21 Best High Calorie Low Sodium Foods

21 Best High Calorie Low Sodium Foods

“21 Best High Calorie Low Sodium Foods” was written by Nina Deuschle & edited/reviewed by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN. Nina is a dietetic intern based out of Florida.

Many of us who need nutrient-dense, high calorie foods also have health conditions or concerns that have us wanting to choose lower sodium foods.

Luckily, we can be strategic with our food choices so that we are optimizing energy intake without exceeding our daily sodium intake goals!

In this post, you’ll hear all about:

Why High Calorie, Low Sodium?

We are so used to hearing about strategies for consuming fewer calories. So, when might someone want to focus on foods that are higher in calories and lower in sodium?

Benefits of High Calorie Diets

High calorie foods are great for those of us who want to get lots of energy while eating a small amount of food. High calorie foods may be beneficial for a number of reasons. Some of them include:

  • Preventing malnutrition
  • Nourishing your body during times of reduced appetite or extreme fatigue
  • Maintaining muscle mass during times of illness or disease
  • Recovering from traumatic injuries or surgical wounds
  • Fueling after a strenuous workout
Exercise

To learn more about malnutrition, check out our article on protein calorie malnutrition.

Benefits of Low Sodium Diets

Low sodium diets are needed for a variety of health conditions. What are some of the benefits of a low sodium diet?

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce your stroke risk
  • Potentially extend your health span (the number of years that you spend relatively disease-free)
Blood Pressure

What is Considered a High Calorie Diet?

A high calorie diet is one that offers more than enough energy to cover all of your body’s needs. High calorie diets are designed to help people gain or maintain weight during times of increased energy needs.

Calorie needs vary from person to person, so the definition of a high calorie diet will be different for each one of us. 

The best way to come up with a goal when starting a high calorie diet is by speaking with a healthcare provider like a registered dietitian who can assess your needs.

What is Considered a Low Sodium Diet?

Since the phrase “low sodium” is pretty subjective, we’ll break down its meaning.

The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. To put this into perspective, most Americans are eating more than 3,400 mg of sodium daily. (1)

A nutrition plan that is low in sodium typically comes in at around 1,500-2,000 mg per day. While the thought of a low sodium diet might sound boring, rest assured that your meals will still be delicious and exciting! 

Below we’ll provide some tips to help you spice up your diet.

For an easy-to-read explanation of the USDA Dietary Guidelines for older adults, look no further than our blog post that contains all of the information you need.

Strategies for Lowering Your Sodium Intake

You might be surprised to hear how much sodium you are consuming if you’re someone who rarely uses the salt shaker. However, most of the sodium in our diets has already been added to food before it even makes it onto our plates.

Here are some tips for lowering your sodium intake:

  • Look at the Nutrition Facts label. Focus on products with around 5% of the Daily Value (DV) of sodium or less. (2)
  • Pay special attention to foods like processed meats, sauces and condiments, and pre-packaged meals. There are lower sodium options out there, but you’ll have to (once again!) look at the label.
  • Look for lower sodium versions of your favorite foods. We are more likely to stick to a habit if we make shifts that we enjoy.
  • Season foods with a focus on herbs and spices rather than relying on salt. There are lots of tasty spice blends for sale that are salt-free!
  • Prepare more of your own meals. You don’t need to stop getting take-out and eating at restaurants completely to lower your sodium intake. Even swapping just 1-2 takeout meals per week for a home cooked meal can make an impact over time.

21 Best High Calorie Low Sodium Foods

Here are our 21 best high calorie low sodium foods. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive. These are just some good high calorie low sodium food ideas to get you started.

As a disclaimer, remember to always check food labels for nutrition facts specific to the product you’re buying! Nutrient content can vary based on brand, serving size, flavor, and many other factors.

Cashews (unsalted)

Cashews have a natural sweetness to them that make them perfect for whipping up into a nut butter, adding to smoothies, or simply grabbing as a snack. When you purchase them unsalted, you have an extremely energy-dense food that is also low in sodium. (3)

In a 1/4 cup serving:

Calories: 190 kcal

Sodium: 5 mg

cashews

Macadamia Nuts (unsalted)

Much like cashews, macadamia nuts can be purchased unsalted for a high calorie snack or addition to a meal. Macadamia nuts can be roasted and added to salads to introduce a rich flavor and a nice crunch.

In a 1/4 cup serving:

Calories: 241 kcal

Sodium: 2 mg

macadamia

Dates (dried)

Dates are not only high in calories, but they also contain fiber! Some refer to dried dates as “nature’s candy” because they’re so naturally sweet. Spoon some unsalted nut butter into a halved, pitted date. Freeze or refrigerate for a sweet treat.

In 6-7 dried dates:

Calories: 120 kcal

Sodium: 0 mg

dates

Peanut Butter (low sodium)

Peanut butter (nut and seed butters of all kinds, really!) is excellent to have on hand to bulk up your meals. It can be added to yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, or simply sliced fruit to instantly contribute extra energy and protein. (4)

In a 2 tablespoon serving:

Calories: 191 kcal

Sodium: 5 mg

peanut butter

Butter (unsalted)

Unsalted butter is as calorically rich as it is delicious. If you are looking for ways to prepare meals that are lower in volume but higher in calories, look no further than a pat of unsalted butter.

In a 1 tbsp serving:

Calories: 102 kcal

Sodium: 2 mg

butter

Ice Cream

Ice cream is a high calorie food, but you’ll want to make sure you  look at the nutrition facts to choose a variety that’s low in sodium. Depending on the flavor, sodium levels can vary.

