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Seasoning Without Salt

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 4, 2023.

Why is it important to season foods without salt?

Seasoning foods without salt during cooking and eating can help decrease the amount of sodium in your diet. Sodium is found in salt and in many other foods. Limit sodium if you have high blood pressure and heart failure. You may also need to limit sodium if you have liver problems or kidney disease. Sodium makes your blood pressure rise if you have high blood pressure. If you have heart failure, eating too much sodium causes extra fluid to build up in your body. This extra body fluid may cause swelling, shortness of breath, or weight gain. People with other health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may also need to make other diet changes. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to make other diet changes.

What are some high-sodium seasonings and condiments that I should limit or avoid?

  • Alfredo sauce, soup, and other packaged sauce mixes.
  • Barbecue, taco, and steak sauce.
  • Dry salad dressing mixes.
  • Garlic, onion, and celery salt.
  • Imitation bacon bits.
  • Meat tenderizers and sauces.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG may be found in Chinese food, soy sauce, and oyster sauce.
  • Mustard, prepared horseradish sauce, and ketchup.
  • Pickle relish.
  • Salt, seasoned salt, kosher salt, and sea salt.
  • Soy, Worcestershire, and teriyaki sauces. Limit low sodium varieties because they still contain high amounts of sodium.
  • Tartar, fish, and cocktail sauce.

What are some low-sodium herbs that I can use?

  • Basil with eggs, fish and shellfish, beef, liver, veal, tomato sauce, soups, pasta, green salad, and vegetables.
  • Bay leaf with beef, white fish, soups, and tomato dishes.
  • Cilantro, chili powder, and cumin with egg dishes, Mexican food, pork, fish, and rice.
  • Dill weed with breads, chicken, cooked fresh vegetables, cucumbers, fish or shellfish, potato salad, and soup.
  • Marjoram with beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, pasta, green salad, cream sauce, eggs, soups, and vegetables.
  • Parsley with stuffing, rice, egg salad, green salad, vegetable salad, baked beans, vegetables, soups, and tomato sauces.
  • Rosemary and thyme with veal, pork, beef, potatoes, cream or tomato sauce, soups, and vegetables.
  • Sage with chicken, turkey, fish, pork, veal, soups, onions, stuffing, tomato sauce, and vegetables.
  • Savory with beef, stuffing, chicken soup, green beans, poultry, red meats, and potatoes.
  • Tarragon with eggs, fish or shellfish, chicken, turkey, green salad, soups, sauces, and salad dressings.

What are some low-sodium herb blends that I can use?

  • Chili blend: mix black pepper, chili powder, cilantro, cumin, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and paprika.
  • Cole slaw blend: mix celery seed, dill weed, dried onion, sugar, and tarragon.
  • Italian food blend: mix basil, black pepper, garlic powder, ground red pepper, marjoram, oregano, savory, and thyme.
  • Onion herb blend: mix basil, black pepper, cumin, dill weed, dried onion flakes, and garlic powder.

What are some low-sodium spices that I can use?

  • Cinnamon in custard and pudding, sweet breads, rolls, fruits, fruit salad, pork, pumpkin, winter squash, and sweet potatoes.
  • Cloves   in sweet breads, fruit, ham, pork, baked beans, tomatoes, winter squash, and sweet potatoes.
  • Curry powder with beef, veal, chicken, turkey, and fish or potato soup.
  • Ginger with baked fish, carrots, pot roast, ham, chicken, turkey, rice, and fruit.
  • Mace in chicken soup, baked fruit desserts, carrots, cauliflower, custard, fruit jams, lamb, potatoes, and pumpkin.
  • Nutmeg in sweet breads, fruits, vegetables, and custard.

What are some low-sodium seasonings that I can use?

  • Chives in eggs, pasta, cream or potato soup, corn, potatoes, and salad dressing.
  • Garlic (minced, powdered, or freshly chopped) with shellfish, lamb, soup, dips and sauces, Italian dishes, meats, and poultry.
  • Lemon with chicken, fruit salads, grilled or baked fish, shellfish, spinach, and tossed salads.
  • Onion (dried, powdered, or freshly chopped) with beef, liver, egg salad, green salad, casseroles, pasta dishes, and stews.
  • Vinegar (such as balsamic, cider, flavored, red wine, or white) with cucumbers, cooked greens, potatoes, salad dressings, spinach, and seafood.

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

Reading food labels is a good way to learn whether foods contain sodium and how much sodium they contain. The ingredient list on the food label will tell you if the seasoning or food contains sodium. The food contains sodium if an ingredient has Na (symbol for sodium), salt, soda, or sodium in its name. Food labels list the amount of sodium in the food in milligrams (mg). Following are some words about sodium that may appear on a label and what they mean. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about how to read food labels.

  • Sodium free or salt free: Less than five mg in each serving.
  • Very low sodium: Thirty-five (35) mg of sodium or less in each serving.
  • Low sodium: One-hundred and forty (140) mg of sodium or less in each serving.
  • Reduced or less sodium: At least 25 percent less sodium in each serving. For example, a food may have 800 mg of sodium in each serving. The same food made with reduced sodium would contain 600 mg of sodium.
  • Light in sodium: Fifty (50) percent less sodium in each serving. For example, a food may have 500 mg of sodium in each serving. The same food that is light in sodium would have 250 mg of sodium.
  • Unsalted or no added salt: No extra salt is added.

What are some other ways to decrease sodium?

  • Check with your healthcare provider before using salt substitutes if you need to limit potassium in your diet. They may be too high in potassium for you to use safely.
  • Fast food and packaged foods are often high in sodium. Buy low salt or low sodium foods whenever possible. Eat homemade or fresh foods and meals to avoid getting too much sodium. Buy fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables or low sodium or no salt added canned vegetables.
  • Avoid regular canned soups or soups made from dry mixes. Buy low sodium soups or make your own at home without salt. Use low sodium broth, bouillon, or consomm√©.
  • Avoid canned, smoked, or processed poultry (chicken, turkey), fish, or meats. Limit cured meats such as bacon and ham.
  • Regular cheese contains a medium to high amount of salt. If you eat cheese, buy low sodium kinds as often as possible. Add only one third to one half the amount of cheese listed on recipes.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn your health problems and how to season without salt. You can then discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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