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Low-Sodium Guidelines for Heart Failure

This guide provides basic information to help you start following, or continue following, your heart failure diet. Planning what you eat and balancing your meals are important ways to manage your health. Eating healthy often means making changes in your current eating habits. A registered dietitian can provide in-depth personalized nutrition education, tailor these general guidelines to meet your needs, and help you begin a personal action plan.

Important Nutrition Guidelines

  • Include high-fiber foods. Following a heart-healthy diet made up of high-fiber, low-cholesterol and low-sodium foods will help you maintain or reach a healthy body weight. Cooked dried peas, beans (legumes) and whole grain foods also help with digestion and controlling glucose levels.
  • Use fresh ingredients and/or foods with no salt added whenever possible. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish are low-sodium foods.
  • Most frozen vegetables are good alternatives to fresh. Canned or frozen fruits are acceptable. Choose no-salt-added canned vegetables, or rinse canned vegetables before they are cooked.
  • For favorite recipes, you may need to use other ingredients and delete or decrease the amount of salt you add. Salt can be removed from any recipe except those that contain yeast.
  • Avoid convenience foods such as canned soups, entreés, vegetables, pasta and rice mixes, frozen dinners, instant cereal and puddings, and gravy sauce mixes.
  • If you must choose frozen entreés, select those that contain 600 mg or less of sodium. However, limit these items to one per day. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the package for sodium content.
  • Avoid canned, cured or smoked meats and items like deli meats.
  • Low-sodium canned soups may be used.

These guidelines are discussed in more detail:

Learning to read food labels

Food labels are standardized by the U.S. government’s National Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). Review the food label below. If you do not know how much total sodium is in this product, ask your dietitian or health care provider to show you how to read food labels and apply the information to your personal needs.

  • A. The serving size represents the typical amount eaten by an adult . If you eat 2 portions, multiply nutrition values by 2.
  • B. The sodium content is listed on the food label per serving size. Ignore the % daily value and focus on the amount of mg sodium per serving. Decreasing the total amount of sodium you consume to 2,000 milligrams (mg) per day is one of the most important ways to manage heart failure

"Low sodium" = 140 mg or less per serving
"No sodium" = less than 5 mg per serving

Sodium guidelines

Your doctor may recommend that you consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day. Eating a low-sodium diet means more than just eliminating the salt shaker from the table! However, that is a good start since one teaspoon of table salt = 2,300 mg of sodium. Also remember that 77% of all sodium is in processed food. It is important to keep a record of the amount of sodium you consume every day. Write down the amount, in mg, after each meal or snack. Lowering sodium in your diet means 3 things: 

  1. Get rid of the salt shaker.
  2. Check food labels.
  3. Make sensible choices when dining away from home.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/31/2011…#8122

© Copyright 1995-2012 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Comparison of Sodium in Foods

Food Serving Size Milligrams/Sodium
Bacon 1 medium slice 155
Chicken (dark meat) 3.5 oz roasted 87
Chicken (light meat) 3.5 oz roasted 77
Egg, fried 1 large 162
Egg, scrambled with milk 1 large 171
Dried beans, peas or lentils 1 cup 4
Haddock 3 oz cooked 74
Halibut 3 oz cooked 59
Ham (roasted) 3.5 oz 1300-1500
Hamburger (lean) 3.5 oz broiled medium 77
Hot dog (beef) 1 medium 585
Peanuts, dry roasted 1 oz 228
Pork loin, roasted 3.5 oz 65
Roast lamb leg 3.5 oz 65
Roast veal leg 3.5 oz 68
Salmon 3 oz 50
Shellfish 3 oz 100 to 325
Shrimp 3 oz 190
Spareribs, braised 3.5 oz 93
Steak, T-bone 3.5 oz 66
Tuna, canned in spring water 3 oz chunk 300
Turkey, dark meat 3.5 roasted 76
Turkey, light meat 3.5 roasted 63
Dairy Products

Dairy Products
Food Serving Size Milligrams/Sodium
American Cheese 1 oz 443
Buttermilk, salt added 1 cup 260
Cheddar cheese 1 oz 175
Cottage cheese, low fat 1 cup 918
Milk, whole 1 cup 120
Milk, skim or 1% 1 cup 125
Swiss cheese 1 oz 75
Yogurt, plain 1 cup 115

