(SHAPE SINGAPORE) - As any bloat-fearing girl knows, it is always a good idea to choose low-sodium soya sauce as just one tablespoon (15ml) of regular soya sauce contains a whopping 1,000mg of sodium.
Besides soya sauce, you should keep tabs on other salt-laden food as well, says Ms Jaclyn Reutens, a dietitian at Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants.
Though the Health Promotion Board of Singapore recommends no more than 2,000mg (one teaspoon) of sodium a day, Ms Reutens advises keeping your intake below 1,500mg, as people tend to underestimate the amount they are eating. "It's not easy to track the amount of sodium in your diet as most foods come with pre-added salt," she says.
Besides making you feel puffy, a high-sodium diet raises your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, so trimming the salt is a smart move.
Here are some places to start.
Smoked fish and seafood
Before salmon is smoked to derive that delightful oak-y taste, it needs to be cured. The curing process involves slathering the fish with salt, a major sodium contributor, and other ingredients. Just one slice of smoked salmon contains 317mg. By comparison, a slice of salmon sashimi has about 5mg.
Cut the sodium: If you must have smoked fish, limit yourself to three slices, says Ms Reutens.
Bread and croissants
Flaky, buttery pastries such as croissants are known as fat bombs, but they also have a lot of sodium - about 400mg for just one. Another sodium-laden item: bagels - some larger ones contain nearly 700mg.
Even wholemeal bread has a fair amount of sodium at about 150mg a slice. "It actually has nearly the same amount of sodium as a serving of potato chips, but as the salt is on the surface of the chip, it's easier to taste. With bread, it's baked in," says Tammy Lakatos Shames, a US-based dietitian and author of The Secret To Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat, and the 4-Week Plan To Drop A Size and Get Healthier with Simple Low-Sodium Swaps.
Cut the sodium: Avoid overeating bread and pastries. As a guide, have no more than two slices of wholemeal bread each time, says Ms Reutens.
In general, canned or preserved products are higher in sodium, due to the addition of preservatives, sauces and seasonings. Pre-made soup may be instantly gratifying on a dreary day, but one serving of cream of seafood has more than 1,000mg of sodium - two-thirds of your daily quota.
Cut the sodium: Prepare your own broth. For instance, boil celery, carrots, onions, garlic and mushrooms for a few hours, adding chicken bones if you want more flavour, suggests Ms Reutens. If you are using stock cubes, pick those with less than 200mg sodium per 100g.
You might want to think twice about filling your morning sandwich with luncheon meat, ham or another processed cold cut. These artificially derived items - reconstituted from ground meat, bread crumbs, pepper and salt - are saturated with sodium.
A slice of canned luncheon meat has 390mg, chicken ham has 241mg and a chicken sausage has 669mg. Even a really thin slice of bacon packs 192mg, so forget about second helpings.
Cut the sodium: Where possible, use fresh or frozen meat and tofu. They are great in soup and stir-fries, and have way less sodium than their processed counterparts, says Ms Reutens.
Bottled salad dressing
It may seem easier to buy it rather than make it, but most commercial brands of salad dressing can have up to 300mg of sodium per two tablespoons.
Sugar- and fat-free varieties, which seem like the healthier option, tend to compensate for the loss of flavour by adding more salt.
Cut the sodium: You can choose low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties, but they probably will not taste good. A better idea is to use lemon juice or a vinaigrette dressing on your salad: a tablespoon of each contains less than 1mg sodium, says Ms Reutens.
While it is a good source of calcium and protein, feta cheese can be loaded with sodium -1,376mg each 150g cup.
Cut the sodium: If you love feta cheese, look for low-sodium versions whenever possible. A better choice is plain yogurt with about 150mg or a slice of Swiss cheese, which has just 20mg. Alternatively, use light spreadable cream cheese, which contains 396mg of sodium a cup.
Fast food salads
Having chicken caesar instead of a cheeseburger may save you calories, but the sodium content of fast food salads is amped up by the ready-made dressing. Plus, the sachet of ranch is not the only culprit. High-sodium meats, croutons and other additions contribute to the salt count.
Cut the sodium: Order the salad without dressing - or have the dressing sparingly by the side - and toss out some croutons.