Low Sodium Grocery List for a Heart-Healthy Diet (Free PDF)

Maintaining a heart-healthy diet often means being mindful of your sodium intake. Excessive sodium consumption can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart diseases. To make your journey to a low sodium lifestyle easier, I’ve prepared a comprehensive low sodium grocery list for you.

>>Skip to the downloadable Low Sodium Grocery List PDF

This list, combined with additional tips and insights into low sodium shopping, will empower you to make informed choices during your shopping trip. And it will ensure your meals remain both delicious and heart-conscious. Yay! Let’s go shopping!

salt on a wooden spoon and counter top

Understanding the Importance of a Low Sodium Diet

Sodium is a mineral found in salt. Regular table salt is also known as sodium chloride, which consists of 40% sodium and 60% chloride.

And while sodium is essential for bodily functions, excessive intake can wreak havoc on your heart. High sodium consumption can lead to water retention. This makes your heart have to work harder. It can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke.

By opting for a low sodium diet, you’re taking a proactive step towards a healthier heart.

How Much Sodium Do We Need?

It’s important to know how much sodium is too much to consume and also how much is too little. As mentioned, your body does require some amount of sodium to function properly. So, let’s talk about the minimum sodium requirement along with acceptable recommended intakes.

Minimum Sodium Requirements

On average, most Americans consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.

Most of the sodium consumed in the United States comes from foods that have salt added during processing and preparation. These include foods prepared at sit-down and fast-food restaurants.

Sodium is also hidden in foods we may not think of, like sandwiches, breads, soups, pastas, and other mixed dishes. You should also be aware of high sodium beverages like electrolyte replacements, shakes, and protein powders.

The sodium content in the foods we eat and drink can add up very quickly throughout the day.

Physiologically we only require about 500 milligrams of sodium or less each day. This is less than one quarter of a teaspoon of salt.

Some individuals may need more sodium depending on other factors, such as activity level or if large amounts of sodium are being lost through sweat or other fluid loss.

Daily Sodium Recommendations

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association both recommend that most adults limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day. The goal of limiting sodium is to reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and high blood pressure.

However, if you are currently being treated for heart disease or high blood pressure, the AHA recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.

Diets like the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet are two very popular and effective diets at helping to lower blood pressure and maintaining a healthy heart.

If you like free downloads, get the Essential List of Mediterranean Diet Pantry Staples.

Who Would Benefit from a Low Sodium Grocery List?

The population as a whole would benefit from following a low sodium diet. This is because most of us consume much larger amounts of sodium than we need. Some individuals that may particularly benefit from a low sodium diet are those with:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Recent coronary bypass or stent placements
  • Fluid retention or edema

For information on how to manage high blood pressure, check out “Hypertension Self-Care: Your Ultimate Plan For Lowering Blood Pressure at Home“.

Low Sodium Packaging Claims

Sodium packaging claims may be confusing. Low sodium, reduced sodium, 50% less sodium, no-salt-added, etc. What does all that even mean? The FDA helps break down these claims using the following guidelines:

If the Label Says…It Means…
Salt/Sodium-FreeLess than 5 mg of sodium per serving
Very Low Sodium35 mg of sodium or less per serving
Low Sodium140 mg of sodium or less per serving
Reduced SodiumAt least 25% less sodium than the regular product
Light in Sodium or Lightly SaltedAt least 50% less sodium than the regular product
No-Salt Added or UnsaltedNo salt is added during processing- these may not be salt/sodium-free unless stated
Table 1: FDA Sodium Label Claim Guidelines

Key Considerations When Shopping for Low Sodium Foods

  1. Read Labels Thoroughly: When shopping, always read the nutrition labels on packaged foods. Choose items with reduced or no added salt. Look for products labeled “low sodium,” “sodium-free,” or “unsalted.”
  2. Fresh is Best: Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Incorporate a colorful variety of these into your diet for added nutrients and flavor.
  3. Lean Proteins: Opt for fresh, lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish. These options tend to have lower sodium content compared to processed lunch meats and cured meats.
  4. Whole Grains: Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta over refined grains. They will contain less sodium and offer higher nutritional value.
  5. Dairy Alternatives: If you consume dairy products, go for low sodium or sodium-free options. Consider exploring dairy alternatives like almond milk or soy yogurt.
  6. Canned Goods: When using canned vegetables or beans, rinse them thoroughly under running water. Rinsing and draining helps remove excess sodium (up to 41%) from the canning liquid.

