Sodium in lunch meat


6 Low-Sodium Sandwich Recipes to Make for Lunch

If you regularly brown bag it to work, there’s a good chance you’re eating sandwiches on a somewhat regular basis. As good as that decision may be for your budget, it could be harming your health. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that sandwiches are packed with sodium and, on average, are responsible for about one-fifth of the average American’s salt intake.

Too much sodium may raise your blood pressure and increases your risk of stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease, according to Live Science. This doesn’t mean you need to swear off sandwiches, though. By preparing low-sodium versions, you can cut back on your daily salt intake while enjoying a satisfying lunch. Here are six recipes that will help you consume less salt.

1. Strawberry and Cream Cheese Sandwich

Strawberry and cream cheese sandwich | Source: iStock

Sweeten your midday meal by preparing Eating Well’s strawberry and cream cheese sandwich. One serving contains 128 calories, 4 grams of fat, 191 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.


  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat cream cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon honey
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 slices very thin whole-wheat sandwich bread
  • 2 medium strawberries, sliced

Directions: Combine cream cheese, honey, and orange zest in a bowl. Spread bread with the cheese mixture. Place sliced strawberries on 1 piece of bread and top with the other.

2. Chicken Waldorf Salad Sandwiches

Chicken waldorf salad | Source: iStock

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams and further reducing your intake to 1,500 milligrams if you are 51 and older, African-American, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Thanks to Bumble Bee’s low-sodium sandwich, you’ll find that it’s a breeze to stay within those daily recommendations. The recipe for chicken waldorf salad sandwiches yields 2 servings, with each containing 398 calories, 16 grams of fat, 399 milligrams of sodium, and 25 grams of protein.


  • 1 can white chicken, drained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ½ cup red seedless grapes, halved
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ green apple, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • ½ cup raw baby spinach leaves

Directions: In a small bowl, stir together lemon juice, yogurt, mayo, and chili flakes until combined. Gently fold in chicken, grapes, celery, apple, raisins, and walnuts. Divide ½ the salad onto each of 2 slices of bread, topping with half the spinach and remaining slices to make sandwiches.

3. Veggie Sandwich with Edamame Hummus

Veggie sandwich | Source: iStock

Filled with wholesome, healthy, and filling ingredients, Prevention’s veggie sandwich with edamame hummus is a great source of protein, fiber, and iron. In addition, there’s no need to stress about salt with this dish; one serving only contains 380 milligrams of sodium.


  • ¾ cup frozen shelled edamame
  • ⅓ cup 0% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon honey mustard
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 4 slices thin-sliced whole wheat bread, toasted
  • ¾ cup baby spinach
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 Kirby cucumber, sliced

Directions: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the edamame and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain well. Place in a mini-processor and blend until finely chopped. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, parsley, chives, mustard, and salt. Process until smooth. Spread 2 tablespoons of the edamame hummus on each slice of bread. Top with the spinach. Spoon on ½ tablespoon of the hummus on top. Top with the sliced tomato and cucumber and a final dollop of hummus.

4. Pear, Turkey, and Cheese Sandwich

Pears | Source: iStock

Using low- or reduced-sodium deli meat is a great way to make sure your sandwich isn’t packed with salt. USA Pears’ pear, turkey, and cheese sandwich, via The Oregon Dairy Council, has 190 calories, 4 grams of fat, 480 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fiber. Consider pairing your sandwich with FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s microwave potato chips. There are only 2 milligrams of sodium per serving.


  • 2 slices multi-grain or rye sandwich bread
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 (1-ounce) slices reduced-sodium cooked or smoked turkey
  • 1 pear, cored and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • Coarsely ground pepper

Directions: Spread each slice of bread with 1 teaspoon mustard. Place one slice turkey on each slice of bread. Arrange pear slices on turkey and sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons cheese. Sprinkle with pepper. Broil, 4 to 6 inches from heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until turkey and pears are warm and cheese melts. Cut each sandwich in half and serve open face.

5. Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Chicken salad sandwich | Source: iStock

Better Homes and Gardens’ rich and creamy Chicken Salad Sandwich is low in fat and sodium. One serving has 237 calories, 7 grams of fat, 416 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.


  • 1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
  • ⅓ cup chopped cored apple, chopped seeded cucumber, or finely chopped celery
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 8 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 4 lettuce leaves

Directions: In a medium bowl, stir together chicken, apple, and egg. Add yogurt and mayonnaise; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 4 hours. Spread chicken mixture on half of the bread slices. Top with lettuce leaves and remaining bread slices. Cut away crusts if desired. Cut each sandwich into four triangles or squares.

