Sodium Lesson

I’ve always viewed sodium as a “Catch 22” flavoring agent!  It’s one of those minerals your body needs to ID.10017155function correctly, but if under or over consumed, serious health issues can result. So, when I teach this sodium lesson to my students I try to get them to understand why it’s good, why it’s bad, where we find it and how to reduce it. Of course it’s always fun to follow it up with a low sodium lab and/or a unit on herbs and spices, teaching them how to prepare foods that taste good, with or without the “Catch 22” flavoring agent. So, encourage your students to put on their detective cap and investigate the amount of sodium in the foods they are consuming!


  • Play hangman on the board to introduce this topic.  The word to solve is sodium chloride.  Once the puzzle is solved ask students what the more common name for this word is….table salt.
  • Hold up a salt shaker and ask students if consuming salt in their diet is good or bad for their health?


  • Projector & Laptop & Screen
  • Food Packages with Nutrition Facts & Ingredients List
  • Food Models


  • Well, it’s not quite that easy.  Count students off by 4’s.  #1’s responsible for “Why Good?”, #2’s responsible for “Why Bad?”, #3’s responsible for “Sources?” and #4’s responsible for “Ways to Reduce?”  Fill in the graphic organizer found below while viewing the video titled, “Balancing Salt in Your Diet“.
  • Discuss responses and as student numbered groups share the rest of the class fills in their own grid with all information for all areas.
  • How much is recommended?  According to the Dietary Guidelines a daily intake of sodium should be about 1500 mg. Students will write this in the salt shaker on their graphic organizer.
  • What amount of sodium (mg.) is considered high or low?  Food containing 140 mg. or less sodium is considered a low sodium food and food containing 300 mg. or more sodium is considered high.  It’s also very important to read the ingredients list.  The following words are compounds of sodium and are often hidden in the ingredients list.  Remember ingredients are listed from most to least.  The sodium compounds to limit in your diet include:
    • Salt (sodium chloride or NaCl)
    • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
    • Baking soda
    • Baking powder
    • Disodium phosphate
    • Any compound that has “sodium” or “Na” in its name
  • Use this information to complete the “Sleuthing Out the Sodium” activity form along with a variety of common food product labels.  I like to use a variety of processed foods that I know students often eat like Ramen Noodles, Hot Pockets, Soda, Hotdogs, Chips/Crackers, Cheese, etc.  I also throw in a couple of whole, natural foods like baby carrots, dried fruit, etc.  I like to go over the results of this activity with them to hear their comments and discuss questions they have.
  • So now that we know why we need to consume less sodium for good health, and we know how to read those food labels, how can we limit the sodium without compromising taste?  There are actually a lot of simple things we can do, especially when shopping for our foods.
  • View this clip and complete the form as various ways to reduce the sodium are shared.  Students fill in the “Salt Shakedown” chart while they view.  Afterwards, we go over it to see how many tips students are actually “living” at home.  I have them star the tips they aren’t currently implementing, but think they could easily incorporate.  We talk about changing habits one step at a time.
  • The video mentions using and spices to flavor foods instead of using sodium as well as cooking from scratch.  Therefore, to show how this can be done, we are going to prepare a lab incorporating both. If you want to teach about herbs and spices, check out this lesson.
  • I like to have students prepare bagel sticks to show students that you can have a tasty snack while limiting the sodium.  The sodium in this recipe is only in the puff pastry ( Pepperidge Farm brand) and will be divided between 4-6 students so the sodium intake per student is less.  The neat thing about this recipe is that you can tweak the amount of seasonings to your liking!
  • Optional Final Activity:  You Be the Nutritionist!  I lay out all of my food models and students plan a day’s worth of meals trying to select foods that would keep them around the 1500 mg. intake level using the nutrition facts on the back. I don’t always have time to do this activity in my junior high rotation, but it’s a real eye-opener when I do incorporate it.  Students (at least junior high) really struggle with getting all of their food group requirements and the foods and meals they do choose to combine are out there (it makes me wonder what they are eating at home)!  Personally, I think this activity would work better with a senior high class who really have grasped the food intake requirements associated with MyPlate.


Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at Free Digital Photos.

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