How to eat less salt but keep the flavour

Rachael Eden
Dietitian at Bupa UK
19 March 2019
Next review due March 2022

As a nation, and in fact globally, we’re eating far too much salt. Yes, salt is important for several key bodily functions, but the amount we eat is far more than we need. Regularly eating too much salt causes high blood pressure, putting us at greater risk of heart disease and stroke. But reducing your salt intake shouldn’t mean less flavoursome food. Here, I’ll give you some easy ways to eat less salt but add flavour to your meals.

Why are we eating too much salt?

Pre-made sauces, soups, ready meals, processed meat and snacks all contain salt, as well as other unlikely culprits, such as bread, cheese and cereals.

How we buy and consume food these days means most people are eating more salt than they realise. In fact, 75 percent of the salt we eat is already in the everyday foods that we buy. You may also like to add salt to your cooking, and even more at the table before you eat.

An image of jars of spices

How to eat less salt

Here are five easy ways to reduce your salt intake.

  • Cook from scratch. It’s simple – when you make your own food, you control what goes in. Ditch pre-made sauces and soups and try making your own at home.
  • Opt for low-salt stock, or even better, make a batch of your own and freeze it.
  • Try your food before you add salt. Why not remove your salt shaker or grinder from the table completely?
  • Understand food labelling and become familiar with how to check if something is high in salt. The Government recommends that adults and children aged 11 years and over should eat no more than 6g of salt a day. This is about a teaspoon. In fact, we only need about 1g of salt per day for our bodies to function – that’s about a pinch!
  • Go for unsalted snacks, such as fresh or dried fruit, or unsalted popcorn or nuts.
  • Rethink your cheese choices. Some cheeses are lower in salt than others. Ricotta, cottage cheese and Quark contain less salt than cheddar, brie, feta and parmesan.

Remember, salt is salt. Whether it’s pink, Himalayan, flake or rock. There is no ‘healthier’ salt – your intake amount is what matters, not the type.

An image of a plate of salad

Adding flavour to your food

Many people acquire a taste for salt and, over time, your taste buds change. When you first cut back on salt you might find that food tastes bland. It takes around three weeks for your taste buds to adapt and become more sensitive to salt, so give it time. If you’re a smoker, your taste receptors are dulled down, so you may be tempted to add more salt. The best advice I can give is obviously to get support to quit. But in the meantime, be aware of how much salt you add.

Flavour doesn’t only come from salt. Fresh and dried herbs, spices, black pepper, chilli and lemon are all delicious, easy ways to add flavour to your food. Try some of the following ideas to help cut down on salt, add some flavour and most importantly, eat more healthily.

  1. Marinate your meat. Simply add olive oil, garlic, chilli and some herbs to a freezer bag, add your uncooked meat, give it a good shake and leave it to marinate for one hour to overnight. Experiment – try different flavour combinations. How about rosemary and garlic? Or chilli and lime?
  2. Add flavour to your salads. Making a salad dressing isn’t hard. One of my favourite (and easiest) combinations is oil olive, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and garlic paste. Another of my favourites is ranch dressing – see further down the page for my Greek yogurt ranch dressing recipe.
  3. Keep your fish flavours fresh. Fish is flavoursome on its own, so often, all you need to add is lemon and parsley. Simply slice some lemon and place it on top of your fish, sprinkle over chopped parsley and cook!
  4. Make your own pasta sauces. For a delicious pasta sauce, chop and fry garlic, onions, fresh tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, mixed herbs and black pepper. You could also add chilli, paprika or other spices of your choice. If you have young children, you can blend your sauces and freeze them in batches.
  5. Spice up your rice. Try mixing paprika and desiccated coconut into cooked rice for a flavour kick without the salt.

An image of a plate of fish

Recipe: Healthy ranch dressing

This low-fat dressing adds flavour to lots of different meals, helping you to cut back on salt. Drizzle it over salads, add it to wraps or sandwiches, or simply use it as a dipping sauce for raw vegetables.

  • 1 cup of low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • fresh chopped chives

Simply stir together all the ingredients, garnish with fresh chives and serve.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Rachael Eden
Rachael Eden
Dietitian at Bupa UK

Did you find our advice helpful?

We’d love to hear what you think. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our healthy lifestyle articles.