serving. For example, if the food usually has 500 mg of sodium per serving, the same food prepared "light in sodium" would still have 250 mg of sodium.
  • Unsalted, No added salt, and Without added salt: No salt is added during processing.
  • Lightly salted: 50 percent less sodium has been added to the food than would normally be added. For example, if 1000 mg of sodium were normally added, only 500 mg would be added to a food that is "lightly salted".

What should I avoid eating and drinking while on a 3 gram sodium diet?

Bread, cereals, rice and pasta:

  • Breads, rolls and crackers with salted tops.
  • Instant hot cereals.
  • Rice, or pasta and bread stuffing mixes.
Vegetables and soups:
  • Commercially (store-bought) prepared potato mixes.
  • Sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and other foods prepared in brine.
  • Vegetables seasoned with ham, bacon, or salt pork.
  • Do not eat regular canned or dehydrated soups more than once a week.
  • Regular vegetable or tomato juice, and olives.
Meats and meat products:
  • Smoked, cured, salted, koshered, or canned meat, fish or poultry. This includes bacon, chipped beef, cold cuts, ham, hot dogs, and sausage. It also includes sardines, anchovies, crab, lobster, imitation seafood, marinated herring, and pickled meats.
  • Frozen breaded meats.
  • Pickled eggs.
  • Processed cheese, cheese spreads, and sauces.
  • Salted nuts.
  • Regular salad dressings containing bacon fat, bacon bits, and salt pork.
  • Snack dips made with instant soup mixes or processed cheese.
Seasonings, sauces, snacks, and other products:
  • Seasonings made with salt including garlic salt, celery salt, onion salt, and seasoned salt.
  • Sea salt, rock salt, kosher salt, meat tenderizers and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Regular soy sauce, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, most flavored vinegars.
  • Regular snack chips.
  • Salad dressings.

What can I eat and drink while on a 3 gram sodium diet?

  • While following a 3 gram sodium diet, you may eat enriched white, wheat, rye, and pumpernickel bread, hard rolls, dinner rolls and breadsticks. You may also enjoy muffins, cornbread, waffles, and pancakes. Most dry and hot cereals are OK to eat on this plan, as are unsalted crackers and homemade bread stuffing. Enriched rice, barley, noodles, spaghetti, macaroni, and other pastas are also OK to have.
  • All fresh, frozen, and canned fruits that are low in sodium are OK to have on this plan. Read the labels before buying the products. Fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables, and canned vegetables that have been drained may be eaten. Commercial canned and dehydrated soups, broths, and bouillon may be eaten once a week because they do contain sodium. Homemade broth, soups without added salt and made with allowed vegetables are OK to eat, as are reduced-sodium canned soups and broths.
  • Meats and meat products such as fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, and poultry are OK to have. Fish and most shellfish, canned tuna or salmon that has been rinsed, and eggs and egg substitutes may be eaten. Regular cheese, ricotta cheese, and regular cottage cheese that has been drained are OK to eat. Since cream cheese has sodium, limit the amount that is eaten to 2 ounces or less daily. Regular yogurt and peanut butter may be enjoyed, dried peas and beans, and canned legumes that have been rinsed may also be eaten. Read package labels on frozen dinners, and have only those with 600 mg of sodium or less per serving .
  • Beverages can include milk, eggnog, and all fruit juices. Buttermilk should be limited to eight ounces (1 cup) daily . Low-sodium and salt-free vegetable juices and low-sodium soda and other carbonated beverages may be drank. Limit regular vegetable and tomato juices to 4 ounces, or one-half cup daily.
  • Butter or margarine, vegetable oils, and low-sodium salad dressings may be used. Regular salad dressing may also be used in small amounts. Light, sour, and heavy cream may be used in foods and with meals. Read the label on desserts and sweets. Many desserts are low in sodium. Good snacks include unsalted tortilla chips, pretzels, potato chips or popcorn.
  • Pepper, herbs, spices, vinegar, lemon or limejuice may be used to flavor meals. One tablespoon or less of catsup each day, and one tablespoon or less of mustard each day may also be used. You may use hot pepper sauce, and two tablespoons or less of salsa each day. One teaspoon or less of low-sodium soy sauce may also be used. Low-sodium baking powder should be used for baking.

What other guidelines should I follow for a 3 gram sodium diet?

  • Meals eaten at restaurants, especially fast food restaurants are often high in sodium. Some restaurants have nutrition information that tells you the amount of sodium in their foods. When ordering food at a restaurant, ask your waiter to prepare your food with less, or no salt.
  • Check with your caregiver or pharmacist about products that may contain sodium. Some of these products include antacids, medicines, toothpaste and chewing tobacco.
  • Limit salt added to foods while cooking or at the table to one-fourth of a teaspoon each day. Talk with your caregiver about using salt substitutes. Some salt substitutes contain ingredients that may change the way that your medicines work.


  • Eating more than three grams of sodium in a day may make your body hold extra fluid, causing you to gain weight. It may make your blood pressure higher. Eating more than three grams of sodium in a day may affect the way that your medicines work.
  • Very rarely, a three gram sodium diet may cause the amount of sodium in your blood to be too low. Low amounts of sodium in your blood may cause nausea, confusion, and decreased mental alertness. Call your caregiver right away if you have any of these symptoms.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.