6. Low-Sodium Egg Salad

Egg salad sandwich | Source: iStock

Low Sodium Gourmet creates a healthy reduced-salt sandwich by using sour cream to replace most of the mayonnaise. One serving of this low-sodium egg salad has 155 calories, 11.9 grams of fat, 122.8 milligrams of sodium, and 9 grams of protein. For a satisfying low-sodium sandwich, serve it on wheat bread with lettuce.


  • 8 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 bunches green onion, choppped
  • ⅓ cup light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon paprika

Directions: Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, ground mustard, red wine vinegar, onion powder, black pepper, and paprika in a large bowl. Stir until well combined. Add hard-boiled eggs and green onion, stirring until well blended. Sprinkle additional paprika on top for color, if desired.

More from Culture Cheat Sheet:
  • 7 Recipes Offering Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Pub Foods
  • 6 Healthy Weeknight Dinners You Can Make in 10 Minutes or Less

If these are some of your favorite restaurants, Krieger suggests ordering foods as plain as possible and using portion control.

“Ordering wisely and keeping your portions reasonable, like one slice of plain or vegetable pizza and a salad, allows you to scale back on sodium as well as fat and calories,” she says.

Krieger also offers these 10 tips to help trim the sodium when dining out:

1. Ask lots of questions to learn as much as you can about the preparation of each food; even a baked potato may be rolled in salt before cooking. Ask about spices, rubs, marinades, and finishing sauces, all of which can be loaded with sodium.

2. Frequent locally-owned restaurants where most foods are cooked to order. It may be easier for such restaurants to accommodate requests for less salt.

3. Skip the sauce on your entree, or ask that it be served on the side. For taste without all the sodium, just dip your fork into the sauce, then use it to spear your food. (This helps control calories and fat as well as sodium.)

4. Pass on casseroles and stick to basic foods that are grilled, baked, or roasted.

5. Salsa and ketchup may be low in calories and fat but high in sodium, so use them sparingly.

6. Taste your food before salting and use the salt shaker sparingly.

7. Bring along your own low-sodium spice mix, like Mrs. Dash, to flavor your food.

8. Round out your meal with simply prepared fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium. Ask for steamed vegetables with no sauce, and use a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavor.

9. Go easy on the cheese, olives, deli meat, and croutons in your salad, and ask for salad dressings on the side.

10. Order sorbet or fruit for dessert.

19 Best Low-Sodium Fast Food Orders, According to Dietitians

Looking to slash your sodium intake or are you following a low-sodium diet? Truth be told, the fast-food counter probably isn’t the best place to start and certainly doesn’t deserve a regular spot in your healthy eating rotation, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the drive-thru.

We reached out to nutrition experts and registered dietitians to put together a list of 20 low-sodium fast food orders so you can stick to your heart-healthy diet when on the road.

What is considered low sodium?

“The FDA considers a food product ‘low-sodium’ if it contains 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving; however, it isn’t realistic for fast-food entrées to go that low,” advises Ysabel Montemayor, MS, RD, lead nutritionist at Fresh n’ Lean, a healthy meal delivery service.

“With that being said, , I’d choose items that are less than 20 percent of the FDA’s 2,300-milligrams daily value (DV) recommendation based on a 2,000 calorie diet.”

That comes out to 460 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Why should you pay attention to your sodium intake?

It’s particularly important that those with high blood pressure, hypernatremia, hypertension, and/or heart failure pay attention to their sodium intake. People with kidney disease should also be mindful of sodium, as overconsuming the nutrient can put additional strain on your kidneys. Above all, stick to your doctor’s guidelines.

Even if you aren’t currently experiencing any of these health issues, it would also benefit you to reduce your sodium intake.

Most Americans overshoot the FDA’s sodium guidelines by a longshot. In fact, the average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium every day, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The AHA notes that “cutting back just 1,000 milligrams of sodium a day can significantly improve blood pressure and heart health.” (In fact, the AHA recommends an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.) And there is more than enough opportunity to make that thousand-calorie cut when you pull up to the drive-thru, where orders of burgers and fries easily climb upwards of 3,000 milligrams of sodium.

What are the best low-sodium fast food orders?

Of course, we all crave fast food from time to time. Barring serious medical conditions, if you’re traveling, in a hangry SOS-mode, or seriously craving a break from the slow-cooker, here are the 20 best low-sodium fast food finds that dietitians recommend.


Taco Bell’s Fresco Crunchy Taco with Beef

Courtesy of Taco Bell

Sodium: 300 mg

One Fresco Crunchy Taco with Beef has 140 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. “This taco is lower in sodium compared to other tacos, and can be a satiating snack due to its decent amount of protein and fiber,” says Montemayor. “If looking for a more filling meal, eating two of these beef tacos will provide less sodium (600 milligrams) than one of the Taco Bell Beef Burrito Supreme (1,140 milligrams)—something to consider if sodium intake needs to be limited.”