In a 2/3 cup serving:

Calories: 91 kcal

Sodium: 35 mg

ice cream

Heavy Cream

Heavy cream, much like butter, is a high calorie food that is low in sodium. It adds a beautiful flavor and smooth creaminess to things like smoothies and sauces. (5)

In a 1 tablespoon serving:

Calories: 51 kcal

Sodium: 4 mg

heavy cream

Cheddar Cheese (Low Sodium)

If you are a cheese lover looking for high calorie foods, then you’re in luck. Cheese is not only high in calories but it also is overall a very nutrient-dense food, containing protein and calcium. Make sure you choose a low sodium variety if that is important to you. (6)

In a 1 ounce serving:

Calories: 113 kcal

Sodium: 6 mg

cheddar

Dark Poultry Meat

Dark poultry meat is higher in calories than white meat. This is because it has about double the fat. Rely mainly on herbs and spices when seasoning your poultry, and if you are choosing a spice blend check the nutrition facts for sodium. (7)

Adding citrus to poultry is another delicious way to enhance flavor without adding salt.

In a 3 ounce serving:

Calories: 154 kcal

Sodium: 74 mg 

poultry

Ribeye Steak

Rib-eye steaks are high calorie and contain protein, iron, and Vitamin B12. Rib-eye can benefit from plenty of black pepper, so you don’t need to sacrifice flavor if you are grilling up a low sodium meal.

In a 3 ounce serving:

Calories: 248 kcal

Sodium: 46 mg

ribeye

Lamb

If you want to ensure that you are purchasing lamb that is higher in calories, look for cuts that haven’t had all of the fat trimmed off. Flavor your lamb with a homemade mint chutney that is low in sodium.

In a 3 ounce serving:

Calories: 250 kcal

Sodium: 61 mg

lamb

Salmon

The omega-3 fats found in salmon make it an excellent choice if you are looking for energy-dense foods. Salmon, much like poultry, can benefit from the addition of citrus.

In a 3 ounce serving:

Calories: 177 kcal

Sodium: 50 mg

salmon

Avocado

When it comes to using avocado to add extra calories to meals, get creative! Avocado can be blended into smoothies or smeared between sandwich layers to increase calories.

In 1/3 of an avocado:

Calories: 107 kcal

Sodium: 5 mg

Avocado

Olive Oil

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats which are beneficial to our health. Oils can be incorporated into meals in the simplest of ways, especially if you choose varieties with a mild flavor like olive oil. (8)

In a 1 tablespoon serving:

Calories: 124 kcal

Sodium: 0.3 mg

olive oil

Potatoes

Potatoes are a nutrient-dense food that often get prepared with a lot of salt. Here you have a great opportunity to call upon your other methods for seasoning foods, like using herbs, spices, and low sodium condiments.

In 1 medium potato:

Calories: 163 kcal

Sodium: 13 mg

potatoes

Rice

If you’re looking for a super quick and easy high calorie side dish that’s low in sodium, add a fat like oil or butter to rice. The result is delicious!

In 1/2 cup cooked rice:

Calories: 103 kcal

Sodium: 1 mg

rice

Quinoa

Extremely flavorful quinoa salads can be whipped up without needing to use a lot of salt. Chop up some of your favorite herbs and veggies, some avocado, and add a drizzle of oil for a tasty high calorie side.

In ¼ cup dry quinoa:

Calories: 170 kcal

Sodium: 0 mg

quinoa

Lentils

Lentils are an energy-dense food that take on the flavor of whatever spices you add to them. They are a great addition to soups and stews.

In 1/2 cup cooked red lentils:

Calories: 115 kcal

Sodium: 2 mg

lentils

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is easily combined with other high calorie foods like peanut butter and heavy cream for a filling meal.

In ½ cup cooked oatmeal:

Calories: 150 kcal

Sodium: 0 mg

oatmeal

Granola

When it comes to granola, take care to look at the nutrition facts label for the brand you’re selecting. Each kind is different; so you’ll want to make sure that you’re choosing something comparable to the variety we have listed below. 

Alternatively, whip up some of your own granola at home and you’ll have complete control over sodium levels!

In 2/3 cup KIND Oats & Honey Granola:

Calories: 110 kcal

Sodium: 25 mg

granola

Firm Tofu

Tofu might start out tasting like nothing, but that’s what is so great about it. It’ll take on the flavor of whatever you decide to add to it, so there is likely a recipe for tofu out there that you might like. Tofu brands will differ in nutrition label information. 

In a 3 oz serving:

Calories: 70 kcal

Sodium: 10 mg

tofu

21 Best High Calorie Low Sodium Foods Infographic

21 High Calorie Low Sodium

Conclusion

Remember, eating a low sodium diet doesn’t mean that you’re sacrificing flavor! Refer back to the tips above to come up with ways to keep mealtime exciting while reducing sodium intake.

Ultimately, with a bit of planning ahead, you can stock your kitchen with foods that are high in calories and low in sodium.

References

  1. How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day? American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/how-much-sodium-should-i-eat-per-day.
  2. Eat Less Sodium: Quick Tips. MyHealthfinder. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/health-conditions/heart-health/eat-less-sodium-quick-tips
  3. Cashews, unsalted. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100519/nutrients
  4. Peanut butter, lower sodium. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100560/nutrients
  5. Cream, heavy. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1097888/nutrients
  6. Cheese, Cheddar, reduced sodium. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098037/nutrients
  7. Chicken leg, drumstick and thigh, grilled without sauce, skin not eaten. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098480/nutrients
  8. Olive Oil. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103861/nutrients

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