Hello and Welcome Everyone,
So many of you contact me and feel so lost when you or a loved one is told to go on a low sodium diet. Here are some tips to help you on your journey.
When folks start a new low sodium diet, they really cannot take their old favorites and prepare them without salt and think they will be happy with the results. They need to learn how to create new favorite recipes. For example their all-time favorite meal is Mom’s fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. Most likely this is not a low sodium recipe. The chicken may be brined to start with, or injected with a sodium broth. It may have salt, seasoned salt, garlic salt, onion salt, chicken bouillon base of some sort, canned chicken broth, or any combination of the above. Do these ingredients sound familiar?
Note: Just 1 level teaspoon of salt is about 2400 milligrams (mg) of sodium. (Measure this and put it in your hand to see just how little this amount is). More than the recommended daily sodium allowance on a low sodium diet which is 1500mg or lower. At most the suggested daily sodium intake is 2000 mg which is not really low sodium. This is the current suggested daily sodium intake for a healthy person, younger than 50. This number was revised lower a few years ago. Consider the average American consumes 3400 mg of sodium or more per day. 2,000 mg is less sodium but not as low sodium as would be more beneficial. It is suggested that anyone healthy or not, over the age of 51, or African American, or has high blood pressure or kidney disease should follow a low sodium diet of 1500mg or less. If everyone would try for this lower number, they could avoid many health consequences down the road. We know that salt is the last thing most of us want to let go of.
Most of the sodium we get from our diets is not usually from the salt shaker, but from processed foods like canned foods, microwave foods and fast foods. This means learning to cook from fresh, from scratch and cooking without salt.
Now you think if you take the salt out of the recipe and fix it the same way it will be ok. Maybe not exactly the same but it should still taste good. Right? Unfortunately it often doesn’t taste the same, not even close. It will most likely taste bland. It might look the same, smell the same or close, but it will not taste the same. Now you are really disappointed, perhaps even shocked as you didn’t think there was that much salt and now you are sad. You may start thinking you can’t do this new low sodium diet. Your life is destined to be bland. Now what do you do? You will need to learn to cook differently and create new favorite recipes.
Here are a few low sodium diet success tips (more on our website):
- You will need to choose new low sodium recipes. This might take some time to find recipes you like.
- You will need to learn new cooking methods:
- Try a slow cooker or a crock pot
- Take time to let your food brown for more flavor
- Learn to use the barbecue grill (try wood chips and marinating)
- Learn to use a pressure cooker
- You will need to learn about and try new ingredients
- Learn to use fresh meats, fresh fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables (meats with bone-in will have better flavor)
- Learn to use a variety of different or new foods
- Start with similar types or varieties of foods. We all love potatoes. Try Yukon gold potatoes or red potatoes, sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, even fingerling potatoes instead of the usual white potatoes
- Try adding red onions, green onions (scallions), leeks, Vidalia sweet onions, instead of just the regular white or yellow onions. These all have different tastes
- Then get bolder by adding or substituting ingredients like parsnips for carrots or brown rice for white rice even mixing 50/50 is a start
- Try a new green lettuce like Romaine or butter lettuce instead of just iceburg lettuce. Build up to stronger flavors like fresh arugula, spinach or chard
Start with small steps and increase your knowledge of different flavors. This will make a big difference for a more colorful, flavorful and varied low sodium diet.
You may have heard that we eat with our eyes. For example, if you eat a bowl of pinto beans, you are expecting a certain familiar look, taste, smell and texture. However, maybe you have never tried black beans. You have a bowl of black beans instead and you are not sure what to expect the flavor to be like. You are now expanding your world of flavor. Sometimes you’ll like it and sometimes you won’t. Just like teaching a baby to like new flavors, you should try a new taste several times to train the taste buds to like it. If you still don’t like it, try something else. Taste buds are constantly changing. You can try again at another time or try a different recipe.
Most of all, you will need to use new flavors like herbs, spices and salt-free seasonings. Not all of these are created equal. You will need to learn about different combinations, how much to add, how to store them, read the labels for Monosodium glutamate (MSG) which you need to avoid especially on a low sodium diet and try to avoid artificial colors, flavors and ingredients like sugar and preservatives.
There is a lot to learn and it’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Cooking is a skill you will use every day of your life and learning to cook low sodium is a challenge, but it’s important and possibly life saving.
Last week I read a blog about black beans that said a certain brand of canned black beans were very popular but very high sodium. 580 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup. Another brand of black beans was very good with almost no sodium only 14 mg per 1/2 cup. Even though I rarely use canned beans, I admit sometimes I have forgotten to put the dried beans to soak. I get myself in a time crunch and need something quicker than soaking and cooking beans from scratch, even using a quick soak method and a pressure cooker (great for cooking beans and we’ll cover this in another newsletter). I found several canned low sodium options at larger grocery stores, Whole Foods has several, even Target. But I still think soaking the dried beans is the best way (low sodium with no worries) and very inexpensive. While looking for black beans, I purchased several different brands and the sodium was all over the place. Look for cans that say no salt, no salt added or low sodium. Reduced sodium, lower sodium, regular or flavored, are not low sodium, so be careful and watch the serving size.
New Recipe: Vegetarian Black Bean Chili #2
Here is a quicker version of our cookbook recipe using canned black beans (no salt),
lots of vegetables including different colored bell peppers, onion, carrots and celery .
3 16 oz cans Black beans (no salt or low sodium), drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and 1/4 – 1/2 inch chop
1 each medium-size green, red and yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1/4-1/2 inch chop (or just green)
1 medium carrot peeled and small dice
1 rib celery, trimmed and small dice
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 8 ounce can Tomato sauce (no salt)
2 cups of water (use the empty tomato sauce can and fill it twice), you can add more water if needed
1-2 Tablespoons #117 Bravado chili seasoning (or to your taste), start with 1 you can add more 2 is spicy my favorite amount
1-2 Tablespoons #103 Table Tasty salt substitute (or to your taste)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, optional
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large Dutch oven or 5 qt saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; add bell peppers, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and cook about 10 minutes to soften. Stir in the chili seasoning and let it cook, “bloom” 2 minutes. Add beans, tomato sauce and water. Stir and cover. Let simmer 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in lime juice, Table Tasty, and black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serves 4-6. Actually, this recipe makes more because the flavor gets better the next day.
Serve with garnishes: Chopped fresh tomatoes, lime wedges, chopped red onion, chopped green onion, minced fresh cilantro, chopped avocado, grated cheese, sour cream, additional Table Tasty if needed. Enjoy!
More ideas: You can serve this in a bowl, a bread bowl, in a baked potato, chili fries, on a bed of rice, a thick version in a taco or on a tostada shell.
For a Dip: Mash this up in a blender or a food processor for a delicious Black Bean Dip.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Most importantly have patience with yourself and your taste buds. There is alot to learn, so try and experiment.