7 Alternatives to Salt to Make Food Taste Great

salt shaker and sprinkling of salt across black background

Salt is an important part of a healthy diet, but too much of it can spell trouble for our blood pressure and heart health. Despite what some people think, curbing your salt intake isn’t as simple as cutting out the saltshaker at mealtimes. Salt is in practically all processed foods, sneaking into our diet through foods that don’t even taste salty. For this reason, many of us are consuming way more salt that we need to. Read on to discover some simple ways to reduce your salt intake and 7 flavourful alternatives to salt to still make food taste great!

Why do we need salt in our diet?

Salt isn’t all doom and gloom. Salt contains sodium and chloride – both important minerals we need in our diet to maintain a balance of body fluids and keep muscles and nerves running smoothly.

However, consuming too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, raising the risk of heart disease, stroke and other health problems.

The average Australian is eating almost double the recommended daily maximum amount of salt, which is 5g for healthy adults (or 1 teaspoon). It’s therefore important to watch how much of it we consume.

Salt vs. Sodium – What’s the difference?

The words “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Salt is a crystal-like compound that is abundant in nature. Sodium is a mineral, and one of the chemical elements found in salt.

Sodium plays an important role in the food manufacturing process. It’s used for things like curing meat, baking, thickening, retaining moisture, enhancing flavour and colour, and prolonging shelf life.

Beware of hidden salt in food

While we might expect to find sodium in foods that taste salty, like canned soups, lunch meats, and frozen dinners, other foods which don’t taste salty, like cereals and pastries, can still be high in sodium.

Bowl of cereal in yellow bowl with yellow background

Foods eaten several times a day (such as breads) can also add up to a lot of sodium over the course of a day, even if an individual serving may not be high in sodium.

Sodium can be listed under many different names on nutrition labels, making it tricky to detect. Some examples include:

  • Disodium guanylate (GMP)
  • Disodium inosinate (IMP)
  • Fleur de sel
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Kosher salt
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Rock salt
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Sodium chloride
  • Trisodium phosphate

How to reduce your salt intake

Around 75% of the sodium in our diets comes from salt added to processed foods, 15% comes from salt added during cooking and at the dinner table, while only 10% comes from the natural sodium content in foods. Many of us would therefore benefit from taking active steps to reduce our salt intake from processed foods.

The most effective way to decrease salt in your diet is to eat mostly fresh and minimally processed foods, such as vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and fresh lean meat, fish and chicken. Limit the consumption of ultra-processed foods prepared outside the home, such as sweet and savoury snacks, pizzas, burgers, and other fast foods.

Other tips to cut down on salt:

  • Read food labels – Check the Nutrition Information Panel on packaged foods and use the ‘per 100g’ column to compare products. Aim for products that contain no more than 400mg of sodium per 100g.
  • Prepare your own food when you can. Limit the use of packaged sauces, mixes and “instant” products, like flavoured rice, instant noodles, and ready-made pasta.
  • Make lower-sodium choices at restaurants by asking for your meal to be prepared without table salt and ordering sauces and dressings on the side.  
  • Choose ‘low salt’ or ‘salt reduced’ products at the supermarket. These must contain at least 25% less sodium than the standard variety. E.g., reduced salt soy sauce must have 25% less sodium than standard soy sauce.
  • Use half the recommended amount of seasoning, stock, or sauce in a recipe.
  • Remove the saltshaker from the dinner table. 
  • Taste your food before seasoning it and opt for flavoursome alternatives to salt (see below).

7 alternatives to salt

Meals and snacks can still taste delicious without adding salt. Try these alternatives to make your food pop!

  1. lemon juice or zest
  2. ground black pepper
  3. fresh garlic or ginger
  4. balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or red wine vinegar
  5. infused oils (e.g. garlic or chilli oil)
  6. fresh or dried herbs (e.g. rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley, dill)
  7. spices (e.g. paprika, turmeric, white mustard, chilli flakes)
Bowl of baked potato wedges sprinkled with pepper and fresh rosemary sprigs

If you are concerned about your sodium intake, or you have a family history of high blood pressure, please consult your doctor for health advice.


Content developed by Health and Wellbeing Queensland’s team of expert nutritionists, dieticians, and exercise physiologists.