We are not alone in our mission to cut back on salt consumption.
A diligent Internet search on my part uncovered a fantastic resource involving collaboration between Harvard University and The Culinary Institute of America. Out of this partnership they published an easy to read guide, “Tasting Success with Cutting Salt: Twenty-Five Science-Based Strategies & Culinary Insights” geared towards anyone who has an interest in nutrition. The guide is divided into four sections:
- The big picture
- Salt psychology
- Shopping tips
- Culinary advice
More than half of the strategies offer details on maintaining and enhancing the flavors of food while cutting back on the amount of sodium that you eat.
Marty and I have clearly adopted their #2 strategy, which is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. We like a crunchy, juicy salad filled with assorted veggies and tossed with a nut based dressing. The bright, fresh colors of yellow mini peppers, shredded orange carrots, vibrant leafy green spinach, red onions, cherry tomatoes and mellow yellow chickpeas delight the eyes before your mouth even enjoys the first bite. Top that off with a sweet, juicy pear with a sprinkle of cinnamon for dessert.
Our bodies actually need more potassium than sodium but unfortunately for most Americans and their heart health they take in just the opposite. This detrimental eating habit of preferring salty foods contributes to high blood pressure. Besides being nutrient dense and filled with beneficial vitamins, fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium and most are good sources of potassium.
When it comes to perceiving salt, strategy #5 states that the average person can’t detect moderate to substantial differences in sodium levels, including reductions of up to as much as 25 percent. Taste buds can be retrained by making changes gradually and consistently over a period of time. Marty and I were not gradual about our salt reduction, in fact it was pretty dramatic, and we were still able to enjoy our meals and not miss the salt.
Strategy #8, a shopping tip, displays a top 10 list of the highest sodium foods. Steer clear of these:
- Meat pizza
- White bread
- Processed cheese
- Hot dogs
- Spaghetti with sauce
- Cooked Rice
- White rolls
- Flour tortillas
Bread is notoriously high in sodium, even whole grain breads. Although the list includes white bread, rolls and tortillas don’t be conned into thinking that whole grain breads have less sodium. Read the nutrition label for sodium content per serving. Keep in mind that one slice of bread is usually a serving.
In our “Cutting Back the Salt” blog post we already have adopted strategy #9 which is to scan the nutrition label. They suggest looking for foods with less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving. We are stricter in our approach, no more than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. They take into account that you would consume canned, boxed, frozen and prepared foods, which tend to be high in sodium. We eat very little of these prepackaged foods and what we do buy contains no or low salt.
Strategy #12 addresses dining out and seeking low salt options. In our post, “All You Can Eat” we share the same advice of checking out the restaurant’s website to see if the menu offers sodium information. Marty always lets the server know that he is on a no-salt diet and asks if they are able to accommodate his special requests. In most cases, if he avoids meals that are prepared with sauces, he can usually get a nice piece of grilled fish or steak and an extra large side of mixed vegetables. By politely letting them know ahead of time, we have found a genuine concern on the server’s part for making sure they get the order right.
Strategy #15 advises you to spice it up. Using other ingredients to add a zip or zest has become my primary trick in the kitchen. Fresh or dried herbs-basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley-fresh garlic and ginger, lemon or lime juice and various vinegars add just the right touch of flavor without the need for salt. And along with using these ingredients we’ve discovered other cuisines, such as Indian and Thai that influence how we prepare our meals. That’s Strategy #21 -“Go Global”.
Whether you are a consumer or in the food business there are many useful tips in “Tasting Success with Cutting Salt: Twenty-Five Science-Based Strategies & Culinary Insights” that can be incorporated to help reduce sodium consumption.
Adopt these strategies for cutting back salt.
- Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Retrain your taste buds gradually and consistently.
- Steer clear of the top 10 highest sodium foods.
- Scan the nutrition label.
- Preview a restaurant’s website for low salt menu options.
- Speak to your restaurant server about your low salt restriction.
- Spice it up using a variety of zesty ingredients
- Prepare other cuisines and feast on low salt options.