Thanksgiving Nutrition: Ways to Limit Salt?

Be the salt of the earth this Thanksgiving and cook with less of it. Salt has a vital role to play, as it helps to unlock the goodness in food proteins. However, pretty much all foods already naturally contain salt (and sugar). Too much sodium intake is unhealthy and we should limit salt when possible.

With the ever-present threat of overeating at Thanksgiving, the last thing we should do is add to our salt intake. If we understand why we are adding salt perhaps it will help us to use less of it.

Thanksgiving Nutrition: Ways to Limit Salt?

Why do we add salt?

Our taste buds have become so used to tasting salt, that they have forgotten what food tastes like naturally. If we can’t taste salt, then we regard the food as tasteless. Many of us automatically reach for the salt before we have even sampled the food. Our taste buds struggle to appreciate natural flavors and crave processed foods and snacks high in sodium content.

We are in danger of paying the price for uneducated taste buds. By adding salt, we are putting our health at risk. Don't use too much salt to prevent heart problems, high blood pressure, kidney disease and hypertension. Avoid reaching for the salt shaker.

We need to train our taste buds and bodies to adhere to the WHO guidelines. These guidelines state the recommended daily amount of salt for adults is less than 5 grams. Additionally, we should choose low-sodium options and check labels for nutrition information. There are many low-sodium versions of our favorite foods and snacks.

Educate our Families and Make it Fun

Start by discussing, over dinner, what the medical risks associated with overusing salt are. Teach the family about the recommended amount of sodium in a day and show them the food label. Then, ask them to consider how much salt they use daily.

It takes between 21 to 28 days to adopt or change a habit. It’s critical to educate while changing the behavior. As a family, come up with a weekly salt intake challenge that has a reward (not candy, soda, or chocolate). This is a great way to keep the challenge top of mind and motivate younger family members to make heart-healthy choices. It’s all about reinforcement. Hold the challenge a couple of times during the lead-up to Thanksgiving dinner.

Another good idea is to challenge a family member to research the amount of sodium per serving in the food for Thanksgiving dinner. Have the family member then present this information to the family. Reward them with extra credits on the family challenge (like maybe not having to wash the dishes that night).

Salt Alternatives Give Extra Flavor

Here are a few salt substitutes that offer better nutrition and more interesting flavors.


When cooking, add a pungent flavor without increasing sodium. A small amount of garlic is great for roasting chicken and turkey. Garlic boosts immunity, promotes brain health, and also lowers blood pressure.

Lemon juice or lime zest

These naturally acidic salt alternatives add citric flavors. Dribble it over fresh or frozen vegetables and salads. They both can also be used as a meat and fish marinade.

Ground Black pepper

Black pepper is thought to decrease inflammation linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. For a change of pepper try peppercorn mixes, chili pepper, cayenne, and reduced-sodium jalapenos peppers.


Fresh dill with hints of celery and fennel is a great flavor-alternative for potatoes and fish. Not to mention, dill pairs very well with lemon juice.

Dried onion or onion powder

Onion gives a flavor boost to most savory dishes. For a different flavor, buy fresh red onions.

Smoked paprika

The spicy, smoky taste of smoked paprika is also a low sodium alternative for meat, chili, and stews. The paprika compound Capsaicin may stop cancer cell growth.

Truffle oil

A drop of truffle oil on vegetables and potatoes is a healthier alternative to salt. Truffle oil is also good on eggs, pizza and pasta.


Rosemary is a classic herb for roasts, roasted vegetables, stews, and soups. It is great for dressings as well.

Your family is sure to give thanks to you this Thanksgiving for providing more nutritious, healthier, and interesting flavors.

Additional Information:

Eating Too Much Salt? Ways to Cut Back...Gradually - U.S. Food & Drug Administration


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