Cutting-Back-On-The-Salt Tips

So we know we need to cut back on processed foods and the excess salt we consume. Inherently, this includes reducing trips to fast food chain establishments and restaurants even though they carry the illusion that their products are “freshly” prepared and not processed.  It’s amazing what an oven, toaster, microwave, and a scarce amount of lettuce and tomato can do to frozen foods, isn’t it!  Excluding restaurants where meals are prepared fresh daily, a host of chemicals and salt are added to most foods sold outside of the home.  These preservatives are certainly needed during the transition of convenience foods between production and our plates.  

The ultimate goal of cutting back on salt will be a gradual one.  For example, if you are currently eating out 10 times/week, first set a realistic goal for yourself such as cutting down to 7 time/week and then go from there.  
There will be more quick-meal tips to help replace those that you normally ate outside of the home (stay tuned…). The next small goal could be allowing yourself only one pre-packaged food a day if you are currently the queen or king of these convenience foods. 

Previously mentioned, African Americans (read more if you’re a science junky), people aged 51 or older, and those suffering from hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease are particularly sensitive to salt.  Although it’s essential for all of us to cut back on the salt, if you fall into any one of these categories, you should particularly take heed of the tips below.  Interestingly, for example, after consuming a high-salt meal, my fingers swell significantly even though I don’t suffer from high blood pressure or any fluid imbalance issues.  My finger-swelling moments serve as constant reminders that my genes and family history still place me at risk for diet-related diseases despite my healthy lifestyle (well as healthy as it can be at the moment!).

Below are some tips that I’ve found helpful that you can use along the way.  

  • Cut back on eating out and when you do eat out, ask for exchanges for foods that you know are salty.  For example, ask for a side of vegetables instead of French fries (you’ll be reducing your intake of artery-clogging fats too!).
  • Use more herbs and spices to make food more flavorful without the addition of salt.  Onions and garlic also bring more flavor to a dish.
  • Some foods don’t taste like they have a lot of salt, when in actuality they do.   So make sure to check the sodium levels on the Nutrition Facts label (making sure to note the correct serving size) and look out for sodium in the ingredient list.  Recall that the typical daily recommendation is 2,300 mg and 1,500 mg for the special populations mentioned above.  Sodium, Na, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium citrate, baking soda, baking powder, and sodium bicarbonate are all carriers of sodium.
  • Make use of your kitchen!!!  By doing so, you have control over how much salt you put in your foods and won’t eat out as much.  The more you cook and the more proper knowledge you have of truly healthy foods (not those that have the glaring health claims), the more you will have control over you and your family’s health.   
  • Don’t place the salt shaker on the table.
  • Order salad dressing or sauces on the side.
  • Avoid creamy and tomato-based sauces.
  • Limit consumption of salty foods such as deli meats, pre-prepared frozen meals, hot dogs, pretzels, pickles, canned goods such as baked beans, fish, and soups.  Pre-packaged and seasoned frozen vegetables should also be given a careful eye because they often contain a lot of sodium.
  • Wash canned goods off with water before preparing.  For some foods, it’s even better to cook up raw or frozen versions.  For example, try dry beans and frozen vegetables over canned versions.  
  • Gradually cut out (or more realistically, back!) prepackaged snacks all together. If you’re eating pre-packaged snacks like chips, limit the artificially flavored versions like barbecue and sour cream and onion.  These varieties typically have more added sodium. When the time is right, of course you may have a bag of potato chips, but the key is for these type of foods to NOT be staples in your diet, but once-in-awhile treats.  
  • Get low-sodium products as much as possible.
  • Transition to no sodium versions of foods that are typically sold with salt added.  For example, buy unsalted peanuts and other nuts.  To help the transition, mix the two different versions and eventually you won’t mind the taste of the no salt added nuts.  
  • Limit consumption of sports and energy drinks, which are loaded with sodium.  Although some consider sports drinks as better-for-you alternatives over soda or a must in the fitness world, drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are made for true athletes and consequently filled with replenishing sugars and sodium that the typical person has enough of.  
  • Switch to course salt varieties because we tend to use less salt when it’s in this form.

On your marks, get set, EAT LESS SALT (well actually sodium)!!!

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