Quiz: How much sodium is in your food?
You could be swallowing sodium where you least expect it. Take our quiz to find out how much sodium is in the foods you eat
Test your sodium savvy
You may think you’re making healthy food choices most of the time. But the truth is, the foods you eat could contain unexpectedly high amounts of sodium.
Most adults need only about 1,500 mg of sodium a day for top-notch nerve and muscle function. More than about 2,300 mg (less than six grams of salt) can lead to high blood pressure, putting you at risk for heart and kidney disease and stroke.
Take our quiz to find out how much sodium is really in your food and see why making a few simple changes can dramatically reduce the sodium in your daily diet.
1. Which has more sodium?
The instant oatmeal
One packet of regular Quaker Instant Oatmeal – 180 mg
A serving of Kraft Instant Cream of Wheat – 80 mg
Many foods high in sodium don’t actually taste all that salty. If you’re a fan of hot oatmeal, save on sodium by preparing quick-cooking oats on the stovetop instead of using instant oats in packages.
2. Which has more sodium?
A fruit muffin from the coffee shop or a homemade fruit muffin?
The store-bought muffin
Fruit muffin from the coffee shop – 505 mg
Homemade fruit muffin- 250 mg
You probably guessed that the homemade muffin contains less salt, but are you surprised by the difference? The coffee-shop muffin may be more convenient, but you can save on the time it takes to bake your own by making them in large batches and freezing them. The difference in cost will be drastic, too.
The turkey sandwich
Liverwurst on a whole wheat sandwich – 560 mg
Turkey luncheon meat on a whole wheat sandwich – 1270 mg
Many deli meats are surprisingly high in sodium. And your condiments count, too. “You put them on your sandwiches thinking, this is a nice fat-free seasoning,” points out registered dietitian Desiree Nielsen based in Delta, B.C. But a spoonful of mustard adds another 180 mg, putting your turkey sandwich close to the recommended intake of sodium for the entire day.
The chicken-vegetable soup
A bowl of ready-to-serve chicken noodle soup – 900 mg
A bowl of ready-to-serve chicken vegetable soup – 1130 mg
Both of these canned soups are high in sodium content, but the level soars in the chicken vegetable bowl. Chunky vegetable isn’t much better at 1,070 mg. Look for cans with labels that say “reduced salt” or “low sodium.” Don’t be fooled by “heart smart” labels, which may be referring only to the cholesterol and saturated fat content.
Better yet, make your own soup at home.
The fish sandwich
Fast-food breaded fish sandwich – 940 mg
Fast-food cheeseburger – 500 mg
Fast foods are notoriously loaded with salt, but it may shock you to learn which ones have the highest amount. For instance, a McDonald’s Caesar salad with chicken contains 1,070 mg of sodium (1,370 with dressing), while a large order of French fries contains only 430 mg.
The hot-and-sour soup
A bowl of hot and sour soup – 1,600 mg
A bowl of won ton soup – 810 mg
“A lot of people don’t realize that the majority of their sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods,” says Nielsen. “Only about 15 percent of dietary sodium comes from the salt you add yourself. A couple of shakes of salt at the table is really nothing in the grand scheme of things, especially on vegetables, which are low in sodium.”
7. Which has more sodium?
A ham sandwich on white bread or a taco with beef, cheese, salsa and vegetables?
The ham sandwich
A ham sandwich on white bread – 1,130 mg
A taco with beef, cheese, salsa and vegetables – 365 mg
Ham is sky-high in sodium. And here’s another example of the way ingredients add up: Two slices of white bread contribute 475 mg of sodium, compared to the 50 mg in a taco shell.
8. Which has more sodium?
A bowl of fresh pasta with parmesan cheese and butter or a bowl of fresh pasta with half a cup of canned spaghetti sauce?
The pasta with canned sauce
A bowl of fresh pasta with parmesan cheese and butter – 265 mg
A bowl of fresh pasta with half a cup of canned spaghetti sauce – 790 mg
We think of butter and cheese as salty, but spaghetti sauce is a hidden source of high sodium. Be careful how much store-bought sauce you spoon over your noodles. Better yet, make your own sauce with tomatoes, herbs and spices.
The soy sauce
A tablespoon of soy sauce – 1,040 mg
A tablespoon of barbecue sauce – 130 mg
Got a couple of steaks on the grill? Reaching for the soy bottle instead of the barbecue sauce will send your sodium intake through the roof. “Most soy sauces will list the sodium content in gram form instead of milligrams, so it looks smaller,” notes Nielsen.
10. What has more sodium?
Two Alka Seltzer tablets, dissolved in water or two chewable Tums tablets?
The Alka Seltzer
An antacid isn’t exactly a meal (although perhaps you’ll need to settle your stomach after all the food choices we’ve compared in this quiz!). But it’s a good reminder to add up the sodium you get not only from your food, but from your medicine cabinet as well.