Subway’s 6″ Veggie Delite

Courtesy of Subway

Sodium: 280 mg

Subway certainly isn’t a wealth of low-sodium choices, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than this Veggie Delight sandwich. If you order it on Subway’s 9-Grain Wheat bread, “One 6-inch sandwich contains 12 percent of your sodium DV for 200 calories, 2 grams total fat, 39 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, and 9 grams of protein. This sandwich is one of the lowest sodium items on the Subway menu, making it a great option for those on a sodium restriction,” says Montemayor.

If you are looking to add a bit more protein to the sandwich without overloading on the high-sodium cold cuts, Montemayor suggests adding Swiss cheese. This addition will bring up the protein to 13 grams while keeping sodium fairly low (310 milligrams or 13% DV). “A great benefit of the sandwich is that it provides two servings of vegetables, is high in Vitamin A and C, and a good source of Iron,” she adds. Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LDN, director of nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center, a world-renowned lifestyle health resort program, recommends you pair your sub with “a nice big apple or another piece of fruit you’ve brought from home, and you’re not only eating well, but you’re also feeling full.”


Wendy’s Baked Potato With Sour Cream

Courtesy of Wendy’s

Sodium: 35 mg

“My favorite thing to order when I’m on the run, and have no better options is a plain baked potato from Wendy’s, with only 25 milligrams of sodium. You can add sour cream and chives for an extra 10 milligrams of sodium,” shares Karen Z. Berg, MS, RD, CDN, a dietitian at St. Francis Hospital in New York. “I like it because it’s a whole food and you know what you’re getting. It’s only 270 calories and also has 1,560 milligrams of potassium for an added bonus.” For more ways to get bloat-banishing, muscle-relaxing potassium in your diet, don’t miss these high-potassium foods.


Smoothie King’s Vegan Pineapple Spinach Smoothie

Courtesy of Smoothie King

Sodium: 130 mg

With 130 milligrams of sodium, consider this 350-calorie shake a light meal or a solid post-workout protein shake treat. “The Vegan Pineapple Spinach blend has organic spinach and carrots to help you get much-needed veggies. Plus, it’s a good source of protein and supplies more than 30 percent of your daily fiber requirements,” says Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and weight loss expert. “For those who need a little more, you could always customize your blend with more protein (and more veggies!).” Bonus: Many of Smoothie King’s blends have no added sugar or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, so add this nationwide chain to your green-light list.


Chick-fil-A’s 8-count Grilled Chicken Nuggets

Courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Sodium: 440 mg (515 mg if paired with half a packet of honey mustard sauce)

This menu item packs in a whopping 25 grams of protein for only 140 calories and 19 percent of your sodium DV. Pair it with their Fruit Cup (0 mg sodium), and if you’d like, use half a packet of Honey Mustard Sauce (75 mg sodium) for dipping for a total of 515 milligrams sodium.

“Chick-fil-A’s grilled chicken nuggets are a good source of lean protein while being significantly lower in sodium (540 milligrams sodium less) than an 8-count order of the original Chick-fil-A nuggets (980 milligrams sodium),” says Montemayor. “I’d still feel full and satisfied while avoiding excess sodium, especially if I use the dipping sauce in moderation. Adding a fruit cup to the order provides a variety of nutrients and fiber with no added sodium.”


Starbucks’ PB&J Protein Box

Courtesy of Starbucks

Sodium: 570 mg

“I like this grab-and-go lunch box because it is a well-balanced variety of healthy foods with different flavors and textures to keep your taste buds interested. In one 520-calorie box, you get rich protein-packed peanut butter, soft whole grain bread, tart calcium-rich yogurt dip, and cheese, plus crisp fruits and veggies,” comments Maggie Moon, MS, RD, Los Angeles-based dietitian and author of The MIND Diet of this 570-milligram sodium per box order. “The PB&J Protein box has what it takes to keep you satisfied for hours, including 20 grams of filling protein, 18 grams of brain-boosting and heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and 20-percent of your daily fiber needs (five grams).”


Chick-fil-A’s Greek Yogurt Parfait with Granola

Courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Sodium: 100 mg

Chick-fil-A’s Greek Yogurt Parfait with Granola is a solid bet if you’re looking to limit your sodium intake.”This item is a little higher in sugars (23 grams per serving) than a savory dish, but that is mostly due to the fruit and the dairy in this item,” notes Yule. “The parfait offers 13 grams of protein, 15% DV calcium, and riboflavin from the dairy, and phytochemicals from the fruit. It is one of the few items at this restaurant that is low-sodium.” Plus, this item fits the FDA’s standardized definition for a low-sodium item (which is <140 milligrams of sodium per serving.


