Alas, those high-sodium foods do not treat me kindly. In addition to causing water retention (I can gain 5 pounds overnight if I overindulge in salty foods), high-sodium products are on the “red light” list for individuals with high blood pressure. And I’m one of those individuals.
As a result, you won’t find a salt shaker in my spice cupboard, nor will you find many common foods. You might think that it’s easy to eat a low-sodium diet — just don’t salt your foods, right? Wrong. It takes much more attention to those detailed nutritional labels than you probably now invest. Check with your physician or health care provider to determine just how low you should go — low-sodium diets can be as low as 500 to 1000 milligrams per day to about 2,000 milligrams per day, depending on what your doctor feels is best for you. (If you’re unsure, our nutritionists can help: Call 866-756-1510 to reach them for free.)
In general, follow these tips to shift to a low-sodium food plan:
–Don’t assume that a food needs to taste salty in order to be high in sodium. For example, you might guess that soy sauce and pickles are too salty to enjoy regularly on a low-sodium diet. But some cheeses are surprisingly high in salt, as are many breads. So read that nutritional label before you buy. My beloved Cheddar cheese, for example, can contain as much as 400 milligrams in just 1 ounce — but it also comes in low-sodium varieties.
–When it comes to canned foods, even the low-sodium versions or those marked “less salt” may be too high when you consider what constitutes a portion. If you regard a can of soup as a meal, for example, that “low-salt” version may have more milligrams of sodium than you’re allowed in an entire day! Here’s a hint: Learn to make your own low-sodium versions of your favorites.
–Make friends with spices. Oregano, basil, thyme, garlic powder, curry power — experiment with a variety of salt-free seasoning mixes, and you’ll discover just how zesty food can be without salt.
–Be cautious, very cautious, with those convenient TV dinners. Yes, even the supposedly healthy low-calorie or low-carb variety. Just because it’s low in calories or carbohydrate does not mean that it’s low in sodium. Some varieties contain more than 1,000 milligrams per meal. If you love the convenience so much that you have one for lunch and one for dinner, then you just maxed out or went over your total allotment for the day!
–Choose fast food or restaurant meals with care. Always ask if you can have your meal especially prepared without salt; explain that you must follow a low-sodium diet for medical reasons. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how frequently I receive a helpful response — even in drive-thru restaurants.
Does that mean you can dine out every day? No, because it’s impossible to know for sure just how much sodium that meal actually does contain. For example, I once made that request at a very expensive restaurant — and my first bite of the salad revealed that the salad dressing was loaded with salt! I asked to talk with a manager, who apologized and substituted a salad with a cruet of balsamic vinegar at my request. And note the following based on my experience: Request any accompaniments, such as salad dressing or steamed report card.