After getting home from a long day of work there is nothing better than grabbing a few snacks to settle the appetite and hold you over until dinner is ready.
A glass of milk, a pickle, and a few slices of block cheese will certainly do the trick!
Without giving it a second thought, that little snack just cost you 45% of your daily sodium intake.
Faster Isn’t Always Better
Having a wife that worked at a grocery store for numerous years, and being an avid people-watcher myself, I am often AMAZED when I glance at grocery carts at our local store.
I’d estimate that 50% of the time you’ll see canned food, boxed dinners, bags of chips, and cases/bottles of sodas lining most peoples’ carts.
While I’ve thought a lot about our personal shopping and eating behaviors, I haven’t been able to figure out why so many people eat the way they do: (1) do we just not care what we’re doing to our bodies or (2) are we just too uneducated to understand the impact our decisions have on our well-being?
Better yet, maybe a third scenario fits the best: maybe we just don’t care?
Knowledge is Power
As with all things, educating, understanding, and having knowledge about the things we eat generally will determine what you put into your body. Like I tell my clients: financial knowledge has a direct correlation with financial behavior and this concept proves true throughout other aspects of our lives and diet is certainly among them.
After finding out that my wife had border-line high blood pressure at the age of 27, and discovering that I sported rather high levels of cholesterol, we started to get serious about the things we were putting into our body. The news of our health definitely was a shock because we aren’t overweight and I feel most people would consider us “healthy” based on outward appearance.
After reading books, blogs, magazines, and paying attention to the nutrition labels found on the foods we were buying, we quickly became horrified at what we found.
After taking some time to reflect I find it ironic that our poor health status came about very similarly to how my financial downfall originated: I didn’t educate myself or think on my own; I simply followed what the masses did, accepted it as “the norm” and figured it was the right way to do things.
Our Fight Against Ignorance
While eating healthy and planning a menu accordingly isn’t an easy task, we’ve realized that a little effort and a few extra expenses now could likely save us thousands of dollars and a life of misery in the long-run.
On my blog I recently announced The China Study Diet & Fitness Challenge that my wife and I are undergoing. It involves eliminating animal-based products from our diet and eating things that are primarily plant-based: beans, fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.
Although this major lifestyle change may not suite everybody, we’ve found that making small changes helps us to accomplish a larger end-goal. While we didn’t jump into the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle overnight, we have taken steps over the last year that have led to this point.
One of the first steps we took was making a conscious effort to reduce our daily sodium intake, and this first step could be a great place for you to start. Not only will you feel better, but it could help reduce your blood pressure and pay large dividends down the road.
Reducing Our Sodium Intake
Avoid processed foods.
A majority of the foods that contain highly concentrated levels of sodium are ones that have been boxed and prepackaged.
TV dinners, pizzas, bags of chips, and deli meat are doused with high levels of sodium. Instead of opting for these easy meals, we started by designating a 3 nights each week as a “real meal” night. These “real meals” had to contain fresh ingredients and we’d pay careful attention to the sodium levels of all of the ingredients.
Buy “no salt added” canned goods.
While you may not be able to buy everything fresh, be wary of the canned goods that you buy. Things like tomato sauce, soup, and various beans have TONS of sodium.
Instead of buying cans of garbanzo, black, or red beans that contain 50% of the suggested daily sodium intake, we’ve opted for the “no salt added” cans. While it may take a little taste away, it’s worth the sacrifice when you consider your overall health.
Be smart when you eat out
Eating out, whether fast food or high-end restaurants, was certainly a culprit in elevating our blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you’re eating out on a daily basis, it’s likely that you’re getting 100% of your daily sodium in a single meal!
Always ask for the nutrition guide when you visit your favorite sit-down restaurant. You may be shocked what you see.
For many months we were lucky to see the inside of a restaurant once or twice. These days, if we eat out we opt for the salad and make them serve the dressing in a side cup (dressings are FILLED with salt).
Cook, Cook, Cook
While all of our daily schedules are filled to the max, one must take time to evaluate what’s most important. While I acknowledge that making home-cooked meals take additional time, it will pay dividends in the long-term.
Each Sunday my wife and I sit down and plan our weekly menu. After the menu is set, we go grocery shopping and return home to prepare everything we can for the week. We’ll rinse all of the fruits and vegetables and cut up everything that we can.