Vegetables and Vegetable Juice
Vegetables and Vegetable Juice
Food Serving Size Milligrams/Sodium
Asparagus 6 spears 10
Avocado 1/2 medium 10
Beans, white, cooked 1 cup 4
Beans, green 1 cup 4
Beets 1 cup 84
Broccoli, raw 1/2 cup 12
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup 20
Carrot, raw 1 medium 25
Carrot, cooked 1/2 cup 52
Celery 1 stalk raw 35
Corn (sweet, no butter/salt) 1/2 cup 14
Cucumber 1/2 sliced 1
Eggplant, raw 1 cup 2
Eggplant, cooked 1 cup 4
Lettuce 1 leaf 2
Lima beans 1 cup 5
Mushrooms 1/2 cup (raw or cooked) 1-2
Mustard greens 1/2 chopped 12
Onions, chopped 1/2 cup (raw or cooked) 2-3
Peas 1 cup 4
Potato 1 baked 7
Radishes 10 11
Spinach, raw 1/2 cup 22
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup 63
Squash, acorn 1/2 cup 4
Sweet potato 1 small 12
Tomato 1 small 11
Tomato juice, canned 3/4 cup 660
Fruits and Fruit Juices
Fruits and Fruit Juices
Food Serving Size Milligrams/Sodium
Apple 1 medium 1
Apple juice 1 cup 7
Apricots 3 medium 1
Apricots (dried) 10 halves 3
Banana 1 medium 1
Cantaloupe 1/2 cup chopped 14
Dates 10 medium 2
Grapes 1 cup 2
Grape juice 1cup 7
Grapefruit 1 medium 0
Grapefruit juice 1 cup 3
Orange 1 medium 1
Orange juice 1 cup 2
Peach 1 0
Prunes (dried) 10 3
Raisins 1/3 cup 6
Strawberries 1 cup 2
Watermelon 1 cup 3
Breads and Grains
Breads and Grains
Food Serving Size Milligrams/Sodium
Bran flakes 3/4 cup 220
Bread, whole wheat 1 slice 159
Bread, white 1 slice 123
Bun, hamburger 1 241
Cooked cereal (instant) 1 packet 250
Corn flakes 1 cup 290
English muffin 1/2 182
Pancake 1 (7-inch round) 431
Rice, white long grain 1 cup cooked 4
Shredded wheat 1 biscuit 0
Spaghetti 1 cup 7
Waffle 1 frozen 235
Convenience Foods
Convenience Foods
Food Serving Size Milligrams/Sodium
Canned soups 1 cup 600-1,300
Canned and frozen main dishes 8 oz 500-2,570

Please note: These are sodium content ranges—the sodium content in certain food items may vary. Please contact your dietitian for specific product information.

Source: Sodium analysis was done using ESHA Food Processor for Windows, Version 8.4, 2004.

