Part V - Food Preparation and Dining
With careful attention and good forethought, a reduced sodium diet can be easy and enjoyable. The primary keys to success are becoming educated concerning how to avoid excess sodium and getting used to preparing most of what you eat instead of buying foods that are already made.
1) All foods must be prepared from scratch using whole, unprocessed foods. Very few mixes, canned goods, or frozen dinners are low in sodium.
2) Do not add salt to cooking or season foods with salt.
3) The addition of herbs and spices can make a major difference in how much the salt is missed. Using plenty of onions and garlic can also add flavor.
4) Drain and rinse canned food such as water-packed tuna and vegetables.
5) Sprinkle fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar over vegetables and salads.
6) Marinate meat, poultry, and fish before cooking to enhance flavor.
7) Instead of using lunchmeats, cook fresh meat and poultry. Slice up the cooked meat, freeze in a single layer on baking sheets, and use for sandwiches. It’s also great for stir-fry, soup, or casseroles.
8) Prepare large quantities of soup, stews, spaghetti sauce, and chili. Freeze them in meal-sized portioned containers. This is a wonderful time-saver for busy days.
Sample Meals and Snacks
- Reduced-sodium cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with fresh or canned fruit.
- A hard-boiled egg with a handful of baby carrots.
- An apple with a small handful of almonds or peanuts.
- An unsalted rice cake or a slice of toasted Ezekiel bread with 1 tablespoon of freshly ground, salt-free peanut butter and 1 teaspoon of honey or half of a banana.
- One slice of toasted, low-sodium Ezekiel (or other reduced sodium) bread with 1 ounce of Sargento Baby Swiss sliced cheese.
- Prepare a piece of fruit with a half stick of Sargento Reduced Sodium String Cheese.
- Drizzle non-fat evaporated milk or fat-free cream on unsweetened applesauce.
- Banana Boat:
Slice a banana lengthwise, but not through the bottom skin. Open it up on a plate. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of chopped pecans. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes or until the chocolate is melted and the banana is softened. Remove from the oven and top with a little non-fat whipped cream.
- Sesame-Fruit Toasty:
Spread a thin layer of sesame seed butter (tahini) on toast. Top with chunky, natural applesauce or mashed bananas.
- Creamy Veggie Sandwich:
Spread non-fat cream cheese on low sodium, wholegrain bread. Add vegetables such as sliced cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, leaf lettuce, tomato slices, sweet onion, and bell pepper slices. Top with a second slice that is spread with spicy, brown mustard.
- Super Salad:
Top a garden salad with a sliced, hardboiled egg. Cut up a ripe avocado and put it in a bowl. Pour the juice of one lemon or lime and 1 teaspoon of olive oil to dress the salad.
- Black Beans and Rice:
Place cooked brown rice in a bowl with unsalted, cooked black beans and small pieces of leftover chicken on top. Spoon some fresh salsa over the top.
- Dip vegetable sticks and low sodium crackers in hummus (Middle Eastern chick pea spread).
- Mexican Rice Bowl:
Place cooked rice in a bowl with unsalted, cooked pinto beans on top. Top with chopped green onions a little low sodium cheese. Warm in the microwave until the cheese is melted and serve with fresh salsa.
- Sardine Supreme:
Place some pasta, boiled without salt, in a bowl. Top with fresh or canned diced tomatoes without salt, thinly sliced green onions, and half a can of low sodium sardines. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of Sargento Reduced Sodium Shredded Cheddar or Mozzarella cheese over the top. Warm in the microwave until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.
- Substitute unsalted pretzels for chips.
- Try popcorn with dried fruit and unsalted nuts. Kernels will easily pop in a tightly-closed paper bag in the microwave. There is no need to purchase “microwave popcorn.”
- One small container of flavored Greek yogurt.
- Pita Pizza:
Top a whole wheat pita with spaghetti sauce, fresh mozzarella, and a few basil leaves (fresh or frozen). Heat the dressed pita in the microwave.
1) Choose restaurants where items can be prepared individually without salt. Avoid buffets and fast-food eateries.
2) Avoid ordering foods with breading or those dressed with sauces or condiments (especially soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, barbeque sauce, and ketchup). Request sauces and salad dressings “on the side.”
3) Don’t be hesitant to ask how various dishes are seasoned. Specify your needs and how you want your food prepared such as without salt, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or soy sauce.
4) To lower consumption of high-sodium salad dressings, keep the dressing in a side dish. Before every bite, dip your fork tines into the dressing and spear a bite of salad. In this way, you will enjoy the flavor without all of the sodium.
5) The fork-dipping technique also works well for sauces and gravies.
6) Watch out for foods labeled “heart healthy.” They’re usually reduced in fat, but salt is often increased as a means to enhance flavor.
7) Salad bar hazards that should be avoided include croutons, olives, cheese, bacon, soup, pasta and potato salads, coleslaw, sunflower seeds, pepperoni, Chinese noodles, pickles, and salad dressings (regular, light or fat free). Oil and vinegar is a sodium-free dressing.
A list of sources for this series of articles can be found here.