Are you a salt-a-holic? Do you find yourself salting your food before you even taste it? The American Heart Association recommends 1500 mg of sodium intake daily, but most of us have an intake of nearly double that (or more) on a daily basis. It’s time to start a healthier relationship with our food.
You can find the amount of sodium in your food by checking the Nutrition Facts label. It will be listed in milligrams (mg). The first (and most important line to check) is your portion serving size versus the recommended portion on the Nutrition Facts label. If you eat more than what the can recommends, you will need to multiply the milligrams of sodium listed by the extra amount you ate. The American Heart Association has a great form to track your sodium intake. This is an easy way to get started and to establish a baseline of how much sodium you are taking in daily.
Many processed foods can contain high amounts of sodium, such as cold cuts and lunchmeats, sandwiches, pizza, canned soups, boxed meal mixes, salad dressings, and frozen meals. Even condiments, breads, and pastas can contain fairly high amounts of sodium. When choosing canned versions of foods, try to look for low or reduced sodium versions. Rinsing canned foods such as vegetables and beans (legumes) can help reduce some of the sodium as well.
How can you reduce the salt but still add flavor? Try herbs and spices! Here are some examples:
- Season fish with dill, lemon juice and pepper.
- Add fresh basil to cooked pasta, a panini, turkey sandwich, or a veggie wrap.
- Season beef with bay leaf, marjoram, nutmeg, pepper, sage, or thyme.
- Spice up your chicken with paprika, rosemary, sage, tarragon, or thyme.
- Toss a grain salad with dried fruits and nuts and a pinch of fresh mint or tarragon.
- Pair cilantro with spicy foods, roasted chicken, or quinoa.
- Season eggs with basil, dill, and parsley.
- Roast vegetables with basil, parsley, and savory.
- Season barbecued meats with cumin, garlic, hot pepper, and oregano.
More ways to flavor entrees and side dishes (while improving your vegetable intake) is to add green pepper, onion, leeks, celery, or diced carrots to a recipe. You can even puree vegetables and add them to sauces for additional flavor. Try this zucchini pesto recipe. It is a great way to use up that extra zucchini your neighbors sneaked onto your back porch in the middle of the night. You can also try marinating foods in juices such as lemon, lime, orange or apple. Other liquid options include vinegars and low sodium broths.
If you are up for the challenge, try the American Heart Association’s Change Your Salty Ways in 21 Days!
Written by: Melissa Welker M.Ed., B.S., Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fulton County, Maumee Valley EERA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by: Donna Green, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA, email@example.com