Plan Ahead with Lower-Sodium Menus

Christy's Story: “I've always wanted to provide my family with the best of everything, and that includes healthy, low-sodium meals. As soon as I became aware of the health consequences of a high-sodium diet, I was on a mission and really worked to lower our sodium intake. But after a while, I gradually slipped back into my old habits. I guess I just 'forgot' to keep track of sodium as much. I knew I needed a way to control our sodium intake without having to think about it all the time. A neighbor suggested that I do what she does — write out a fixed plan for one week and refuse to buy anything that isn't on it. Using the kitchen inventory I'd made when sodium was a top priority, I had no trouble making a detailed list of the foods I needed for a week's worth of meals. With no decisions left to make, it was easier for me to stick to my commitment to cut back on sodium. Having a written plan certainly did the trick for me!”

Planning ahead can be a huge help in making lower-sodium choices a permanent part of your everyday routine. Having an entire week's worth of planned meals that don't go over your sodium budget frees you from having to make quick calculations and on-the-spot decisions. Knowing in advance what to buy at the store or order at a restaurant also protects you from temptations that can derail your best intentions.

Perhaps most important, following an established eating plan allows you to take the time you need to let your palate adjust to tasting less salt. Plan to decrease your current sodium intake in gradual increments, one step at a time. It can take from six weeks to six months for your taste buds to completely adapt, but the more often you repeat your healthy choices, the more you will reinforce your commitment to reduce the sodium in your diet. As the saying goes, repeat an action 30 times and it becomes habit. In your case, make the same lower-sodium choice 30 times and you'll establish a pattern that stays with you for life.

Following a defined eating plan also gives you better control over the nutritional quality of what you eat. Whether you're using a professionally developed eating plan or creating your own, you're more likely to focus on the long-term benefits of eating well than give in to an impulsive and unhealthy splurge. To make your lower-sodium planning more interesting, experiment with new flavors and healthy cooking techniques to personalize your meals.


✓ Understand how to maximize nutrition and budget your sodium intake with a balanced eating plan.

✓ Create your own healthy, lower-sodium eating plan or follow our suggested plan.

✓ Experiment with sodium-free seasonings and natural flavorings to perk up what you eat.

✓ Use heart-healthy cooking techniques and tips to create delicious lower-sodium meals at home.


Creating your own meal plans gives you control over what you eat and focuses your attention on your long-term goals. With a plan in hand, you'll eat healthier food, experience less backsliding, and be less likely to give in to temptation. Smart planning also allows you to shop and cook more efficiently, so you can save both time and money. Because you're making the decisions up front, you can focus on good food that delivers quality nutrition and is prepared just the way you like it.

The three major elements of a heart-smart eating plan are:

• The right balance of foods to provide adequate nutrition

• The right calorie count to meet your body's needs

• A lower-sodium intake that doesn't exceed a healthy level

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