Sodium guidelines: Foods to choose
Protein - choose 2-3 servings/day
  • 2-3 ounces of fresh or frozen fish, shellfish, meat (beef, veal, lamb, pork) or poultry
  • 1/2 cup cooked dried beans or peas
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium canned fish (such as salmon or tuna)
  • 1 low-sodium frozen dinner (less than 600 mg sodium per meal) - Limit to one per day
  • 1 egg (no more than 3 whole eggs per week)
Dairy products - choose 2 or more servings/day
  • 1-1/2 ounces of low-sodium cheese
  • 1 cup milk (non-fat or 1% recommended)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium cottage cheese
  • 1 cup soy milk
Vegetables and fruits - choose 5 or more servings/day
  • 1/2 cup fresh whole, chopped, cooked, frozen or canned fruit
  • 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, frozen or no-salt added canned vegetables
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium tomato juice or V-8 juice
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
Bread and grains - choose 6 or more servings/day
  • Low-sodium breads, rolls, bagels and cereals (1 serving = 1 slice bread, 1 small roll, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 English muffin or a 4-inch pita)
  • 1/2 cup pasta (noodles, spaghetti, macaroni)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • Low-sodium crackers (read label for serving size)
Sweets and snacks (include sparingly)
  • 1 ounce unsalted nuts
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium pretzels or chips
  • 3 cups popped low-sodium popcorn
  • 3 fig bars or gingersnaps
  • 1 slice angel food cake
  • 1 tbsp jelly or honey
  • 1 cup sherbet, sorbet or Italian ice; 1 popsicle
  • 8-10 jelly beans; 3 pieces hard candy
Fats, oils and condiments (use sparingly)
  • Olive and canola oils
  • Low-sodium butter and margarine
  • Low-sodium soups
  • Low-sodium salad dressing
  • Homemade gravy without salt
  • Low-sodium broth or bouillon
  • Low-sodium catsup
  • Low-sodium mustard
  • Low-sodium sauce mixes
Fats, oils and condiments (can use freely)
  • Lemon juice
  • Vinegar
  • Herbs and spices without salt
Sample Menu
  • Fresh fruit
  • Low sodium cereal (hot or cold)
  • Milk
  • Low sodium wheat bread
  • Reduced sodium margarine or peanut butter
  • Lean roast turkey on whole wheat bread with low sodium mustard
  • Raw carrot sticks
  • Applesauce
  • Unsalted pretzels
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Steamed fresh vegetables
  • Tossed salad and low sodium dressing
  • Low sodium roll with low sodium margarine
  • Fresh melon
  • Angel food cake
  • Fresh fruit

Note: For a diet in which you consume 2,000 mg of sodium per day, a sample plan might involve eating 500 mg at breakfast 500 mg for snacks twice daily, 500 mg for lunch, and 500 mg for dinner.

Sodium guidelines - Seasonings


  • Get rid of the salt shaker. Do not add salt when cooking.
  • Do not use any seasoning with salt in the name.
  • Find alternatives to salt for flavoring foods while cooking, like Mrs. Dash® or McCormick® products.
  • Avoid salt substitutes (may have potassium chloride) or anything that says less salt, such as Salt Sense® or NoSalt®.
  • Try lemon, orange or pineapple juice as a base for meat marinades.
  • Use fresh herbs and spices such as garlic or garlic powder, onions or onion powder, rosemary, oregano, basil and dill.

Seasoning recipes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend well. Spoon into shaker. Store in a cool, dark place.

Spicy blend
  • 2 tbsp dried savory, crumbled
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2-1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
Saltless surprise
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp powdered lemon rind or dehydrated lemon juice
Spicy seasoning
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander seed (crushed)
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
Herb seasoning
  • 2 tbsp dried dill weed or basil leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp (pinch) dried oregano leaves, crumbled
  • pinch freshly ground pepper
Restaurant dining tips
  • Select fresh fruit or vegetables
  • Avoid soups and broths
  • Stay away from bread and rolls with salty, buttery crusts
  • Select fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid pickles, canned or marinated vegetables, cured meats, seasoned croutons, cheeses, salted seeds
  • Order salad dressings on the side and use small amounts of them
Main courses
  • Select meat, poultry, fish or shellfish choices that includes the words broiled, grilled or roasted
  • Select plain vegetables, potatoes and noodles
  • Ask the server about the low sodium menu choices, and ask how the food is prepared
  • Ask for a vegetarian sandwich with fresh vegetables 
  • Request that food be cooked without salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Avoid restaurants that do not allow for special food preparation (such as buffet style restaurants, diners or fast food chains)
  • Avoid casseroles, mixed dishes, gravies and sauces
  • At fast food restaurants, choose the salad entrees or non-fried and non-breaded entrees (such as a baked potato) and skip the special sauces, condiments and cheese*
  • Add your own small amount of mustard or mayonnaise to a sandwich

*Avoid salted condiments and garnishes such as olives and pickles.


Select fresh fruits, ices, ice cream, sherbet, gelatin and plain cakes

Alcohol guidelines

Because alcohol can slow your heart rate and worsen your heart failure, your health care provider may tell you to avoid or limit alcoholic beverages. Alcohol may also interact with the medications you are taking. Ask your health care provider for specific guidelines regarding alcohol.

This information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. Visit for more information about sodium.

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