Have you just learned that you’ll have to go low-sodium? Don’t despair yet about missing out on your favorite meals!
When it comes to following a low-sodium diet, there’s definitely a right way to do it! Here are simply delicious ways to swap healthier items for high-sodium ingredients, without compromising on taste.
Everyone out there knows that canned soup and store-bought broths are high-sodium foods. So make your own chicken broth — it’s easy, it tastes worlds above canned or carton chicken broth and you can make 4 quarts for under $9 or less (one store-bought quart runs $4 or more). Pour them into plastic quart containers and freeze to use throughout the month for nourishing soups, stews, risotto and much more.
Crackers & Breads
Store-bought crackers and breads are loaded with sodium, and usually pretty low in nutrition (even some that claim to be whole grain) because they contain processed white flour, lots of preservatives, and HFCS.
Adding lots of salt is one of the ways food manufacturers make them shelf-stable and provide an cheap way to make them taste better. So do a pantry make-over with your breads and crackers:
First, make sure they are indeed whole grain and look for the world “whole” like whole wheat or whole grain or whole oat throughout the ingredient list. Next, compare sodium levels — for example, your standard cracker clocks in at around 400 mg of sodium for about 12 pieces, so look for crackers with half that amount of sodium.
When you shop and compare, always check the serving (number of crackers) and sodium before you buy. 1 slice of bread (white or whole grain) clocks in at around 150-180 mg of sodium. Shop for low-sodium breads or serve your sandwiches “open face” and cut one slice of bread (which cuts salt, carbs and calories). Top your sandwich with more greens to give it a nutrient boost.
I’m a huge cheese fan but sadly cheese is naturally high in sodium because of the way cheese is made — but that doesn’t mean you have to cut it out of your diet completely. When it comes to maintaining a low-sodium diet, it’s the total sodium count per meal and per day that makes the difference!
When you enjoy cheese, don’t combine it with other high-sodium foods like bread, pasta sauce, olives, pickles, bread or crackers. Enjoy sliced or crumbled cheese instead on salads, or make cute lettuce cups that you can fill with grilled chicken and your favorite cheese. If you crave melted cheese, cook your favorite, naturally low-sodium veg — like kale, broccoli, or zucchini. Add a slice of cheese towards the end of cooking and cover with the lid. Turn the heat off and you’ll have a cheesy side dish that will have a lot less sodium compared to cheese melted on toast.
Pasta sauces are calorie friendly but very high in sodium, so shop for low sodium brands. Most tomato products like canned tomato paste and diced canned tomato are flavored with salt, so shop for “no salt added” and add a pinch of salt or Italian dried herbs to flavor it yourself.
Take-out pizza is incredibly high in sodium, but you can cut back on salt by making pizza yourself. Keep in mind though that store-bought frozen pizza doughs, even the frozen whole wheat variety, can still be high in sodium. So consider starting with your own dough to control the amount of sodium — and then combine with low-sodium sauces and plenty of veggies to balance out the portion size with its salt content.
Other Foods With High Salt Content
Wondering about surprising places where sodium can be hiding? Take a look at your breakfast foods: switch from “maple flavored syrups” that contain artificial colorings, HFCS and instantly cut the sodium in half. Love those packets of instant oatmeal? The flavors might sound fun like “brown sugar or maple” but one small packet has up to 250mg of sodium. Instead, make plain old fashioned oats with zero sodium and add vanilla extract or just a teaspoon of real maple syrup.
And if you’re on a low-sodium diet build your personal shopping list of low-sodium jarred condiments and flavor your meals with naturally low-sodium flavorings that have other health properties like spices (shop for no-salt-added), fresh and dried herbs, vinegars, and fresh lemon and lime.