Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ack! Salt!

One of the things I've been trying to do since I've been married is cook with less salt. I want to make flavorful dishes that don't require it. Just yesterday my mom talks to me and says the doctor told her to go on a low sodium diet, and did I have any suggestions. So, since I have to type all this up anyway, I thought I'd also share my salt story with you today.

  • mg = milligram
  • dv = daily value
  • oz = ounce
  • "low sodium" means 140 mg per serving
  • "no sodium" means 10 mg or less per serving
5 Quick Tips
  • Pay attention to mg content, rather than the percentage dv and try to stay below 1,500 mg per day (less than 1 tsp)
  • Don't eat "meals in a box" or any other of the instant foods, unless they specifically say low to no sodium. No "helper" meals, no mac & cheese, no "Home Bakes."
  • Don't use canned veggies, soups, or meats with any frequency, as part of the canning process is to add a LOT of salt.
  • Don't eat fast food or any ham more than once or twice a month, as it will completely blow your sodium goals for that day / week.
  • Drink lots of water because it helps your body with salt and salt distribution
Fruit / Veggies
  • Fresh vegetables have almost no sodium, while some canned veggies can have over 400 mg per serving. Canned fruits don't have too much sodium, but fresh fruit is better for you anyway.
  • Pretty much any fresh veggie or fruit is a good choice: asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cucumber, peas, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, apples, pears, apricots, cantaloupe, grapes, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, strawberries, watermelon... etc
  • The key here is to remember not to dump lots of salt onto all these great veggies you are eating.
  • A great trick I learned is to season veggies with chili or garlic powder, or use lemon pepper seasoning. It adds a great flavor with none of the salt.
Meat / Dairy
  • Avoid ham, as a single serving can have your entire daily allotment of sodium or MORE, depending on how it was cooked.
  • Use meat as a garnish rather than as the main event; this will produce a savings on your grocery budget as well as reduce your sodium intake. EG: I make a lot of one-dish meals, and when I do, I usually add a pre-portioned amount of meat from my freezer. So one meal for 4 people, winds up only having about a cup of ground beef.
  • The same goes for cheese. One idea for cheese is, buy a stronger flavored cheese, like Parmesan or extra sharp cheddar. You'll get more flavor per oz, which means you can use less.
  • In poultry, dark meat has more sodium than white meat.
  • Avoid "shelf-stable" meats like summer sausage because they are very high sodium foods.
Breads / Pasta / Beans
  • Pretty much all pastas and rices are low in sodium, so long as they aren't part of a meal kit with a flavor (read: SALT) packet. Of course, I am biased to using whole grain products as a rule, and white only as an exception.
  • Store-bought breads have more sodium than homemade, but not everyone has the time or the inclination to make their own, so look for low-sodium breads or just read the packaging until you find one that is lower than normal.
  • Oatmeal is a great, simple, heart-healthy food and it actually is a zero sodium food.
  • Don't use canned beans as they are very high in sodium. instead, buy bags of dried beans and soak them overnight when you know you will use them the next day. If you must use canned beans, at least thoroughly rinse them to cut down on the salt. Crock pots are wonderful for cooking dry beans
  • Out of the bean family, lentils have the highest sodium content, so might be best to avoid that one or to eat it in small quantities.

Just about anything is ok in small quantities, and remember your body does need some salt in order to survive, but if your doctor is telling you to reduce your salt intake, some or all of these tips can help you along the way. As for me and DH, we don't have a sodium restriction in place from our doctor, but we generally try to follow the ideas mentioned above. We still use box dinner kits sometimes, we still use canned veggies and fruits. The biggest thing here is, moderation. We don't eat a dinner kit every night; but it is a nice convenience when we're both too tired from work and classes that day. I make a lot of our own breads, which also cuts down on sodium.

Moderation. Remember that. Quick Low-Sodium Meal Ideas
  • fresh fruit or veggies
  • oatmeal with milk & sugar
  • toast w/ jelly or preserves
  • toast w/ an egg
  • fruit smoothies
  • an apple w/ reduced sodium peanut butter
  • a boiled egg salad (romaine, red onion, hard boiled egg, and a bit of olive oil & freshly ground pepper or a vinaigrette)
  • lemon pepper veggies over whole wheat pasta
  • a baked potato with a bit of cheese
  • rice w/ veggies
  • crock pot beans w/ veggies

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on sodium in food. My final thought is, do what works for you. If you don't want to make your own bread, don't. If you don't want to use dry beans, don't. Just make sure that you are making enough changes to reduce your sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less per day. Read food labels, look for "no sodium" or "sodium free" items as those are easy things to get you going in the right direction.

What do you think about sodium?

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