Thursday, August 25, 2011

But I Like Salt

I'm a junkie for salty and savory foods; I always have been. When my parents would take the family to Dairy Queen, for a treat, my brothers would order sundaes and I'd ask for an order of salty French fries. Even now, my idea "dessert" is often a big bowl of popcorn with extra salt, pretzels, or some kind of chip. My favorite pizza toppings are even salt ridden anchovies. I love the stuff. Thus, it initially broke my heart when my doctor put me on the low-salt Dash Diet last week.

Yes, after multiple readings of high blood pressure, in the neighborhood of 148/100, a few tests were done. According to the results, my cholesterol levels are excellent, but my blood pressure IS too high, so I need to cut back on salt and take medication. The medication I didn't mind, but the new limit of 2,400mg of sodium per day threw me. On the way home, I began making a mental catalog of all the foods I could no longer have. I even chuckled at the idea that I can have all the fat laced steak I want, I simply can't salt the meat.

After a quick stop to fill my prescription & buy a few varieties of Mrs. Dash salt substitute, I went home to do some online research on low-salt foods. Within a few hours, I had a pretty fair list compiled of foods I could still eat. (See list below, which prints as 1 page.)


Low Sodium Foods
1-150 mg per serving


  • Beer, wine, coffee, tea
  • Fruit drinks, soda pop, Kool-Aid

  • Breads and Cereals

  • Breads, white, whole grain
  • Cakes, cookies, crepes, doughnuts
  • Cereals: cooked, granola, puffed rice,puffed wheat, Shredded Wheat
  • Crackers: graham, low salt, melba toast
  • Pasta: macaroni, noodles, spaghetti, rice

  • Condiments

  • Butter, margarine, oil
  • Horseradish, mustard, spices, herbs, sugar, syrup, Tabasco, vinegar

  • Dairy Products

  • Cheeses: cream, Monterey, Mozzarella, Ricotta, and other low salt types
  • Cream: half & half, sour, whipping
  • Ice cream, sherbet
  • Milk
  • Non-dairy creamer

  • Fruits and Vegetables

  • All fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables (without sauces)
  • Vegetables, canned: low sodium or rinsed

  • Main Dishes

  • All unprocessed meats, fish, and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Tuna: low sodium or canned that you rinse

  • Snacks

  • Low salt products
  • Nuts, unsalted
  • Popcorn, unsalted

  • Medium Sodium Foods
    150-250 mg per serving

    Bread and Cereals

  • Biscuits, rolls, muffins - 1
  • Pancakes - 1
  • Ready-to-eat cereals - 3/4 cup
  • Saltine crackers - 6
  • Sweet roll - 1

  • Condiments

  • Gravy - 2 tablespoons
  • Ketchup - 1 tablespoon
  • Mayonnaise - 2 tablespoons
  • Pickles, sweet - 2 small
  • Relish - 2 tablespoons
  • Salad dressing - 1 tablespoon
  • Soy sauce, low sodium

  • Dairy products

  • Cheeses - 1 oz
  • Cottage cheese - 1/2 cup
  • Pudding - 3/4 cup

  • Vegetables

  • Tomato and vegetable juice - 1/2 cup
  • Vegetables, canned - 1/2 cup

  • Snacks

  • Corn chips - 1 cup
  • Potato chips - 1 cup
  • Snack crackers - 5-10
  • -
    First, I was thrilled to see beer, wine, and coffee made the low sodium list. I was also tickled to see Tobasco, horseradish, mustard, herbs, sugar, syrup, and butter residing there. Also on the low list are fresh fruits and vegetables; unprocessed meats, fish, and poultry; eggs, peanut butter, ice cream, and most other dairy products. Then we have medium sodium foods such as cheese, biscuits, sweet rolls, muffins, gravy, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings, and tomato juice. "If I can't eat well, utilizing these foods," I told myself, "then I'm not as creative as I give myself credit for."

    One of the most hope inspiring parts of the low sodium list was the inclusion of spices. Coriander, cumin, Hungarian paprika, Spanish smoked paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, chili flakes, onion powder, black pepper, and a host of other spices each add a unique flavor to food. Basically, the plant's essential oils are what produce the flavors in question. When such oils gather in a part of the plant, other than the leaf, and that part is harvested as a flavoring, we call it a spice. Leaves containing such oils, and harvested as flavorings, are herbs, which also add a wide range of flavors to foods. Because these flavorings are plant based, they're sodium free, when used in their purest forms.

    Since herbs and spices are sodium free, I can mix;
    1 tablespoon black pepper,
    1 tablespoon onion powder,
    1/2 tablespoon garlic powder,
    1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper,
    1/2 tablespoon dried thyme,
    1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary,
    and 1/2 tablespoon dried fennel;
    place my favorite cut of steak in a shallow pan and pour 12 ounces of ale on the steak and marinate for hour in refrigerator. Remove steak from ale, mix 2 teaspoons of brown sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mix, rub mixture on both sides of the steak, and let the steak marinate with dry ingredients for 1/2 hour. Preheat a skillet or grill to med high heat, add vegetable spray, or vegetable oil, braze to desired doneness, and enjoy a delicious low sodium steak.

    Mixing the spice rub myself, rather than buying a pre-made steak seasoning, will allow me to control the level of sodium. I'm experimenting with other strategies as well. Chili flakes add a kick to potatoes and most veggies. For that matter, ground black pepper goes a long way toward picking up soups, stews, and corn on the cob.

    Now, I'm not going to go completely Pollyanna here, and tell you everything's rosy. No, I'm definitely going to miss some things including, Salami, Pastrami, bacon, breakfast sausage, anchovies, heavily salted popcorn, pretzels, etc..., but I'll adjust. Plus, let's not be stupid, there WILL be days I'm extra careful during breakfast & lunch, so I can nice dinner out.

    Will it be easy? No. Yet, by adding 50 parts self control to 50 parts culinary creativity, I think I can pull this low sodium thing off, I really do.

    1 comment:

    1. I'm so sorry about the high blood pressure thing. I heard it really sucks. But you informed yourself, and are making the best out of a crappy situation. Great information on low sodium foods, thanks for sharing James! By the way I have a blog award waiting for you! =]