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Secret sodium overload: Raisin Bran, V8 juice, lowfat cottage cheese


Once, when I was on a flight, I had what seemed to be the bright idea of ordering a can of Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary for my beverage/lunch by proxy. Full flavored, filling, healthy — right?

If only.

That one 12-ounce can contained 1560 mg of sodium, or nearly two thirds of the daily allowance. I was shocked. has recently posted a fascinating graphic of 25 Surprisingly Salty Processed Foods. The big surprise is that so many of these foods are purportedly healthy options: 1% milkfat cottage cheese, bran muffins and a Lean Cuisine frozen entree, among others.

I was disheartened to find out that Raisin Bran has twice the sodium of some other popular cereals.

The accompanying story about “salt addiction” is here.

Have you ever had the experience of eating a food that you think is healthy, only to find that “healthy” is a relative term?

26 comments Add your comment


May 17th, 2010
2:12 pm

Yes! All those giant, meat-and-cheese stuffed salads that we gals waded through in the 70’s and 80’s, thinking that we were eating far less fat and calories than our burger-eating companions.
Not. Even. Close. But I did achieve my Lifetime Fiber Goals.


May 17th, 2010
2:23 pm

I always read the labels and purchase products that are low in sodium. They taste pretty good with a little salt.

Atlanta Native

May 17th, 2010
2:27 pm

When shopping, I look at what they brag about “Low Fat” etc. and check the other items on the nutritional label. In variably there is something picking up the slack.

Low sodium foods with potassium are becoming regularly available (V-8’s is good, as are soups)

The entire Atkins experience is a testimony to how one can poison oneself trying to “eat right”

My hands down favorite is an old recipe my mom copied out of a cookbook that describes itself as “just as good as fried chicken, without the fat and calories of deep frying” The recipe has a cup of cream and 2 sticks of butter!


May 17th, 2010
2:33 pm

Healthy Choice soups and packaged cup ramen. I used to purchase those as quick lunchtime alternatives but was shocked when I read the sodium levels.

Korean food is always looked at as healthy, but a lot of it can contain high levels of sodium.

Atlanta Native

May 17th, 2010
2:54 pm

The problem with the Asian noodle soups is you are not supposed to eat all the broth. A hard mental adaptation for those of us with the American “clean your plate” mentality. I eat the fresh packaged ones, but, at the end, my broth goes down the drain.

I kept wondering why Pho was so popular, because I had cottonmouth the rest of the day; until I noticed the other diners left the broth.

David S

May 17th, 2010
3:08 pm

God made food with just the right amount of everything you need. When we take it from its natural raw form, cook it, process it, etc. we ruin it. I am not sure why any of the foods listed would be considered “healthy,” but I guess that in and of itself points to why american’s aren’t.


May 17th, 2010
3:18 pm

Even at so called health food stores like Whole Foods it’s hard to find low-sodium processed foods. It’s a little easier at places like Return to Eden but just finding low-sodium peanut butter or ketchup can be a hassle. Thankfully the ConAgra companies are beginning to have sodium free labels but still, it’s hard to make even a plate of spaghetti without the sauce being full of sodium. Soup’s a little easier if you use the Herb-Ox brands but they only come in chicken and beef.

One of the hardest things personally was avoiding cereals like common bread which need salt in the baking process.


May 17th, 2010
3:35 pm

In ramen, the noodles have a ton of salt too!


May 17th, 2010
3:54 pm

I have no idea what possessed you to think bloody Mary mix was healthy. Sure, there’s some sort of tomato-y flavoring…but what do you think Worcestershire sauce is?

Atlanta Native

May 17th, 2010
3:54 pm

True that Katherine, but cutting it down is at least a step in the right direction. The fresh ones aren’t as bad as the regular ones.

Mike K

May 17th, 2010
4:12 pm

I’ve been losing weight, and one of my goals in eating healthy is to keep my sodium intake at or below 2000 mg per day. It has been very difficult to find low sodium or no sodium added food without paying a fortune for them. I know Trader Joe’s seems to have low/no sodium added food at prices similar to the regular sodium products (tuna, nuts, pasta sauce, peanut butter, chips, etc.).


May 17th, 2010
4:23 pm

In my experience, pretty much anything that comes packaged in a box has too much sodium. Fresh foods are always the best!!

Dr. R

May 17th, 2010
4:24 pm

I eat spinach, which is healthy, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to graze on that stuff without some dressing on it. You want to eat weeds and live until you’re 95, knock yourself out. Life’s too short.


May 17th, 2010
4:51 pm

“Life’s too short”

Especially when you overload on sodium.

John Kessler

May 17th, 2010
4:58 pm

Good point about noodle broth…I stopped mid-bite once when I read the label on a Korean instant noodle bowl I really used to like. The only person who should eat that much sodium is Nancy Crater. (Ten points to the first person to get the reference.)