Related Article: The Best Alternatives to Deli Meat (Plus 13 Yummy Recipes)

Your Complete Low Sodium Grocery List

To make your low sodium shopping experience convenient, I’ve compiled a downloadable PDF grocery list for you. It includes low sodium options across various food categories, ensuring you have a well-rounded selection for your meals.

>>Download the Low Sodium Grocery List PDF Here!

Tips for Following a Low Sodium Diet

Purchasing foods on the low sodium grocery list are just the beginning. Like I mentioned above, most of our daily sodium intake comes from processed foods, including meals eaten outside of the home. Because of this, I challenge you to start cooking more meals at home. Use the following suggestions to make flavorful low sodium meals and snacks at home!

Incorporate Flavor Without the Salt: Cutting back on salt doesn’t mean sacrificing taste. Garlic and onion powder are two very common flavor enhancers to add during cooking that do well with any cuisine. Experiment with other herbs and spices like basil, oregano, rosemary, and turmeric to enhance the flavor of your dishes.

Snack Smarter: Snacking can be heart-healthy too. Opt for unsalted nuts, seeds, fresh fruits, and cut-up vegetables with hummus for satisfying and low sodium snack choices. I love recommending keeping a fruit bowl in your house so healthy options are in plain sight!

Plan Ahead for Success: Before heading to the grocery store, plan your meals for the week. This prevents impulse buying and ensures you have the necessary ingredients for low sodium recipes.

For tips on other heart-healthy substitutions you can use during meal prep, read “5 Healthy Recipe Substitutions [Plus Free PDF]“.

Sample Low Sodium Daily Meal Plan

Here’s a quick 1-day low sodium meal plan you can use as an example. It will provide ~2,000 calories and ~1,250 mg of sodium. Make sure to drink plenty of water or another sodium-free beverage throughout the day to stay hydrated!

BreakfastMediterranean Diet Oatmeal, 4 oz. orange juice, and 8 oz. black coffee

Mid-Morning SnackBeet Smoothie for High Blood Pressure

LunchGrilled Chicken Summer Salad, 2 Tbsp. hummus with carrots and celery sticks

Mid-Afternoon Snack– 1 oz. unsalted mixed nuts, 1 small apple

DinnerUnexpectedly Good Dilly Bean Stew with Cabbage, 1 slice whole grain bread with 1 Tbsp. margarine

Bedtime Snack– Low sodium popcorn made with air-popped popcorn and dried herbs and spices >> Check out the recipe in “17 Best Low Sodium Popcorn Selections (Dietitian Approved)

Want more low sodium recipes? Visit the RECIPES page for more flavorful options.

More Low Sodium Resources

I have other sodium resources that may help you understand and follow a low sodium diet. Check out the following handouts and click the image for more information.

Sodium Facts review sheet
Salt substitute guide


Transitioning to a low sodium lifestyle is a significant step towards promoting heart health. Depending on your current eating habits, it may or may not take some effort on your part. But hopefully I’ve helped give you a nudge in the right direction.

By learning which foods are naturally low is sodium or sodium-free, reading food labels, flavoring foods with herbs and spices, and planning meals ahead, you can set yourself up for success.

And don’t forget your free low sodium shopping list. Download the PDF below to arm yourself with a comprehensive low sodium grocery list before you head shopping.

You’re now equipped to make informed choices that benefit both your taste buds and your heart. Remember, every small decision you make while shopping has a positive impact on your journey to overall well-being.

Have you downloaded the Low Sodium Grocery List yet? Get it here!

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