8 Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

PHOTO: Barbecue sauce may pack 300 mg of sodium, which translates to 10 to 15% of your days quota.
Michael Phillips/Getty Images

You already know snack foods like chips, crackers, and pretzels pack a lot of salt. But even if you don't eat those, you may be on a high-sodium diet without realizing it.

Many foods you wouldn't expect are swimming in salt, including bagels, cereals, and even cottage cheese, says LeeAnn Smith Weintraub, MPH, RD, a nutrition consultant in Culver City, Calif. Most people should stick to less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (those with high blood pressure should limit it 1,500 mg). Read on for 13 sneaky sources of salt to watch for.

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Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

Sauces

It's no surprise that marinades and salad dressings contain salt, since they taste salty. But it may shock you just how much they have. A two-tablespoon serving of salad dressing or barbecue sauce may pack 300 mg of sodium (10 to 15 percent of your day's quota)—and you often use two servings or more on your food. Same with marinades, which can pack nearly a fifth of your limit in just one tablespoon, which isn't even enough to cover one chicken breast.

Control sodium by making marinades and salad dressings at home.

Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. Low-fat cottage cheese packs a whopping 28 grams of protein for only 160 calories. The catch: a one-cup serving can contain almost 1,000 mg of sodium—about 40 percent of what you're supposed to have in an entire day.

Look for no-salt-added cottage cheese. Greek yogurt, which contains just 60 mg of sodium per serving, is a worthy high-protein substitute.

Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

Cereal

Cereal can be healthy way to start your day—or a salty one. Many cereals have 180 to 300 mg of sodium per serving—up to 12% of what you should consume in a whole day—and that's if you only pour one serving in your bowl.

Better bet: stick with plain oatmeal topped with fruit.

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Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

"Reduced-sodium" foods

When you see "reduced sodium" on a food label, you may think you're being served up a lot less salt. However, this FDA-regulated term means that a food has only 25% less sodium than the original product. So for a frozen meal that contains 1,000 mg of sodium, the reduced-sodium version would have 750 mg—still high.

Reduced-sodium options can be a smart choice if you're slowly trying to cut back on salt, but if you're watching your sodium closely, better labels to look for are "low sodium" (with 140 mg of sodium or less per serving) and "very low sodium" (35 mg of sodium or less).

Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

Veggie burgers

Some soy and veggie burgers are made with a long list of highly processed ingredients and use salt to enhance the flavor. Patties can pack 400 to 500 mg, and that's before the bun, condiments, and cheese.

Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

Hot chocolate

The warming drink is a great way to get your chocolate fix for few calories—there are just 80 to 100 in a packet of mix. But one serving can also contain 7 percent of your recommended daily intake of sodium. If you're on a reduced-sodium diet for any reason, then one packet will be over 10 percent of your quota.

Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

Pancakes

You want a sweet brunch, so what's 2,000 mg of sodium doing in your stack of chocolate chip pancakes?

Making pancakes at home is a better option than ordering them at a diner, but ready-made mixes (with 400 mg of sodium per serving) and pourable mixes (700 mg for three pancakes) can still serve up a lot of salt.

Foods That Are Saltier than You Think

Chicken breasts

Raw chicken breasts harbor a secret: they're often injected with a high-sodium flavoring solution to perk up the taste.

To avoid it, buy chicken with the words "non-enhanced" on the label, avoid brands that list salt on the ingredients label, or go for an organic variety. Weintraub likes a brand called Smart Chicken.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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