60 High Calorie Low Sodium Foods! From a Dietitian!

For individuals aiming to gain weight or maintain a healthy weight, especially in cases of increased energy needs or during recovery from illness, high-calorie foods are essential. 

However, it’s crucial to balance calorie intake with sodium intake, as excessive sodium can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure and heart disease. This balance is particularly important for those with specific dietary needs or health conditions that require low-sodium diets.

As many as 70% of older adults have issues with Hypertension and other cardiovascular related problems, while being predisposed to malnutrition.  Finding the delicate balance of having high calorie low sodium foods is critical for long term health.

As a Registered Dietitian with over a decade of experience, I’ve put together my best tips and tricks to maintain this diet and the top foods to include!

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Benefits of High Calorie, Low Sodium Diets

High calorie low sodium foods offer a unique balance, catering to those who need to increase their energy intake while managing or preventing health conditions associated with high sodium levels, such as hypertension and heart disease. 

Here are the key benefits of following a low sodium, high calorie diet:

1. Improved Heart Health: Reducing sodium intake helps lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A low sodium diet can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve overall heart health.

2. Enhanced Muscle and Weight Management: For individuals looking to gain weight or build muscle, a high-calorie diet is essential. By focusing on nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods, you can achieve your weight and prevent malnutrition in older adults, without the negative effects of excessive sodium, such as water retention and bloating.

3. Better Kidney Function: High sodium intake can put extra strain on the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering and removing waste from the body. A low sodium diet supports kidney health by reducing the kidneys’ workload, potentially preventing kidney disease.

4. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: Besides its impact on blood pressure and cardiovascular health, a low sodium diet may also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, such as stomach cancer and osteoporosis. Combined with a high-calorie intake from healthy sources, it promotes overall well-being.

5. Enhanced Fluid Balance: Excess sodium can disrupt the natural fluid balance in the body, leading to dehydration or edema (swelling). A low sodium diet helps maintain proper fluid balance, ensuring that cells and organs function optimally.

6. Improved Taste Sensitivity: Reducing sodium intake can enhance your taste sensitivity over time, allowing you to enjoy the natural flavors of food more fully. This can lead to a greater appreciation for a variety of foods and nutrients, contributing to a more enjoyable and diverse diet.

7. Weight Gain Without Health Compromises: For those needing to increase their calorie intake for weight gain, a high-calorie, low-sodium diet ensures that this can be done healthily. This is especially useful in older adults who may be struggling with hypertension but still need to maintain or gain weight.

Strategies for Lowering Sodium Intake

salt in a brown container and green leaves.

The majority of sodium intake often comes from processed and prepared foods, not just from the salt shaker. It’s important to recognize salt on nutrition labels, and find ways to reduce your intake.

Here are practical ways to reduce sodium in your diet:

1. Cook More Meals at Home: Cooking at home allows you to control the amount of sodium in your meals. Use fresh, whole ingredients, and limit the use of processed foods, which often contain high levels of sodium.

2. Use Herbs and Spices: Enhance the flavor of your food with herbs, spices, and citrus instead of relying on salt. Fresh or dried herbs, garlic, vinegar, and lemon juice can add zest to your dishes without the need for extra sodium.

3. Choose Fresh or Frozen Produce: Opt for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium. Canned vegetables can be a high-sodium trap unless they’re labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium.” If you use canned vegetables, rinse them under water to wash away some of the sodium.

4. Read Food Labels: Pay attention to the sodium content on food labels. Look for products labeled as “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.” Compare brands and choose the options with the lowest sodium content.

5. Be Cautious with Condiments: Sauces and condiments can be hidden sources of sodium. Use them sparingly or look for low-sodium versions. Consider making your own condiments to control the amount of sodium added.

6. Modify Your Recipes: Adjust your favorite recipes by reducing the salt called for by half and taste before adding more. Often, you’ll find the dish still tastes great with less salt.

7. Choose Low-Sodium Snacks: Snack wisely by choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts, and low-sodium cheese. Avoid salty snacks like chips, pretzels, and salted nuts.

8. Limit Processed and Fast Foods: Processed foods like deli meats, canned soups, and fast food are typically high in sodium. Limit your intake of these foods and choose fresher, less processed options.

9. Use Salt Substitutes Wisely: Some salt substitutes or light salts reduce sodium but may contain potassium chloride. While these can be a good option for some, they’re not suitable for everyone, especially those with kidney problems or on certain medications. Consult with a healthcare provider before using them.

10. Gradually Reduce Sodium Intake: If you’re used to a high-sodium diet, gradually reduce your sodium intake to help your taste buds adjust. Over time, you’ll start to appreciate and enjoy the natural flavors of food without the need for extra salt.

60 Best High Calorie Low Sodium Foods

When aiming to increase your calorie intake without significantly upping your sodium consumption, focusing on whole, unprocessed foods is key. 

Here’s a breakdown of food categories and specific options that fit the bill for a high-calorie, low-sodium diet.