Panera’s ½ Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich + ½ Seasonal Greens Salad

Courtesy of Panera Bread

470 mg sodium

“I like that you can order half items in combinations at Panera Bread and usually opt for half of a Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich and half of a seasonal greens salad with reduced-fat balsamic vinaigrette,” says Lindsey Toth, MS, RD of Swanson Health. “This combo comes out to 470 milligrams of sodium and 16 grams of satiating protein, plus almonds are rich in skin-loving vitamin E. This fast food salad provides healthy carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect eyes from blue light exposure due to our devices and computer screens.”


Au Bon Pain’s Greek Vanilla Yogurt and Blueberry Parfait


Sodium: 115 mg

Bring on the Greek yogurt. “At only 115 milligrams of sodium for the entire meal, sweet and creamy and it hits the spot for breakfast or lunch with 24 grams of satisfying protein and 5 grams of fiber,” say Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT & Tammy Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, The Nutrition Twins, founders of 21-Day Body Reboot. “And with only 340 calories and 6 grams of fat, you can feel good about yourself for finding something healthy at a quick-serve restaurant.”


McDonald’s Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

Courtesy of McDonald’s

Sodium: 140 mg (260 mg with side of scrambled eggs)

“At McDonald’s, it’s very difficult to eat a low sodium fast food order — even when you think you’re making a healthier choice like a salad with chicken. Now that they offer all-day breakfast, I’ll order breakfast items no matter what time of day it is,” says Christy Brissette, MS, RD, President of 80 Twenty Nutrition. “I’ll get the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal (without the brown sugar) for 140 milligrams of sodium. To get more protein, “I’ll also get a side order of two scrambled eggs which contain 120 milligrams of sodium,” she adds, a move which brings the total meal to 260 milligrams of sodium.


Dunkin’ Multigrain Oatmeal

Courtesy of Dunkin’

Sodium: 250 mg

Topped with dried fruit, this DDSmart oatmeal is a filling and relatively healthy way to power up your day. “It’s 250 milligrams of sodium (since it’s instant) but has a whopping 7 grams of fiber to help you feel full throughout the morning,” says Berg. “It has a fair amount of sugar, but way less than those Munchkins staring up at you from the counter.” As for that coffee, you’ll be pairing it with, get expert advice with these easy ways to stay slim at any coffee shop.


In-N-Out’s Protein Style Hamburger

Shal W./Yelp

Sodium: 370 mg

This selection uses lettuce instead of the bun and comes in at 370 milligrams sodium and 240 calories. “Ordering your burger ‘protein-style’ can significantly reduce its sodium content, while retaining most of the flavors of a standard one,” shares Montemayor. “A hamburger with the bun contains 650 milligrams sodium while without the bun has 370 milligrams sodium—which saves you 280 milligrams if you order protein-style.” Going sans-bun will also save you 150 calories and 18 grams of carbs. And—yes—this suggestion applies to the hamburger only. Adding a single slice of cheese raises your sodium count to 720 milligrams.


Panera’s Steel Cut Oatmeal with Almonds, Quinoa & Honey

Courtesy of Panera Bread

Sodium: 150 mg

Looking for a low-sodium fast food breakfast option at Panera? This Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Almonds, Quinoa, and Honey is a stellar choice, ” only 150 milligrams of sodium, contributing to only 9 percent of the daily value of sodium recommended per day,” says Chef Julie Harrington, RD. “I love the addition of quinoa to the steel cut oats to not only add a nutty flavor and texture but also introducing ancient grains in new ways.” Plus, the combination of protein- and fiber-rich quinoa and almonds help this bowl climb up to 10 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per serving for just 320 calories and 7 grams of sugar.


Chipotle’s Burrito Bowl with Chicken & Fajita Vegetables


Sodium: 490 mg

Not every dish at the popular Mexican chain has to be a salt bomb. “When I get a craving for Chipotle, I opt for a Burrito Bowl with chicken and fajita vegetables, then top it off with lettuce and sour cream,” says Toth. “This combination works out to 490 milligrams of sodium, which is much lower than other menu options, plus it gives me 35 grams of protein, which supports healthy muscles and keeps me feeling fuller longer.”


Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box

Courtesy of Starbucks

Sodium: 540 mg

Need some fuel? Avoid the pastry options and go for this low-sodium fast-food Eggs & Cheese Protein Box with 470 calories and 23 grams of protein per box. “This box is prepacked with whole unprocessed foods including a hard-boiled egg, natural nut butter, fruit, cheese, and a small raisin muffin for the nut butter to go on,” says Dr. Keith Kantor, who has a PhD in Nutritional Science and is CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking (NAMED) program. “The other boxes available at Starbucks are also significantly lower in sodium then traditional fast food options which normally run about 1,000 milligrams or more per serving. I recommend these options because they contain higher quality ingredients and fresh fruit and vegetables in portion-controlled containers.”