May 17th, 2010
5:02 pm

Who is surprised that a Slim Jim or pickles have a lot of sodium??? And if you’ve ever had low-sodium V8, you probably haven’t bought more.


May 17th, 2010
5:13 pm

Star Trek? She was killed for the salt in her body, if I remember correctly.


May 17th, 2010
5:14 pm

I’m such a geek.


May 17th, 2010
5:16 pm

my “favorite” supposedly healthy-laden-with-sodium foods are all the faux meats that vegans and vegetarians are supposed to eat instead of meat. they are extremely processed and absolutely chock full of sodium. i cannot for the life of me figure out how that is “healthy”.


May 17th, 2010
8:56 pm

The biggest problem in the Western diet is hardly salt, or saturated fat, for that matter. It’s the size of portions we eat, of largely processed foods.

To use one of Michael Pollan’s criteria for wholesomeness, just how many ingredients are on the side of that box of Raisin Bran? More than five?


May 18th, 2010
9:49 am

The salt and ultimately, the umami issues you experienced in Sweden may have a lot to do with our addictions to the most popular foods we eat in this country. Years ago Craig Claiborne, the food writer for the N Y Times was put on a low-salt diet and changed his whole philosophy about cooking with salt and wrote about it extensively. He became adjusted to doing without it, but I’m not sure I could for the same reasons you mentioned in your Swedish feasts posting.

A sobering thought for Thai and Asian food lovers: a tablespoon of fish sauce has 1260mg of sodium, 50% of a day’s recommended intake. But how could Thai food have its robust flavors without it? I’ve made Thai dishes without it when I ran out, but they had no zing at all, just heat.


May 18th, 2010
10:34 am

Smart Start cereal is packaged like a healthy cereal option with 100% of many vitamins…Until I realized it has more sugar than Frosted Flakes!! (or any other kids cereal out there!) If I get it now, I mix it with Total.


May 18th, 2010
1:22 pm

You can make some things without salt, but most things taste just a bit better with. When my husband was put on a lower sodium diet a few years back, I started really paying attention. He eats a sandwich every day for lunch. Of course, deli meats are notorius for having tons of sodium. Boar’s Head has several that are approved by the American Heart Association. If you think turkey is the best option, you’d be wrong. The Cap-Off Roast Beef has less sodium than any other offering.

I also started making some stuff from scratch that I would have previously bought pre-packaged. One is spaghetti sauce. Have you ever looked at how much salt and sugar there is in bottled sauces? More than you would think. My alternative is a quick-cook scratch sauce. A can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes, a can of low-sodium tomato paste, some sauted onions and peppers, 2-3 garlic cloves minced, and maybe a few sliced mushrooms, and a handful of Italian seasonings along with a pinch of crushed red pepper. My husband likes it with Italian Sausage, so I will buy 1-3 fresh sausages, cook them in a EVOO & water bath (water boils out and the EVOO allows the sausages to crisp up). Cut the sausage into chunks and add to sauce. Let it simmer 10-20 minutes, depending on how thick you want it, pour over your favorite pasta and add a little cheese. You are good to go. My husband swears it is 100% better than Prego.

Kenneth Braunstein

May 18th, 2010
2:42 pm

Why are these bloggers not blogging on the Point/Counterpoint Blog about whether a food critic should alert people to health risks at restaurants? I need their support!!!! I’m being clobbered.


May 18th, 2010
8:14 pm

I eat (drink) only one of the foods on that list of 25 and if anyone ever thought that there wasn’t a ton of salt in dill pickles then here’s their sign.

They mentioned specific brands and specific products within those brands. For instance, V8 wasn’t on the list HOT AND SPICY V8 was on the list. That brand of cottage cheese I had never heard of before. Is the high sodium restricted to that brand of cottage cheese or ALL snottage cheese?

It doesn’t really matter. We use very little pre-packaged junk in my house. My spaghetti sauce never comes from a jar or a can, it comes from fresh tomatoes. I don’t use bullion cubes, I MAKE broth (and freeze the excess). I use fresh veggies. I don’t eat fruits much, but I make them for my girls. I know, I need to eat more fruit……… but the Kikoman’s……… we do use a lot of that. I have a tip. Don’t buy low sodium soy sauce. Buy the regular and cut it with water, that’s all THEY do, water down the regular stuff………… my wife has been harping on the salt thing though. I might try cutting it back as that article suggests. I do know that I have been using progressively less in the veggies I make, with some, I cut it out altogether. The veggies from Sherry’s fruit stand (HWY29 in Tucker) are so flavorful that most need no salt.

Good blog and good comments, thanks John and posters.

The Big Maru

May 19th, 2010
3:16 pm

A word of advice, even when you make you own pasta sauce using canned tomatoes, check the salt level on the tomatoes as well. It’s surprising how much sodium is in a single can.