I have been meaning to post some new style pictures and reviews, but it just didn’t happen this weekend. We’ve just got a lot going on this week in general but my “photographer” may be out of commission for a while as he prepares for a federal lawsuit out of state.
My husband and I are also starting a new business that we’re very excited about. I’m not ready to make the official announcement yet, but we’ve gotten a supportive response so far and I think you will all really like it.
No, we’re not quitting our professions. We just think there’s a market fit and that we can earn a third income from it. Also, we might be insane…
I do want to share with you today what I have learned while on a low sodium diet and how you can get started reducing sodium in your meals too. Whether you also have doctor’s orders, are looking to be heart-healthy or you want to support an at-risk family member or friend, I think my tips can help make what is a VERY difficult transition a bit easier.
Cooking at Home
Beyond Mrs. Dash (which is the bomb), experiment with spices in lieu of salt. I sometimes look up spice blends, like taco seasoning and Cajun spice, to copy the ingredients but without the salt. Whole Foods sells a Salt-Free Tokyo Rub with the BBQ sauces and it’s seriously worth every penny.
To season my food, I rely heavily on garlic, onions, alcohol, spices and infused oils. I also like to add a small amount of unsalted butter just to get a little extra richness.
Labels marked Low Sodium doesn’t really mean low sodium by the AHA standards (2,400 mg per day max for healthy adults; 1,500 mg per day max for at-risk adults). It just means that there is less sodium than the super-salty version. When it comes to anything involving a broth or can – you need to look for No Salt Added or extra sodium may be hiding out in there. I learned the hard way that the 365 Organic artichoke hearts “in water” are actually tasty little salt bombs – nearly 500mg per serving!
Some of the least salty condiments I found weren’t marketed as low sodium. It never hurts to look at every label! The Whole Foods Texas-style BBQ sauce has 1/5 the salt at 60 mg per serving, for example. Stonewall Kitchen has a decent selection (again, check the labels!) and I found a low sodium ketchup (15mg) by Local Foods.
As if cooking everything from scratch and obsessively checking labels day in and day out isn’t tiring enough, you have to research which foods just naturally have sodium in them. I thought I was doing great by snacking on celery sticks covered in peanut butter. The Simply Balanced creamy variety from Target has 0mg of sodium per serving! But what I didn’t know is that celery naturally has more sodium in it than other vegetables. Beets are sneaky little salty devils too!
Fast Food Cheats
I’m not going to lie. I love fast food. And if you’re like me and you love it, this is probably going to be your favorite part of this post. Because where there’s a will, there’s a way and I obsessively researched until I found it.
Some of my favorite things to eat on the go:
- Taco Bell crunchy taco supreme, no shredded cheese – only 280 mg!
- McDonald’s hamburger Happy Meal (no ketchup, no pickle, no added salt on the burger; apple slices or a Cuties orange; unsalted kids’ fry; apple juice) for 400 mg
- McDonald’s Egg McMuffin with no Canadian bacon, cheese, or salted butter and a Mango Pineapple Smoothie clocks in at around 300 mg total
- Wendy’s sour cream and chive potato (toss the margarine) is a super low sodium food at 35 mg total!
- Panda Express (I know, this one surprised me too): Honey Walnut Shrimp or Treasure Shrimp with brown rice clocks in at only 440 mg. For comparison, steamed Sweet and Sour Shrimp with extra vegetables and brown rice at Pei Wei has 660 mg (and most of their dishes have 2,000 mg plus!)
- Pret-a-Manger has one of the only soups I can eat. Their small carrot ginger soup only contains 280 mg (soups are normally 1,000 mg plus) and their egg and quinoa pot only has 180 mg.
- At Panera, I usually order a half of the steak and arugula sandwich or a single tomato mozzarella flatbread (approx. 450 mg), a mixed greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette on the side and an apple.
Nicer restaurants can be great or absolutely terrible for sodium consumption, and very rarely is there grey area. I’ve experienced chefs get really indignant and say that “she won’t like the taste.” Yeah, well I also won’t like looking like a puffer fish tomorrow either.
When in doubt, avoid the bread and anything that is cooked low and slow. Bread has a ton of sodium in it and anything already prepared, like risotto, the cooks cannot modify.
Clearly explain to the waiter that your doctor has you on a low sodium diet. I really hate being THAT person, but it’s even worse sending your food back because the kitchen staff didn’t think it was a serious request.
Freshwater oysters are a low sodium appetizer. Just make sure to use a drop of hot sauce, horseradish or mignonette sauce and lemon because cocktail sauce (ketchup based) is very high sodium. You half to be careful with salt water seafood, as it naturally has more sodium.
For cheeses, Emmentaler, burrata, mozzarella and a soft, plain goat cheese are your best choices. My favorite place serves burrata with olive oil, sea salt and pepper so I ask that they hold the salt.
American bistro and Italian restaurants can have some options. Ask if your pasta can be cooked without salt and tossed with vegetables, protein, garlic, basil and olive oil. Your best bet at a pizza place is to order a Margherita pizza with fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil (no salt added) on a thinner crust. Also, be prepared to get a green salad with grilled (no salt-added) salmon or steak and oil and vinegar. A lot.
For sides, keep an eye out and ask for steamed vegetables, a baked potato (hold the salty butter, cheese and bacon), fruit salad, unsalted fries, sauteed spinach with garlic (no salt) and cole slaw (but don’t eat too much of it).
My favorite place to get a low sodium date night meal is a top-notch Indian restaurant like Jaipur on Randolph Street. They can make my dishes with no added salt and thanks to the curry and spices, we never miss it!
Sashimi with a bit of wasabi is really your only option in a Japanese restaurant. Sushi rice can vary restaurant to restaurant whether they put salt in it and any sauce that is soy sauce or fish sauce based is going to be very salty.
Baking soda contains a lot of sodium in it, so for dessert skip the cakey dishes and order sorbet or ice cream.