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Salt: Do you know how much you are eating?

A shopper walks down the canned soup aisle

A shopper walks down the canned soup aisle at a grocery store in Cincinnati in this undated photo. Food companies and restaurants could soon face government pressure to make their foods less salty, a long-awaited federal effort to try and prevent thousands of deaths each year from heart disease and stroke. Credit: AP / Al Behrman

The FDA is preparing to issue a new set of guidelines, albeit voluntary, to limit the amount of salt in foods at the grocery store and in restaurants. You can check how much salt you're about to consume on nutrition labels by skimming down the list, past "Calories" and "Fat," to "Sodium." The percent daily values are based on the FDA's most recent recommended intake of no more than 2,400 grams per day. Most Americans eat about one-third more than that.
"As Americans, we eat so much processed food," says Madeleine Berg, a nutritionist in Woodbury. "That's why our sodium intake is so high." Fast food and things you buy in a box tend to have "astronomical" levels of salt, she says, including unusual suspects like Pop-Tarts and pancake mix.
It can be almost impossible to find out how much salt will be in your food at any restaurant, says Berg, though you can find nutritional facts for most fast food chains on their websites. But "if after you ate a meal you're very thirsty, then you know you ate too much salt," says Berg, "even if you didn't taste it."
Here are the sodium contents of seven foods, as found on the product websites, ranked in salt order:
Chipotle burrito (flour tortilla, chicken, white rice, pinto beans, guacamole, salsa): 2,505 mg
(Chips and salsa bring the total up to 3,425 mg)
Bacon cheeseburger at Five Guys: 1,310 mg
Slice of cheese pizza at Sbarro: 790 mg
Cup of Progresso lentil soup: 810 mg
Plain bagel at Dunkin Donuts: 620 mg
Medium fries at McDonalds: 270 mg
3/4 cup of Frosted Flakes cereal: 150 mg