Yes, you can still have that bottle of microbrew (just the one, mind you - the new Dietary Guidelines and all), but you'd better step away from the pretzel bowl. Oh, you were going to skip those and just order right from the bar menu? Great! What'll you have?
You're watching your fat intake - right there with you. So it'll be the grilled chicken breast sandwich and a salad instead of fries. With what dressing? The light Italian? Sounds great.
Your sodium count will be…the sandwich is gonna run you around 1300 mg (380 mg for the bun alone), and the dressing about 480 mg. The beer is a bargain at 11 mg.
And how will you be paying for that?
Excessive salt intake is linked to blood pressure issues and increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, heart disease and kidney failure - but how are everyday people supposed to excise it from their diet and still live a delicious life?
In an ideal world, we'd all cook everything from scratch. If you've got the time and access to fresh produce - lucky you! Instead of using salt to enhance the fabulous natural flavors of vegetables, lean meats, fish and whole-grain carbs, experiment with herbs and acid.
Buy, or even better, plant a crop of basil, sage, thyme, cilantro, dill, oregano, tarragon or rosemary to have at the ready to rub, sprinkle, stir and infuse into just about any dish you can imagine. Lemon and lime juices as well as all kinds of vinegar add a bright note to many foods - and may help you wean yourself away from dressings, soy sauce, Worcestershire, tamari and other high-sodium offenders.
Spice is awfully nice when you want to amp up the flavor. Tuck the salt container in the back of the cupboard so you have to work for it, and bring nutmeg, celery seed, pepper, cumin, paprika, allspice, anise to the fore. Once you get to know their individual characteristics (nutmeg is gangbusters on starch and star anise works and plays well with poultry), make a signature spice blend in bulk so you can have it ready to shake in a second.
And don't forget the alliums! Garlic, shallots, scallions and onions pack a massive flavor punch - but you might want to plant a stash of mint if you're planning on using them raw. Chiles are also chock full of favor and with enough heat, you'll never miss the salt.
It's a Process
For most of us, there just aren't enough hours in the day to shop, chop and cook it all from scratch. Processed foods make up the bulk of many people's diets, but get a gander at these sodium counts:
Man can't live without bread, sauce and pizza, right? So what's a diner who's short of time to do? The low-sodium version of foods is, of course, a good bet but it won't always knock down the count as far as it should.
The governmental guidelines suggest using smaller plates so food portions seem larger, upping one's intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy. That may sound dull and daunting, but we swear it's not.
A few tips so you don't feel like you're sacrificing:
- Skip the condiments, or at least the saltier ones. Instead of ketchup, consider a slice of tomato and a flick of vinegar. If you were going to dunk your fries (baked, unsalted ones, of course!) for flavor, consider sprinkling them with that there spice blend you made earlier. A tablespoon of hummus weighs in at under 40 mg of sodium, so smear with abandon. This may seem silly at first, but it takes a while to break a habit, stick with it.
- Learn to love non-processed grains. Quinoa (technically a seed, but served like a grain) and bulgur cook up quickly and add a fabulous nutty flavor to the meal. Oatmeal (stay away from packet varieties) might seem like a drag, but it can make a surprising savory dish with the addition of cumin, coriander or nutmeg. Brown rice can be your very best friend - just make a big batch on the weekend and serve it up throughout the week. Eating more of these whole grains means you'll need less of the processed stuff.
- If you can't get fresh vegetables, pick the frozen version over the canned variety - which is often processed and packed with a lot of salt. Try to fill up your plate with half fruits and vegetables and squeeze out the salty offenders.
- Yeah, who has time? Make time. It's important. Get together with friends, family, neighbors - whoever you trust, and swap soups and sauces. Each person makes a giant batch of soup, sauce or stew - skipping the salt - and divvies it out to the group. That way no one gets sick of having the same old dinner night after night and you'll all be around for a good, long time.
Just make sure you don't send it out in the good Tupperware. You'll never get that back.
Previously - Lunchtime poll – will you halt the salt?