Fruits

  • Avocados – ½ avocado: 160 calories, <10 mg sodium
  • Sweet Potatoes – 1 medium (baked): 103 calories, 41 mg sodium
  • Bananas – 1 medium: 105 calories, 1 mg sodium
  • Dates – 4 dates (24g): 66 calories, 0 mg sodium
  • Dried Apricots – ¼ cup: 78 calories, 3 mg sodium
  • Mangoes – 1 cup sliced: 99 calories, 3 mg sodium
  • Peaches – 1 medium: 58 calories, 0 mg sodium
  • Spinach – 1 cup cooked: 41 calories, 126 mg sodium
  • Butternut Squash – 1 cup cubed, cooked: 82 calories, 8 mg sodium
  • Edamame – ½ cup shelled: 120 calories, 9 mg sodium

Whole Grains

  • Quinoa – 1 cup cooked: 222 calories, 13 mg sodium
  • Brown Rice – 1 cup cooked: 216 calories, 10 mg sodium
  • Oats – ½ cup dry: 150 calories, 0 mg sodium
  • Barley – 1 cup cooked: 193 calories, 5 mg sodium
  • Whole-wheat Pasta – 1 cup cooked: 174 calories, 0 mg sodium
  • Buckwheat – 1 cup cooked: 155 calories, 7 mg sodium
  • Millet – 1 cup cooked: 207 calories, 2 mg sodium
  • Bulgur – 1 cup cooked: 151 calories, 9 mg sodium
  • Farro – 1 cup cooked: 200 calories, 10 mg sodium
  • Wild Rice – 1 cup cooked: 166 calories, 5 mg sodium

Proteins

  • Salmon – 3 oz: 177 calories, 50 mg sodium
  • Chicken Breast – 3 oz cooked: 140 calories, 63 mg sodium
  • Turkey Breast – 3 oz cooked: 125 calories, 65 mg sodium
  • Lean Beef (Sirloin) – 3 oz cooked: 156 calories, 55 mg sodium
  • Eggs – 1 large: 72 calories, 70 mg sodium
  • Tofu – ½ cup: 94 calories, 9 mg sodium
  • Tempeh – 1 cup: 320 calories, 15 mg sodium
  • Lentils – 1 cup cooked: 230 calories, 4 mg sodium
  • Chickpeas – 1 cup cooked: 269 calories, 11 mg sodium
  • Black Beans – 1 cup cooked: 227 calories, 2 mg sodium

Dairy and Alternatives

  • Greek Yogurt – 1 cup plain, low-fat: 130 calories, 85 mg sodium
  • Cottage Cheese – ½ cup low-sodium: 90 calories, 15 mg sodium
  • Milk – 1 cup whole: 150 calories, 98 mg sodium
  • Hard Cheeses (Swiss) – 1 oz low-sodium: 108 calories, 54 mg sodium
  • Soft Cheeses (Ricotta) – ½ cup part-skim: 170 calories, 60 mg sodium
  • Kefir – 1 cup: 104 calories, 125 mg sodium
  • Soy Milk – 1 cup fortified: 80-100 calories, 60 mg sodium
  • Almond Milk – 1 cup fortified: 30-50 calories, <10 mg sodium
  • Mozzarella Cheese – 1 oz part-skim: 72 calories, 175 mg sodium
  • Cheddar Cheese – 1 oz sharp, low-sodium: 110 calories, 6 mg sodium

Healthy Fats

  • Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon: 119 calories, <1 mg sodium
  • Almonds – 1 oz (23 nuts): 164 calories, 0 mg sodium
  • Walnuts – 1 oz: 185 calories, 1 mg sodium
  • Flaxseeds – 1 tablespoon ground: 37 calories, 2 mg sodium
  • Chia Seeds – 1 tablespoon: 69 calories, 3 mg sodium
  • Hemp Seeds – 1 tablespoon: 57 calories, 0 mg sodium
  • Cashews – 1 oz: 157 calories, 3 mg sodium
  • Avocado Oil – 1 tablespoon: 124 calories, 0 mg sodium
  • Sunflower Seeds – 1 oz: 164 calories, 0.7 mg sodium
  • Peanut Butter – 2 tablespoons, natural: 188 calories, 5 mg sodium

Snacks and Extras

  • Popcorn – 3 cups air-popped: 93 calories, 2 mg sodium
  • Dark Chocolate – 1 oz (70-85% cocoa): 170 calories, 6 mg sodium
  • Homemade Granola – ½ cup: 200-300 calories, <10 mg sodium (varies by recipe)
  • Dried Fruit – ¼ cup raisins: 108 calories, 5 mg sodium
  • Nut Butters – 2 tablespoons almond butter: 196 calories, 1 mg sodium
  • Whole Grain Crackers – 5 crackers: 120 calories, 80 mg sodium
  • Rice Cakes – 1 plain, large (9g): 35 calories, 0 mg sodium
  • Homemade Smoothies – 1 cup: 150-300 calories, <20 mg sodium (varies by ingredients)
  • Greek Yogurt Parfaits – 1 cup yogurt with fruits & nuts: 200-400 calories, <100 mg sodium
  • Trail Mix – ¼ cup homemade: 150-200 calories, <10 mg sodium

Final Thoughts

Adding high calorie low sodium foods to your diet requires a bit of planning and creativity but is entirely feasible with the right approach. 

By focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods and being mindful of sodium content, individuals can craft a diet that supports their health goals without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

The key is to prioritize natural ingredients and prepare meals at home whenever possible, as this allows for complete control over both the calorie content and the amount of sodium.

Remember, embarking on a diet that is both high in calories and low in sodium does not mean you have to navigate your nutritional journey alone. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can provide personalized advice tailored to your specific needs and goals. They can help you determine your ideal calorie and sodium intake levels and offer guidance on meal planning and food choices.

As you integrate these high calorie, low sodium foods into your diet, keep in mind that variety and moderation are crucial. Experiment with different foods and seasonings to discover what you enjoy most and to ensure you’re getting a broad spectrum of nutrients. 

With thoughtful selection and preparation of foods, you can enjoy a rich and diverse diet that fuels your body effectively while managing sodium intake.

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Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.

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