Pizza Hut’s Veggie Lovers Small Thin ‘N Crispy Slice

Pizza Hut/Facebook

Sodium: 270 mg

When you’re craving a slice, you know all too well can lead to befriending an entire pie on your couch a few days later. Instead, embrace your hankering and go for a slice of veggie-filled pizza from Pizza Hut. Most people assume that pizza will break the sodium and the calorie bank, but at just 100 calories per slice, you get a health bonus in addition to the lower calorie and sodium load —antioxidants from the veggies,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Plus, with 3.5 grams of fat, and only 1.5 grams of saturated fat, you can enjoy a slice without worrying that it will sabotage your health or your waistline.”


Arby’s Jalapeño Roast Beef Slider (Without Cheese)

Courtesy of Arby’s

Sodium: 470 mg

“Bread, cheese and seasoned chicken and meat are all high in sodium, so ordering a low sodium fast food meal at Arby’s can be a challenge. This is where size matters,” cautions Brissette. “Instead of ordering a regular sandwich or gyro, I recommend ordering one of Arby’s sliders and holding the cheese. The Jalapeño Roast Beef Slider without cheese is 470 milligrams of sodium (which saves you 200 milligrams of sodium if you order it with the Swiss). Pair it with a side salad and ask for some lemon or vinegar to squeeze on top.”

Or, try asking for the lowest sodium salad dressing option from their menu, their Dijon Honey Mustard Dressing. You can also order the lowest sodium salad dressing option they have, their Dijon Honey Mustard Dressing, but since the whole packet is 230 milligrams of sodium, try to only use half of it.


Five Guy’s Little Hamburger

Diana C./Yelp

Sodium: 380 mg

“A Little Hamburger from Five Guys has 380 milligrams sodium, which is fairly low (17% DV), however, that only accounts for the bun and one patty,” advises Montemayor. “Adding toppings can increase sodium levels significantly, so it may be beneficial to look up nutrition information of each to avoid going overboard.” To keep sodium with a good range, try mustard, tomatoes, grilled/chopped onions, jalapeños, green peppers, and lettuce, Montemayor suggests.


Panera’s Half-Size Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken

” 300 milligrams of sodium per serving.” says Summer Yule, MS, RDN. “In addition, this salad offers three grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein for only 285 calories.” Headed to Panera? Check out our ranking of Panera’s entire menu!

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References (10)

  • American Heart Association: Conditions: High Blood Pressure: Shaking the Salt Habit
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 05062, Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Breast, Meat Only, Raw
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 09131, Grapes, American Type (Slip Skin), Raw
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 09003, Apples, Raw, With Skin
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 01117, Yogurt, Plain, Low Fat, 12 Grams Protein per 8 Ounce
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 12154, Nuts, Walnuts, Black, Dried
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 18035, Bread, Multi-Grain (Includes Whole-Grain)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 05220, Turkey, Fryer-Roasters, Breast, Meat Only, Cooked, Roasted
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 09037, Avocados, Raw, All Commercial Varieties
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24: Basic Report: Nutrient Data for 01129, Egg, Whole, Cooked, Hard-Boiled

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  • Call us toll-free at 1-800-242-8721, or

  • Write to us at National Service Center, American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75231.

(REV August 2016)

Why Deli Meats Are So Popular (2:27)

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From flavored and smoked, to low-sodium and organic — packaged deli meat is a 13-billion dollar business that has grown more confusing over time. The most processed meats of all (salami, pepperoni, and bologna) are essentially sausages made from meat and fat – they can include leftover organs and scraps, which are then cured with starch, salt, corn syrup and preservatives like nitrates. Nitrates make the meat last longer because they kill bacteria and give deli meats their color.

