Bob Harper is the trainer and fitness expert best known for his butt-kicking, fat-burning workouts on The Biggest Loser. He just launched his new book, Jumpstart to Skinny, a 21-day diet and exercise program designed to help you drop pounds quick. Always up for a healthy challenge, BBL staffers have been test-driving Harper’s rules all month long. Here’s Jillian’s take on Rule #8. —BBL Editor
We all know that sugar is bad for us. It seems every day a new study comes out telling us how it wreaks havoc on our health and causes us to gain weight.
But what about salt? Exactly how bad are those tiny crystals? We’re often told to stay away from it, but I didn’t really know much salt I should be eating until I started reading Bob Harper’s Jumpstart to Skinny. His rule #8 is to “Cut the Salt.” Here’s how he explains it:
“If you eat packaged or processed foods (which I really wish you wouldn’t!), you’re probably already getting more salt than you need. Even if you are careful to buy and eat “low- sodium” packaged or processed foods, think again— unless you eat the tiny “serving size,” you are shoveling in the salt. I mean, really, twelve low- salt potato chips equals a serving?
“Yes, your body needs some salt to stay in chemical balance, but too much leads to water retention, which leads nowhere good. If you haven’t been doing so already, it’s high past time you started paying close attention to your salt intake!
“The standard advice if you’re not trying to lose weight is to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day — when you’re looking to lose weight over the long haul and then stay thin, you should shoot for less than 2,000 milligrams a day.”
For the Jumpstart plan, Harper asks you to cut it even further—to 1,000 milligrams a day, which keeps you within the safety zone of the FDA’s daily minimum requirement while further reducing your water-retaining sodium.
You probably won’t miss it — 500 milligrams equals one-fifth of a teaspoon of salt. If you use the recipes and meal plans in Harper’s book, you won’t even have to think about salt and how to get just the right amount. His plan won’t let you exceed 1,000 milligrams a day. If you’re not following Harper’s meal plans but want to cut the salt, here are his “how to eat less salt” tips:
1. Squeeze lemon juice on your food to enhance flavor.
2. Cook with more herbs.
3. Read food labels carefully, keeping an eye out for serving size and the amount of sodium per serving.
4. Use less salt than your recipe calls for. You can always add more if the dish really needs it; you can never take salt out!
5. Don’t have a salt shaker on your table— why tempt yourself? (This isn’t just a Jumpstart idea— you don’t need that shaker on the table, ever.)
Though Jumpstart to Skinny is just designed as a quick solution to weight loss (have a wedding to attend, a reunion coming up, an ex you have to see soon?), I’ve been using his salt-reducing tricks as part of my efforts to be healthier.
I’ve removed the salt from my kitchen table, and I don’t miss it. But if you’re not quite there yet, I found Morton’s Lite Salt in the grocery store, too. It tastes the same and has less sodium.