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CUTTING BACK ON SODIUM IN YOUR DIET? AVOID HIDDEN SALT IN THE MEAT AISLE, ADVISES NUTRITIONIST American Medical Association calls for 50% reduction in salt intake to reduce health risks

Many Americans assume that it’s easy to reduce salt intake simply by avoiding the salt shaker. But what if the basic staples of homemade meals already contain added sodium? Foster Farms' registered dietician, nationally-recognized speaker and media personality, Nancy Bennett, MS, RD, CDE offers the following advice to consumers looking for ways to cut back on sodium in places you'd never think to look:

"Few people realize that many foods assumed to be healthy may actually contain added salt," explains Bennett. "Fresh chicken is a great example. Many health-conscious consumers choose fresh chicken breasts over other meat because poultry is naturally low in saturated fat. But even boneless, skinless fresh chicken breasts can be misleading - unlike frozen chicken, prepared poultry products or pre-marinated poultry products which are expected to have added sodium for taste and preservative benefits, fresh chicken found in the fresh meat case is assumed to be preservative-free with no added sodium. But in many cases, some labels reveal that added sodium is lurking in the form of a preservative, enhancement or flavored broth. You may not taste the added sodium, but it's there and is contributing to your overall health."

This week, the AMA called for a 50 percent reduction of sodium in processed foods and restaurant meals, citing reducing increased national rates of hypertension and, ultimately, cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 killer of men and women.

"The good news is that there are options out there for consumers looking to reduce their sodium intake at home, they just need to know what to choose: Truly fresh, natural chicken contributes just 73 mg per 4 ounces equaling roughly 115 mg of sodium for a 6-8 ounce portion size - which is about 7 times less sodium than sodium-enhanced fresh chicken."

Nancy Bennett's guidelines on cooking chicken for a reduced-sodium lifestyle:

At the grocery store:
1 Read the label. "Even with traditionally healthier foods, like chicken, sodium-based ingredients may have been added. Always read the label to assure that the brand you choose is natural and fresh, with no added sodium or preservatives."

2 Fresh is best. "Foods that are frozen at any point in their packaging or delivery will most likely contain added sodium as a preservative. When you are purchasing fresh chicken products in the fresh meat case, make sure that the chicken is always delivered fresh and stored fresh never frozen to assure its integrity."

At home:
3 Rely on herbs and spices, not salt, for flavor. "I encourage everyone to use homemade spice rubs instead of prepared sauces for added flavor, especially when grilling. Your chicken will be flavorful without the added salt and your friends and family will appreciate the variety in flavors."

4 When in doubt, do not "take out". "For the healthiest family meals, the safest bet is to prepare them yourself at home, and there are many convenient ways to do so. You will have better control of the ingredients in your own home, and can monitor each step of the process. One way that I make this more convenient is to prepare more than one night's worth of food at a time, so that I have quick access to healthy ingredients throughout the week. When I prepare grilled chicken, I make extra and store it so I can quickly toss it into a salad or pasta for my lunch or dinner the next day."

Foster Farms-branded fresh chicken sold in the fresh meat case is always fresh, never frozen, and is all natural, with no preservatives or added sodium.

"We know that many consumers prioritize their health and want the choice of fresh chicken that is all natural, with no preservatives or added sodium," says Greta Janz, Foster Farms' Vice President of Marketing. "We are proud to offer several poultry choices in the fresh meat case that meet stringent nutrition needs, and have offered these choices for many years. At the same time, we understand that many consumers want convenient meal solutions, so we also offer prepared poultry products, pre-marinated products and frozen chicken products that may contain added sodium for flavor and preservative benefits, but which are wholesome ingredients in a balanced diet."

For more nutrition tips from Nancy Bennett and thousands of recipes to add variety to your family's healthy routine visit

Foster Farms is the premium poultry brand in the Western United States. Based in Livingston, Calif., the company has remained a family-owned business since its founding in 1939. Foster Farms branded fresh chicken always locally grown on farms it owns or operates in each of its markets California, Oregon and Washington. Foster Farms specializes in producing high quality fresh chicken products that are all natural with no preservatives or sodium-based additives, in addition to a full line of other delicious poultry products. The company produces and delivers premium quality poultry products to retailers, warehouse clubs and foodservice customers throughout the West.