From This Episode:

Your Food Deconstructed: Deli Meats

There are also several extra ingredients that can be added without your knowledge, such as fillers, gluten, antibiotic residues, and sugar. Ideally, you should aim to avoid these and get as close to a natural cut of the animal as possible, but this can be difficult when additives are used in most processed meats. Nutritionist Kellyann Petrucci and Dr. Mark Hyman ranked the top deli meats — looking at the biggest brands and multiple criteria, including salt, saturated fat, and flavor. Out of 260 different products, they were able to narrow it down to these top five picks:

  1. Boar’s Head Ovengold® Roasted Turkey Breast – Skinless
  2. Applegate Naturals® Smoked Turkey Breast
  3. Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Lower Sodium Rotisserie Chicken Breast
  4. Boar’s Head Simplicity® All Natural* Cap-Off Top Round Oven Roasted Beef
  5. Land O’Frost Simply Delicious Hickory Smoked Ham


How to Buy the Healthiest Food at Your Local Deli Counter

The Pork Buyer’s Guide

The 5 Supermarket Foods Chefs Love

9 Easy and Delicious Low-Sodium Lunch Ideas

Sandwiches are a mealtime staple: Nearly half of U.S. adults eat one on any given day. While turkey on whole wheat may seem like a healthier option than cheesy pastas, pizza, and fried food, research shows that sandwiches are one of the saltiest foods in our diet, contributing about one-fifth of Americans’ total daily sodium intake. The average sandwich supplies nearly 700 mg of sodium, according to a 2015 analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And this may be a lowball figure, since the data was based on participants’ self-reported food intake, and people tend to underestimate portion sizes.

Restaurant sandwiches are the worst offenders. For example, the Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich at Panera Bread delivers 2,830 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is well above the 2,300 mg daily sodium cap recommended for healthy people.

In the study, the sandwich category also included burgers and other fast food sandwiches, which can deliver upwards of 1,500 mg per order.

It makes sense that sandwiches are loaded with salt, because nearly every layer is a high-sodium ingredient. Bread provides 100 to 200 mg per slice, and sandwich bases at restaurants and delis are typically far doughier than classic sliced bread. Jumbo hoagie rolls, ciabatta, dense flatbreads, and oversized wraps can supply the sodium (and calorie) equivalent of 4 to 5 standard slices. Cold cuts like ham, turkey, and salami contribute up to 700 mg per 2-ounce serving, and most sandwiches have at least double that amount. When you factor in the cheese (120 to 250 mg per slice) and condiments like mayo, mustard, and creamy signature sauces (up to 300 mg per tablespoon), you can end up with a total salt bomb.

And if your typical sandwich includes cold cuts, salt isn’t the only reason you might want to switch up your lunch routine. Regular consumption of processed meat has been associated with increased risk of colon cancer, and it isn’t clear whether leaner deli meats like chicken and turkey pose any less risk.

Try These Lower-Salt Lunches

Sandwiches are popular lunch fare for a reason: They’re a quick and convenient meal option, and they hold up well when packed in advance. If you love your daily sandwich but don’t want to pump your system with salt, try some of these lower-sodium alternatives to traditional meat and cheese combos. In addition to cutting salt, these tasty options will fortify your midday meal with plenty of nutrient-rich produce. If at all possible, make or order your sandwich on standard sliced bread to avoid excess sodium and calories.

  • Hummus and veggies Smear on a hummus base (compare labels for sodium content if using store-bought) and layer with lettuce, tomato, coleslaw mix, sliced cucumber, shredded carrot, radishes, and other crunchy vegetables.
  • Grilled veggie and mozzarella Fresh mozzarella, usually sold in ball form, is lower in salt than the firmer sliced type sold in packages or at the deli counter. If you prefer, swap the mozz for another lower-sodium choice, like Swiss or soft goat cheese. If you have the time, grill a big batch of sliced eggplant, zucchini, squash, and red pepper ahead of time and use them for sandwiches during the week. If you need a simpler option, try sliced tomatoes or baby spinach. (Heads up: If you’re ordering a variation of this sandwich at a restaurant, be aware that salty sauces can jack up the sodium content.)
  • PB and Fruit Make a healthier version of this lunch box standby by pairing your favorite nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.) with sliced fresh fruit instead of jelly. Bananas, apples, strawberries, grapes, and blueberries are all good picks.
  • Grilled chicken and avocado Grilled chicken is almost always lower in sodium than turkey or chicken cold cuts, so ask if it’s an option when ordering out at delis. Ripe avocado acts as a creamy condiment and supplies heart-healthy fats.
  • Low-sodium tuna salad Most stores stock low-sodium canned light tuna, and mixing it with Greek yogurt instead of mayo slashes even more salt (I usually compromise with a combo of the two). Fold in plenty of chopped celery, onion, or bell pepper to add flavor, nutrition, and power to this sandwich.

