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By Nanette Maxim

A pinch here, a pinch there — salt is such a regular part of the way we flavor our foods. But is the salt shaker to blame for the fact that Americans often consume way more than the limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (the equivalent of a teaspoon of salt) recommended by the American Heart Association? Not necessarily. Read our tips to find out the real sources of sodium in our diet and how to make simple changes that will have you enjoying flavorful food and staying healthy.

1. Begin with Breakfast

Processed foods, not added table salt, are the culprits for about 77% of our sodium intake, according to the Mayo Clinic. Switch to a shredded whole-grain wheat cereal or oatmeal, and add fresh fruit to your morning meal.

2. Can the Canned Goods

Opt for fresh vegetables over canned or frozen, when possible, and rinse canned veggies to cut back on sodium content.

Try it: Carribean Rice and Beans

3. Go Garlic Crazy

Herbs like garlic add flavor without amping up the sodium. Also try lemon juice, salt-free herb blends, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, fresh ground pepper, tarragon, marjoram, thyme, oregano, and parsley. If you?re using dried herbs, use about a third of what you would use in fresh form.

Try it: Lemon-Garlic Marinated Shrimp

4. Peel An Onion

An instant flavor enhancer, the onion comes in more colors than plain old yellow. Experiment with the bold tastes of leeks, scallions, and shallots, as well as red and white onions.

5. Roast the Veggies

Bring out the flavor of your squash, fennel, carrots, onions, and many more vegetables, by roasting them.

6. Stir the Pot (Of Homemade Soup)

You can’t beat the convenience of canned soup, but a steaming bowl of the homemade kind will most likely contain dramatically less sodium.

7. Mind the Meats

A low-sodium marinade tenderizes meat and enhances flavor. Eat brined and smoked meats as a treat, not on a regular basis.

8. Condiments Count

Soy sauce, mustard, ketchup, pickles, and even mayonnaise are sodium rich. Try low-sodium versions, and, in general, use a light hand with them.

9. A Splash of Wine

Sauces have greater depth with a bit of added red (for meats and stews) or white (for chicken and fish).

10. Take Stock of the Take-Out Menu

Chinese stir-fries and Mexican burritos are soul-satisfying, but they can pack almost a day?s worth of sodium (not to mention calories) in one entrée, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Try to avoid the salty sauces and aim for vegetable dishes.

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