Combat sodium overload: High-salt foods and healthy swaps

Our love for convenience often comes with a hidden cost: sodium overload lurking in high-salt foods. With packaged and ready-to-eat meals becoming a dietary staple, managing salt intake can feel like a battle. But fear not! This guide equips you with practical tips, delicious recipe alternatives, and the key signs to identify if you’re consuming too much sodium.

What is salt?

Salt, scientifically known as sodium chloride, is a mineral consisting of the elements sodium and chloride. It is commonly referred to as ‘sodium.’ Various types of salt are sourced either from the sea or from terrestrial deposits. The most familiar form, table salt, is generally obtained from subterranean deposits. This salt undergoes refinement and grinding, which modify its composition. Additionally, anti-caking agents are often added to table salt to enhance its shelf life.

How can I determine if a product is high in salt?

To monitor your salt intake, develop the habit of reading the nutritional labels on food packages. Use the following guidelines to assess whether a product is high, medium, or low in salt content:

  • High: more than 1.5 g per 100 g
  • Medium: between 0.3 g and 1.5 g per 100 g
  • Low: 0.3 g or less per 100 g

Which foods are high in hidden salt?

Some foods are naturally high in salt, such as sauerkraut and olives, while others vary depending on the brand and variety. Below are a few of the most common culprits to look out for, along with our homemade alternatives…


Filling your home with the aroma of freshly baked bread is much more pleasant than buying a processed loaf from the supermarket. Salt is crucial in bread baking because it helps create volume and structure in the dough. However, some breads can be made without salt. Try making these wholemeal flatbreads.

Breakfast cereals

Worryingly, some breakfast cereals – including those targeted at children – have a high salt content, so always check labels. Why not make your own using rolled oats, dried fruit and natural sweeteners such as honey or vanilla extract?

Make your own:


High-salt foods

Even something as simple as tomato ketchup can be stacked with salt. Some popular brands now offer reduced-salt and -sugar versions, but be aware that some of the low-salt Asian sauces can actually contain more salt than the regular ones. So why not play it safe with homemade?

Make your own:

Pasta sauce

This simple staple could be hiding more salt than you think – particularly reduced-fat tomato-based sauces, which have been found to be among the saltiest on the shelves.

Make your own:


It’s probably not a surprise to hear that one of our favourite takeaways is packed with salt. The doughy base, meaty toppings and extra cheese are all salty ingredients, and even the tomato sauce can contain a lot of salty seasoning.

Make your own:

Plant-based vegan ‘meats’

Vegan ‘meat’ products may be lower in calories and saturated fat and contain fibre, but they tend to be high in salt.

See all our healthy vegan recipes.

Ready meals

Many food manufacturers design their products to reach the ‘bliss point,’ where taste and texture stimulate the brain to release dopamine, prompting us to eat more. To achieve this, they add salt, sugar, and fat, making ready meals and processed foods high in salt and generally an unhealthy choice.

Make your own:


Pre-packed sandwiches are typically well-labelled, making it easy to avoid those high in salt, which often comes from the bread, butter or spread, and fillings like ham, cheese, prawns, pickles, and bacon.

Make your own:


It’s frustrating to realise that a seemingly healthy and nutritious option can be laden with salt when purchased pre-made. Fortunately, making your own is quick, easy, and delicious.

Make your own: