While my daughters do not look like each other, they share a family health history loaded with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

They cannot change their family history, but they can focus on the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

As a mother and dietitian, ­reducing sodium in our family’s diet has been a priority.

Sodium intake is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

On average, a person eats more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily. In contrast, the American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 2,300mg. Just one teaspoon of table salt (a combination of sodium and chloride) contains approximately 2,300mg of sodium.

Most sodium in diet comes from processed foods, prepackaged foods and restaurant food.

The rest comes from adding sodium in cooking or at the table.

Sodium is a mineral that naturally occurs in foods. However, a celery stalk might contain 30 to 50 mg of sodium – much lower than a serving of canned soup exceeding 1,000 mg of sodium.

If you are ready to make changes in your diet to reduce your sodium intake, here are some tips to get you started:

• Limit the salt added in cooking.

• Take the salt shaker off the table, or at least taste your food before adding salt.

• Check your seasonings for sodium/salt.

Flavoured peppers, such as garlic pepper, often contain salt. Look for pepper without salt.

Use garlic powder, onion powder, celery powder, or fresh garlic, onion and celery, in place of garlic, onion and celery salts.

Be aware that MSG is a common flavour enhancer that also contains sodium.

• Experiment with herbs and spices for flavour as your taste buds adjust. Don’t forget to try citrus, vinegars or hot sauce.

• Try a homemade or purchased salt-free herb/spice blend.

• Explore seasonings and recipes featuring flavours from other countries.

• Be aware that condiments, such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, dips and dressings, are usually high in sodium/salt.

Use these additives sparingly.

• Limit portions of pickles, relish and olives.

• Limit use of prepackaged and processed foods. Convenience foods, such as an instant cereal packet, often contain salt.

Make your own cooked cereal from scratch, and you can omit or decrease salt.

• If you use convenience foods that come with a seasoning packet, consider using your own low-salt seasoning or use only a portion of the seasoning packet provided.

Look for items labelled “low-sodium” or “no salt added”.

Aim for products with no more than 200 mg of sodium per serving.

• Look for vegetables that are fresh, frozen without sauces, or canned without added salt.

If using a canned vegetable with salt, you can drain and rinse before using. Limit portions of sauerkraut and pickled vegetables.

• Check your family recipes, and look for ways to decrease salt.

Our family lasagna recipe, from the 1960s, is high in salt if the original recipe is followed.

We now omit added salt, use fresh or no-salt-added tomatoes, and decrease the amount of cheese used. The lighter version allows the other flavours to shine.

• Check family holiday meals for salt. Consider adjusting recipes and menus.

Increase the use of low-salt vegetables and side dishes, salads and fruits to balance the meal.

If your meal includes a favourite, such as green bean casserole, challenge yourself to try a flavourful, but lower-salt, version you can enjoy.

• Dining out is a common source of salt. Try to order foods prepared without added salt.

Order salad dressing on the side, and control the amount used.

Sauces and gravies can also be ordered on the side.

Try to order vegetables, salads and fruits. Limit pickles, olives and salty chips.

Use small portions of ketchup or other condiments with salt.

Know that processed meats, such as bratwursts, hot dogs, sausage, bacon and ham, contain high amounts of salt.

Plan ahead and choose low-salt meals and snacks the rest of your day to limit total sodium intake.

No one said reducing sodium intake would be easy.

Allow time for your taste buds to adjust to a lower-salt diet, because taste for salt is an acquired habit.

With time, it’s common for people to prefer a lower-salt diet, and many indicate former favourite foods are now too salty for their palate. – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service