CDC: Bread beats out chips as biggest salt source
Next on the list: cold cuts and cured meats; pizza; fresh and processed poultry; soups; fast-food hamburgers and sandwiches and cheese. Rounding out the list - and accounting for about 3 percent each - are spaghetti and other pasta dishes; meatloaf and other meat dishes and snacks like potato chips and pretzels.
Dietary guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, equal to about a teaspoon of salt.
Certain people, such as those with high blood pressure, should eat even less.
But average sodium consumption in the U.S. is around 3,300 milligrams, the CDC study found. Only 1 in 10 Americans meet the teaspoon guideline. The amount of sodium in food types can vary.
For example, a slice of white bread can have between 80 and 230 milligrams of sodium.
A cup of canned chicken noodle soup has between 100 and 940 milligrams and 3 ounces of luncheon meat has between 450 and 1,050 milligrams.
A small 1 ounce bag of potato chips ranges from 50 to 200 milligrams.
The new CDC report is based on surveys of more than 7,200 people in 2007 and 2008, including nearly 3,000 children. Participants were surveyed twice, each time answering detailed questions about what they had eaten over the previous day.
Researchers then broke down what they ate into categories, and assigned sodium amounts.
Salt reduction has become a recent focus of public health campaigns, and some major food makers have taken steps or announced plans to gradually reduce sodium in their products.
CDC officials - who have long encouraged people to eat more fruits and vegetables - stopped short of advising people to lay off the bread. But they are encouraging consumers to read labels and, for example, buy brands of bread that have lower sodium.
"People can choose how much salt to add to their food at the table. They can't take it out once it's there," Frieden said. There's another way to consume less sodium.
"Eat smaller portions," Hayes said.
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.