Sure, it may take a few hours but this small sacrifice allows us to prepare great meals every evening; even if we’re in a rush.
Have you taken any time to really understand what you’re putting in your body? What steps are you taking to eat healthy and counteract the long-term effects that a poor diet promises?
Guest Post Author Bio: Jason is a financial advisor and Dave Ramsey-trained counselor that blogs over at WorkSaveLive. He shares his family’s journey out of debt, a myriad of financial knowledge, and great weekly recipes.
Yes, it’s crazy how much salt there is in everything – I at least try to never add salt to any food I eat (okay, I do with French fries – but nothing else!). It’s a cheap way to add flavour.
I am the same. I don’t add salt to my food. I actually find I can really pick up on something being salty because my palate is trained to not taste it. I like adding flavour with herbs.
I add raw salt to my meals, which my wife often says “not good”. Thanks for the post. I need to watch out.
I’ve done the samething you did which is look at the nutrition label and was horrified myself. The amount of sodium that can be taken in from one frozen meal is crazy!
I recently started to get back into cooking a vegetable soup my mom would make. It’s all vegetables with salt, pepper, and a squeeze a half a lemon. It’s delicious. My challenge is that I have a sweet tooth. I’m working on it! 🙂
My wife also has a very big sweet tooth and it’s difficult to overcome. However, we’ve noticed that the more healthier we eat and the more we work out, the more we want to continue to do that and avoid things that may not be as good for us.
Saying that, there are some healthy “sweet” recipes out there. If you like chocolate I’d suggest checking out my chocolate chip quinoa ball recipe on my site.
Wow, what a great idea! I just started eating quinoa a couple of years ago and I really really like it. I never would have thought of preparing a dessert recipe out of quinoa. And I’m a decent cook and come up with a lot of creative recipes. I’ll have to try that one. Thanks!
When grocery shopping I usually overlook the sodium content of foods I buy, simply because I’m so concerned with the numerous other toxic additives that are in most of the foods. Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, GMO, the list goes on. It’s easy to forget about salt.
A couple of good ways to cut down on sodium would be to buy unsalted butter and unsalted peanuts. Those can sneak up on you.
Also, use seasoned salt as an alternative to salt when cooking or sprinkling on food.
Thanks for the tips Donny. We try to avoid adding any kind of salt but we’ve been known to throw a few pinches in recipes here-and-there. Salt is really easy to overlook but it does have a lot of negative effects.
I admit I likely eat way too much salt. I need to cut back on soda again and eat less processed foods… should help with my weight goal though!
You’re right Jeremy and that’s the way I was for a long period of time. It’s just accepted that eating out, buying canned and packaged foods, and eating whatever you want is fine because everybody else does it. Unfortunately the reality is that that way of thinking is a recipe for disaster.
It will definitely help with your weight goal! It’s tough to really notice the effects of poor eating habits when you’re young, but changing things now will certainly pay dividends as you age, Lance.
Salt, like many other parts of food, is necessary in an appropriate amount. I will never be able to eat fries without salt 😀
But I completely agree that many processed foods include unnecessary amounts of sodium. Its all about balance in the end.
That would certainly be why there is a daily recommended amount of sodium. However, the daily recommended amount comes out to 1 teaspoon a day. That’s really not a lot of salt.
I find this really amazing – all canned food that is full of salt and sugar. I completely agree – cooking from scratch )and baking your own bread) is the way to have some control over sodium intake.
You can buy no salt added canned goods but they often cost a bit more. To me the price increase is worth it though.
This is a great post- thank you for writing it! I am also avoiding processed foods and eating less meat. I eat meat about once a week and am finding that I feel better than ever.
Good luck with your new diet!!!
I gave up animal products two years ago and I feel and look amazing. Really, I have never felt so good in my life nor have I felt so peaceful at heart. Good for you for eating less.
Yikes, I watch calories, fat, junk food, water intake…. now salt, one more thing to check out.
Awareness is the first step Barb so you are heading in the right direction. Just eat whole fresh food and you should be fine. Avoid the packaged stuff.
I can always tell when I’ve had too much sodium if my ring starts getting tight. It’s a good indicator that I need to stop eating any more sodium.
It’s true. Salt bloat is noticeable. I would also take note of how much water you are drinking. Your body won’t release fluid properly if you are dehydrated.