If you’re not a sandwich person or want to change things up, here some other heart-healthy, salt-conscious lunch options to consider:

  • Leftovers Packing lunch can be as simple as scooping dinner leftovers into a storage container. Your homemade entrée will be lower in sodium than most take-out meals if you’re being careful with salt at home.
  • Salads Green salads are usually a good bet because the base consists of vegetables, which are naturally very low in sodium. Of course, you’ll need to be prudent with salty mix-ins like cheeses, olives, bacon bits, ham, and pickled ingredients. Instead of prepared dressing, top your salad with olive oil and vinegar, which are both naturally sodium-free.
  • Grain and bean combos One of my favorite quick lunches is brown rice combined with black or pinto beans (I buy canned low-sodium varieties and rinse them well), a spoonful of salsa, and diced avocado. By mixing and matching different grains (farro, quinoa, barley, etc.) and beans (chickpeas, kidney, etc.) and adding a variety of chopped veggies, you’ll keep things fresh and add more plant-based meals into your rotation.
  • A little of this and a little of that If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll grab a hodgepodge of items to make a healthy, balanced meal, including but not limited to fruit, cut veggies, hummus, nuts, whole-grain crackers, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and plain chickpeas. (My combos are healthy enough, but not nearly as adorable as the bento box lunches I’ve been seeing from mom bloggers lately.)

Photo Credit: Jill Chen/Stocksy

Sodium-Controlled Diet

Sodium Guidelines

Sodium is a mineral found naturally in foods and also added to foods. Sodium plays an important role in maintaining normal fluid balance in the body. A low-sodium diet is important to follow in order to control your heart failure symptoms and prevent future heart problems.

  • Limiting your sodium and fluid intake will help prevent and control the amount of fluid around your heart, lungs, or in your legs.
  • When you carry extra fluid, it makes your heart work harder and may increase your blood pressure.

A low-sodium diet means more than eliminating the salt shaker from the table!

  • One teaspoon of table salt = 2,300 mg of sodium

General Guidelines

  • Eliminate the salt shaker.
  • Avoid using garlic salt, onion salt, MSG, meat tenderizers, broth mixes, Chinese food, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, barbeque sauce, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, pickle relish, bacon bits, and croutons.
  • Use fresh ingredients and/or foods with no added salt.
  • For favorite recipes, you may need to use other ingredients and delete the salt added. Salt can be removed from any recipe except for those containing yeast.
  • Try orange, lemon, lime, pineapple juice, or vinegar as a base for meat marinades or to add tart flavor.
  • Avoid convenience foods such as canned soups, entrees, vegetables, pasta and rice mixes, frozen dinners, instant cereal and puddings, and gravy sauce mixes.
  • Select frozen meals that contain around 600 mg sodium or less.
  • Use fresh, frozen, no-added-salt canned vegetables, low-sodium soups, and low-sodium lunchmeats.
  • Look for seasoning or spice blends with no salt, or try fresh herbs, onions, or garlic.
  • Do not use a salt substitute unless you check with your doctor or dietitian first, due to potential drug or nutrient interactions.
  • Be aware of and try to limit the “Salty Six” (American Heart Association), which include:
    • Breads, rolls, bagels, flour tortillas, and wraps.
    • Cold cuts and cured meats.
    • Pizza.
    • Poultry (much poultry and other meats are injected with sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts for sodium content or read the package for a description of a solution, for example, “Fresh chicken in a 15% solution.”)
    • Soup.
    • Sandwiches.

Learn to read food labels. Use the label information on food packages to help you make the best low-sodium selections. Food labels are standardized by the U.S. government’s National Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). Nutrition labels and an ingredient list are required on most foods, so you can make the best selection for a healthy lifestyle.

Review the food label below. Determine the total amount of sodium in this product, or ask your dietitian or healthcare provider to show you how to read food labels and apply the information to your personal needs.

Maintain a healthy body weight. This includes losing weight if you are overweight. Limit your total daily calories, follow a low-fat diet, and include physical activity on most, if not all days in order to maintain a healthy weight. Eating a healthy diet to either maintain or lose weight often means making changes to your current eating habits.

In order to make sure you are meeting your specific calorie needs, as well as vitamin and mineral needs, a registered dietitian can help. A registered dietitian can provide personalized nutrition education, tailor these general guidelines to meet your needs, and help you implement a personal action plan.

Restaurant Dining Tips

  • Choose a restaurant that will prepare items to your request and substitute items.
  • Plan ahead by reducing your serving sizes of foods high in sodium.
  • Order food a la carte or individually to get only the foods you want.


  • Avoid soups and broths.
  • Request fresh bread and rolls without salty, buttery crusts.
  • Avoid breaded items.


  • Avoid pickles, canned or marinated vegetables, olives, cured meats, bacon and bacon bits, seasoned croutons, cheeses, salted seeds, and nuts.
  • Order salad dressings on the side and dip your fork in them before taking a bite of the food item.
  • Request steamed vegetables.

