Sodium Reduction - Food Service Directors

As a food service director, you have the power to make a difference.
The health of others is in your hands.

Food service directors like you can have a big impact on the sodium levels and health of those you serve – just by making some small menu changes. Don't just take our word for it, see what other food service directors are saying.

"Cooking and nutrition is my mission! I have revamped the foods served from this kitchen with the help of the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program team. This kitchen went from processed heat-and-serve facility to meals that are from a recipe, assembled, prepared and made on site."
- Early Education Program Chef, Rockland County

"It is important to curb salt intake in the early years of life as children are developing their palates. I have a family history of high blood pressure, so providing low-sodium meals to the children is personally important to me."
- Cook, Day Care Center, Rockland County

Most of the sodium found in foods is the result of processing. It has been shown that customers do not notice when sodium is reduced gradually, by 10% a year. In fact, using side-by-side taste tests, some customers even prefer lower-sodium options. By providing lower-sodium foods, you can play a key role in helping customers and their communities get healthier.

The amount of salt in common food items can vary greatly
Food Sodium range (per serving)
Soup 700 – 1,260
Frozen pizza 450 – 1,200
Salad dressing 110 – 505
Frozen vegetables 2 – 160
Bread 95 - 210

Four easy ways to help create lower-sodium menus

  1. Modify meals and menus.
    • Swap higher-sodium ingredients for ones with less sodium. Choose fresh ingredients and limit processed foods.
    • Reduce portion sizes to cut sodium in meals and snacks.
    • Get cooks more involved in planning to make sure lower-sodium methods are used.
    • Make cooking from scratch more efficient. Invest in kitchen equipment like produce slicers and food processors that will save time and help with portion control.
  2. Promote lower-sodium options.
    • Display lower-sodium and healthy options in high-visibility spots throughout the dining areas.
    • Promote lower-sodium options with signage and offer educational resources that promote healthy eating. Translate all materials to the languages of your customers.
    • Post nutrition information so consumers can make informed choices.
    • Price healthy food to be less expensive.
  3. Put in place food service guidelines/nutrition standards that increase healthy food options and reduce sodium.
    • Team up with other food service professionals. Share best practices and lessons learned for adopting these guidelines/standards.
    • Work with a registered dietitian to define nutrition standards that best fit the people you serve.
    • Ask food vendors and distributors to help identify food products in their inventory that meet nutrition standards.
  4. Change procurement practices to include lower-sodium options.
    • Include language in contracts with food distributors that require product lists to help identify items in their inventory that meet nutrition standards.
    • Use "farm-to-institution" standards and options. They will help you boost the use of locally produced, lower-sodium foods.
    • Team up with vendors to create demand for lower-sodium products by asking them to source and stock lower-sodium products. This will help drive down price.

Learn more about reducing sodium by visiting the CDC website

Online Tools

  • Try this online tool to see what you can do to improve sodium reduction practices in your facility. Create a Site ID and get started.
  • Try this online tool, which is an easy-to-use, free, meal planning tool that helps you search for recipes, make meal plans, and track nutritional info. Use MealBuilder to build your profile with healthy, low-sodium meals that fit the diet and nutritional goals of whomever you are serving. MealBuilder
  • SRCP Implementation Guide | - The purpose of this guide is to assist food service staff and public health organizations reduce sodium in food service organizations by drawing upon the experiences gained during the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program (SRCP).
  • Recipes for children and families can be found in the Simply Yummy Cookbook, which offers popular healthy recipes.
  • To learn about reducing sodium to promote healthy hearts while providing flavorful meals and snacks, use this guide Heart-Healthy Meals in Early Childhood Guidebook
  • Use this 10-item checklist to identify easy ways to reduce sodium Sodium Checklist Serving Heart-Healthy Meals


Success Stories


What surprised you most about lower-sodium products?

That you can substitute high-sodium ingredients with low-sodium ingredients without significantly impacting taste or cost. I was surprised by the wide range of low-sodium products available to the foodservice industry. This made the switch to lower-sodium ingredients seamless. Products available include low-sodium beans, tortillas, ketchup, deli meat, seasonings, sauces, and bases.

Tell us about the biggest obstacle that you overcame in lowering the sodium in the foods you serve.

In the food service industry, salt is a quick and easy way to add flavor. The chefs were able to execute flavorful dishes without anyone missing the salt.

What were customers' reactions?

We have received nothing but positive responses from students and faculty. In most cases, they were unable to tell a difference in flavor. They are appreciative and impressed with the steps we are taking to improve the nutritional content of meals served on campus.

What's been the most rewarding part of choosing lower-sodium products?

Being able to impact the health and wellbeing of the campus community.

Erie County Registered Dietitian and the Director of Procurement and Supply Chain