How much more sodium do prepared foods contain?

Sodium is used for flavoring and, in many cases, as a preservative. While one cup of fresh tomatoes provides 16 mg of sodium, one variety of canned tomato sauce may contain as much as 1,400 mg of sodium. Depending on the brand and the type of meal, a single frozen dinner can easily contain 600 to 800 mg of sodium, or half the day's supply.

At the grocery store, you may find extra sodium in: condiments, frozen meals, canned vegetables and beans, smoked meats, pickled and brined foods, tomato sauce, soups and prepared mixes. Cereals, bagels, cheeses, candies and desserts, even drinks can also contain hidden sodium. And many foods that you might consider healthy, such as low-fat items, actually contain extra sodium as a flavor enhancer.

Beyond the grocery store, we also get a lot of our sodium from takeout and restaurant meals. Depending on what is eaten, restaurant meals can contain 1,000 to 2,000 mg of sodium, or even more.

Despite what you might think, only 5 percent of our sodium intake comes from salt we use in cooking and 6 percent from salt we add at the table. We cook with extra salt when we use seasonings such as celery salt, garlic salt and the like. That's why it's important to be aware of everything you're eating.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September 2014, more than 90 percent of children aged 6 to 18 in the United States consume too much sodium. About 43 percent of this sodium comes from these foods:

  • Pizza
  • Bread/rolls
  • Cold cuts/cured meats (e.g., hot dogs)
  • Salty snacks
  • Sandwiches
  • Cheese
  • Processed chicken (nuggets, patties, etc.)
  • Pasta dishes
  • Mexican dishes
  • Soups

Reproduced from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health; Updated by Remedy Health Media

Additional Sources:

CDC. "Vital Signs: Food Categories Contributing the Most to Sodium Consumption — United States, 2007–2008" Available at Accessed on: February 10, 2012.

FDA. "Code of Federal Regulations Title 21." Available at Accessed on February 15, 2012.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 May 2009

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2014