Main courses

  • Select meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish choices that include the words broiled, baked, grilled, roasted, and without breading.
  • Request plain noodles or vegetable dishes.
  • Ask the server about the low-sodium menu choices, and ask how the food is prepared.
  • Request food to be cooked without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Avoid restaurants that do not allow for special food preparation, such as buffet-style restaurants, diners, or fast food chains.
  • Avoid casseroles and mixed dishes. Ask for gravies and sauces on the side or omit them all together.
  • At fast food restaurants, choose the salad entrees or non-fried and non-breaded entrees, and skip the special sauces, condiments, and cheese.*
  • Avoid breaded items.

*Avoid salted condiments and garnishes such as olives, pickles, and relish.


  • Select fruit, sherbet, gelatin, and plain cakes.

Meat, Fish, Eggs, Poultry, Bean

  • Choose – 2-3 Servings Per Day
    • Fresh or frozen meat (beef, veal, lamb, pork), poultry, fish or shellfish.
    • Low-sodium canned meat or fish.
    • Eggs.
    • Dried or frozen beans and peas.
  • Go Easy
    • Low-sodium processed meats like ham, corned beef, bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, hot dogs.
    • Low-sodium frozen dinners (less than 600 mg sodium per meal).
  • Avoid
    • Frozen, salted meat or fish.
    • Processed meats like ham, corned beef, bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, hot dogs, spare ribs, salt pork, ham hocks, meat spreads.
    • Canned meat or fish.
    • Breaded meats.
    • Canned beans like kidney, pinto, black-eyed peas, lentils.
    • Frozen dinners or side dishes with salt.


Fruits & Vegetables

  • Choose – 5 or More Servings Per Day
    • Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits.
    • Fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauces.
    • Low-sodium tomato juice or V-8 juice.
    • Low-sodium tomato sauce.
  • Go Easy
    • Regular tomato sauce.
  • Avoid
    • Canned vegetables.
    • Canned beans.
    • Marinated vegetables such as sauerkraut, pickles, olives.
    • Regular tomato juice or V-8 juice.

Breads & Grains

  • Choose – 6 or More Servings Per Day
    • Low-sodium breads.
    • Low-sodium cereals (old-fashioned oats, quick cook oatmeal, grits, Cream of Wheat or Rice, shredded wheat).
    • Pasta (noodles, spaghetti, macaroni).
    • Rice.
    • Low-sodium crackers.
    • Low-sodium bread crumbs.
    • Granola/li.
    • Corn tortillas.
    • Plain taco shells.
  • Go Easy
    • Regular bread.
    • Bagels.
    • English muffins.
    • Rolls.
    • Cold cereals.
    • Pancakes, waffles.
  • Avoid
    • Croissants, sweet rolls, Danish, doughnuts.
    • Regular crackers.
    • Pasta and rice prepared with cream, butter, or cheese sauces.
    • Scalloped potatoes.
    • Instant cooked cereal packs.
    • Bread, baking and stuffing mixes.
    • Frozen or boxed mixes for rice, pasta and potatoes.
    • Regular bread crumbs.
    • Muffins, biscuits, cornbread.
    • Flour tortilla.

Sweets & Snacks

  • Choose – In Moderation
    • Unsalted nuts.
    • Low-sodium potato chips, pretzels, popcorn, and other snacks.
    • Sherbet, sorbet, Italian ice, popsicles.
    • Fig bars, gingersnaps.
    • Jelly beans and hard candy.
  • Go Easy
    • Angel food cake.
    • Home cakes, cookies, and pies.
    • Brownies.
  • Avoid
    • Regular potato chips, pretzels, popcorn and other salted snacks.
    • Salted nuts and seeds.
    • Pork rinds.
    • Breaded meats.

Fats, Oils, & Condiments

  • Choose
    • Low-sodium butter and margarine.
    • Vegetable oils.
    • Low-sodium salad dressing.
    • Homemade gravy without salt.
    • Low-sodium soups.
    • Low-sodium broth or bouillon.
    • Lemon juice.
    • Vinegar.
    • Herbs and spices without salt.
    • Low-sodium mustard.
    • Low-sodium catsup.
    • Low-sodium sauce mixes.
  • Go Easy
    • Regular butter or margarine.
    • Regular salad dressing.
    • Regular mustard, catsup.
  • Avoid
    • Bacon fat, salt pork.
    • Pickles, olives.
    • Canned or instant gravy mixes.
    • Regular canned soups and broths.
    • Regular bouillon.
    • Soup mixes, seasoned salts.
    • Meat tenderizers and marinades.
    • Sodium preservatives or flavorings such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).
    • Lemon pepper.
    • Soy and teriyaki sauces.
    • Worcestershire sauce.
    • Steak sauce.
    • Barbeque sauce.
    • Shortening, lard.
    • Trans fats.

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