WHEN SITTING DOWN at the dinner table at home, those of us who are watching our sodium intake will eschew extra salt from the shaker, or implore the cook to not add any salt to the dish while making it, but the real salty offenders come from packaged foods and restaurant meals that slip in loads of hidden sodium.

Recent research appearing in the journal Circulation showed that we get almost 71% of our sodium from food outside the home, with salt added to food at home and at the table only coming in at around 6% and 5%, respectively. The study, which looked at 450 people of all ages, gender, and races in three U.S. regions over one year, also found that people get an average of 3,500mg of sodium daily, much higher than the American Heart Association’s recommendation 2,300mg, and over twice the 1,500mg suggested for people with high blood pressure and other risk factors.

“Telling patients to lay off the salt shaker isn’t enough,” said study lead Lisa J. Harnack, Ph.D., professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “Rather, commercially processed and restaurant foods should be the primary focus when educating patients on strategies for lowering sodium in the diet. Food manufacturers and restaurants should be encouraged to lower the sodium content in their food products to support Americans in consuming a diet consistent with sodium-intake recommendations.”

If you are worried about how much salt you’re getting in your diet, we recommend not buying much packaged food at the grocery store, and limiting your restaurant visits to once a week. As always, load up on fresh whole foods like fruit and veggies, lean meats like fish and chicken, and get plenty of nuts and berries. And feel free to shake that shaker when tucking into a great, home-cooked meal.