The problem with “Low Sodium”

The problem with “Low Sodium” is the underlying problem of serving size. On the Nutrition Facts Panel, the “Serving Size” is based on an FDA Chart called “Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed Per Eating Occasion: General Food Supply” [I know this beacuse I have a printed copy at my desk that I refer to regularly when developing nutritional information for my company’s products.] The serving size in grams is defined for each type of food, and the comapny who makes the food is responsible for supplying a “household measurement” that is easier to understand for the consumer. This could be in cups, tablespoons, number of pieces, etc.(it would vary, depending on the density of the product)

This chart can be woefully unrealistic in defining how much is eaten “per eating occasion,” and this can skew perceptions on what you are actually putting in your body when you eat an entire can of soup (as I am doing right now at my desk at work)  that contains “about 2” one-cup servings. Last I checked, it is not customary to eat a half-can of soup during one “eating occasion.”

But I digress. At Trader Joe’s yesterday evening, I picked up one of their “Low Sodium” product guides, which lists the things they carry that are 140mg or less of sodium per serving. This is what the FDA defines as “Low Sodium.” I was shocked and excited to see “Spanikopita” listed under the “Miscellaneous” category. I darted straight to the frozen section and grabbed a box of those delicious phyllo dough triangles and read the nutrition facts. Sure enough it was 120mg of sodium, which qualifies it as a “Low Sodium” option……. Serving size: 1 piece. HA! How is that a low sodium choice? How will it help my daily intake of sodium to take two teeny bites and put 120mg of sodium in my body? That is a sodium-dense food, in my book.

I’ve linked to this chart before, but this time note how “Low Sodium” is defined clearly as 140 mg or less per serving (RACC) and “Very Low Sodium” is less than 35 mg per serving. This would make sense if the serving sizes on packages were realistic, but they are obviously not!

I would have probably wanted to eat 3 or 4 pf those little spanakopita guys. That would have totaled up at 360-480mg of sodium – a quarter of my entire day’s allotment – all in an appetizer that would not even fill me up for a full meal. So explain that one to me, FDA…

And THAT is the problem with “Low Sodium”!!


One response to “The problem with “Low Sodium”

  1. Maggie and I happened to check out your blog while Becky was here, and it inspired not only an entire low-sodium meal but also a lively discussion over dinner!

    We roasted sweet potato, cauliflower, red pepper, and red onion with herbes de province, sautéed green beans in a salt-free butter, and had a green salad with home-made “French” vinaigrette, which is olive oil, balsamic, and dijon mustard. It was delicious, and almost completely salt free!

    Thanks for the inspiration, and keep up the good work!

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