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National Restaurant Association - Nutrition experts offer takes on reducing sodium

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Nutrition experts offer takes on reducing sodium

Dietary guidelines on sodium and calories could impact foodservice, and nutrition experts agree that recommendations for Americans to reduce their sodium intake to between 1,500 and 2,300 mg per day is a target few can accomplish.

Current data suggests sodium intake averages 3,400 mg per day. Dietary sodium drives up the potential to develop hypertension, a risk factor for heart attacks, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

That's why there's so much focus on dietary sodium, says Joan McGlockton, the National Restaurant Association's vice president of industry affairs and food policy.

"Sodium is on the government's radar, and some lawmakers and federal agencies are looking at ways to monitor the public's sodium intake," McGlockton notes. "The NRA supports voluntary efforts to reduce sodium in food, but believes it should not be regulated through legislation. Instead, emphasis should be placed on educating consumers about nutrition.

"Any approach to reducing sodium should be incremental, and education is critical," says McGlockton. "Frankly, consumers are just not there yet. We need to place emphasis on the total diet. Singling out one nutrient is not the best approach."

Citing research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adam Drewnowski, a leading nutrition researcher, states that about 65 percent of sodium intake comes from food bought at retail stores; about 25 percent comes from restaurants.

Here are some ways the NRA suggests restauranteurs can start reducing sodium in menu items:

  • Start with an inventory; see how much salt is in your menu items
  • Gradually reduce salt over time in identified menu items such as through targeted percentage reductions
  • Reduce or eliminate salt while cooking
  • Limit your use of high-sodium seasonings and sauces
  • Work with your vendors to find low-sodium options
  • Experiment with flavor alternatives, such as herbs and spices
  • Explore acidic, pungent and sweetness profiles
  • Check seasoning blends and choose those that do not provide additional salt
  • Offer more fruits and vegetables on menus as an alternative high-salt items
  • Switch to reduced salt ingredients, such as low-sodium soups or those with no added salt, such as diced tomatoes
  • Focus on portion size; reducing portion size will automatically reduce salt

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