Label Reading for Sodium

I had an excellent question recently from someone who is struggling with label reading for a low sodium diet and I thought it very likely applies to everyone.  Here it is:

“I have a sodium question for you.  If the sodium intake for a healthy adult is between 1500mg to 2300mg per day, why is the nutritional information labels on our food based on the intake of 2400mg of sodium per day?  It drives me crazy because I am always trying to figure out what the % daily value is per serving for my meals based on 1500mg/day.”

This is a great question!  The labelling is out of date and Health Canada recommends that adults do not exceed 2300mg of sodium per day.  Check out this link for more info:

Unfortunately changing food labels is a huge undertaking and takes a long time.  Labelling laws must be approved by both Canadian and US regulators and once new guidelines are issued, it takes some time for the food companies to change all their labelling.

So for now I give this advice – take whatever percentage you see on a label and add 50%.  So if a product has 10% sodium – you should count it as 15%.  If a product has 8% sodium you should count it as 12%.  This is probably the quickest way to convert when reading a label.  It will give you a percentage of a 1600mg sodium per day diet – which is a whole lot better than 2400mg.

Here’s a simple chart:

Amount of Sodium in Food
   % DV on label
  % DV of a low sodium 1600mg diet
100mg 4% 6%
250mg 10% 15%
500mg 21% 31%
750mg 31% 47%
1200mg 50% 75%

Here is a recipe for a low sodium salad dressing that is a fantastic alternative to commercial, high salt salad dressing:

Shallot Vinaigrette
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot minced
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
cracked black pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients except oil in blender.  Slowly add oil to emulsify, OR you can whisk the oil into the other ingredients and serve immediately.  This dressing is wonderful served with arugula topped with slices of crunchy pear!

Recipes developed by Chef Leslie Cairns

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