'Tis the season to indulge. With all the parties and family gatherings, it's easy to lose track of how much we're consuming, including the amount of sodium we ingest. While sodium is an essential nutrient required for nerve and muscle function and maintaining fluid balance in the body, too much can lead to issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.
The recommended intake, known as the Adequate Intake (AI), for sodium is 1500 mg a day for healthy adults and between 1000-1500 mg a day for healthy children. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) or amount to try and not go above, is 2300 mg a day for healthy adults, which is equal to one teaspoon of salt. However, according to Health Canada, most Canadians consume over 3400 mg of sodium per day, that's more than double the amount we need.
Although it may seem hard to stay on-track during the holidays, these 5 simple strategies can help you moderate your sodium intake.
1.Watch out for desserts. Baked goods, such as cakes, pies and cookies, can contribute a significant amount of salt to your diet. When visiting the sweets table at holiday gatherings, stick to smaller portions and go for fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth.
2. Drink water throughout the day. By the time we're thirsty, we're already dehydrated. And if you're going for alcoholic beverages to quench your thirst, this can lead to further dehydration and a greater intake of calories -- not to mention that too much alcohol could raise your blood pressure. If you forget to drink water with all the running around happening leading up to the holidays, try having a large glass or two before each eating occasion.
3. Add veggies. Instead of filling up on proteins, starches and sauces that can be high in salt, such as ham, gravy and mashed potatoes, start by adding non-starchy veggies to half your plate. Good options include Brussels sprouts or carrots. You can still enjoy some of your holiday faves by keeping a quarter of your plate for protein and the other quarter for starch. In fact, veggies are a great way to add more potassium to your diet, a nutrient which helps maintain healthy blood pressure by increasing the amount of sodium we lose in our urine and decreasing tension in our blood vessel walls.
4. Go homemade. Instead of buying store bought stuffing, ham or pre-made mashed potatoes, opt for an unseasoned turkey, as well as stuffing and potato dishes that you make yourself. To enhance flavour without adding salt, try fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage or parsley.
5. Look at labels. The Nutrition Facts Table is an easy way to find out how much sodium is in the foods you're buying. First, look at the serving size as the amount of sodium listed is based on the reference serving. Products with more than 15 per cent of the DV (Daily Value) are considered high in sodium while those with less than five per cent of the DV are low in sodium. If you check out the label on some President's Choice products, you may notice that they've cut their sodium content by 25 per cent.
With these tips, you can manage your sodium intake throughout the holidays without missing out on your favourite meals.
Néma McGlynn is a registered dietitian with Loblaws. She is part of a network of more than 76 dietitians who provide free services like one-on-one consultations, assisted shopping, school tours and recipe ideas at locations across the country.
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