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Low Sodium but still tasty

Does anyone have some good recipes or tips for cooking low sodium? I am cooking for two people who are trying to reduce sodium for medical reasons. Any help would be appreciated as I am at a loss. If you know of any good cookbooks or websites that would be helpful as well. Thanks in advance.

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  1. Are you cooking regularly for these people or just once?

    Citrus juice, herbs, fresh ground pepper and mushrooms (not necessarily at the same time) are good ingredients to start with. It's best to cook with fresh everything and avoid prepackaged food whenever possible.

    Broiled and herbed fish fillets with a fresh fruit salsa with steamed vegetables

    Cooking light magazine, while not always a success, does post nutritional information per serving (but watch what they consider a serving)

    Tomatoes, in sauce, paste and even just canned have tremendous amounts of sodium unless you get no salt. Prepackaged broths (even the low sodium kind) are too salty to use for people who really need to keep sodium down. The only exception I've found is Nature's Promise Low Sodium Chicken Broth (The Stop and Shop organic house brand) with 140 mg's of sodium compared to 570 for most brands of low-sodium and 1050 for regular broths. Cooking for my mom can be a challenge, but I draw the line at salt-free bread.

    1. Most processed and prepared foods are too high in sodium for a lo-Na diet. Forget Stouffers et al---frozen prepared stuff---, forget just about everything at the deli counter, and be careful of what's made with baking soda and baking powder. I use a lot of wine, lemon juice, whole cloves, bay leaf, garlic, etc when cooking meat to enhance flavor without salt. Use lemon juice on green vegetables. Dried dill is good with green beans. Make yeast waffles instead of using baking powder and use yeast rolls instead of biscuits, muffins, etc.. Anything in an Asian restaurant is likely to be too high in sodium but you can make very passable Chinese-type food at home if you're careful what you put in it (egg foo yong works well). Be compulsive about reading nutritional labels and know how much sodium the person is allowed per day---it's a long way from 1000 mgm to 2000 mgm. I would say that the most important rule is to cook food using real ingredients because in most cases commercial processing greatly increases the sodium. There are a few exceptions, most of which I seem to find at Trader Joe's, their frozen Pasta Pepperonata being one convenient example.

      1. Thanks for the tips. I am planning an assault on the supermarket this weekend to stock up on some of your suggested items. I cook daily (usually twice) so I am sure it will be challenging. Fortunately, over the past few years, I have weaned myself off of virtually all prepared supermarket foods so I shouldn't suffer too much withdrawl in that area. Just a different way of approaching cooking. Thanks again!

        1. Try Mrs. Dash seasonings. They are really good.

          1. The Mrs Dash marinades are a lifesaver... even my husband likes them (and he's a fervant salt addict!) They're so much nicer than the overly-salted versions that I use them even though we don't 'have to' - I just add a pinch of salt to them and get something that's salted to my taste rather than the manufacturers...

            1. The most important part of a low sodium diet involves starting with the freshest and best quality ingredients. When you avoid using salt, it will be very evident if the food is not fresh regardless of the seasonings you use. The best foods taste good with minimal seasoning. Personally, I try to avoid using seasoning whenever possible.

              There are a number of different seasoning combinations you can use:

              Meat marinades/flavorings: lemon-garlic, curry-based tomato sauce, Worchestershire sauce, honey-mustard, dijon mustard, garlic & green onion, red chili paste and garlic, chinese black beans with ginger and green oinions.

              Vegetable flavorings: garlic, lemon-based salad dressing (good for grilling), lemon juice.

              I don't have that many for vegetables because I like to eat them steamed or stir-fried. Boiling them removes the flavor.

              Best of luck.

              1. You gotten some great advice already. Reading labels is indeed key ... you'll be surprised, mostly at how much sodium is in things, but occasionally by how little. Organic food producers like Eden Organics and Health Valley make a number of low sodium items, so a market that has a large organic section is a good place to look. If you have a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods type place near, that would be a good place to start.

                A couple of online resources. I have a website at www.lowsodiumcooking.com with recipes, links to books and other information. A great source of information is Don Gazzaniga's www.megaheart.com. He has several books available with very low sodium recipes. You can find them on his site or by searching on Amazon. Amazon has a number of other books too. The American Heart Association one is a good collection of basic recipes, although some tend to be a little high in sodium while concentrating more on reducing fat and cholesterol.

                If you have trouble finding ingredients, two great sites that specialize in low sodium products are www.healthyheartmarket.com and www.saltwatcher.com.

                Hope this helps ... I know from personal experience that it seems overwhelming at first.

                1 Reply
                1. re: LowSodium

                  Also try www.heartwisefood.com, they also specialize in pre packaged low sodium foods and cookbooks too.

                2. If you have a bread machine,,,you can find a product online called "nosalt"...it comes in different flavors and taste just like salt, even on sliced tomatoes....I use it in my bread recipes to replace regular salt and it works just great...I use the butter flavored one for bread...The garlic flavored one is great in mashed potatoes,,and they have a regular that sprinkled on eggs or veggies is really good...You can find quite a few tomato products that are no salt in your grocery...Heinz and Hunt make tomato ketchup that is no salt,,,diced toamtoes,,,tomato sauce,,,stewed tomatoes....and for making bisquit or cornbread or batters,,,you can buy sodium free baking soda and baking powder....health food stores or order it online at megaheart.com.......you can also find low sodium mayo,,,it want be on the jar so check out the sodium content,,the same goes for mustard,,,,even though they don't say lower sodium,,some are much lower....use plain flour,,and cornmeal...because the self rising is just too much sodium....All fresh or frozen veggies,,,no canned,,boxed or jared items....I found a ham base, (used in green beans, it is very good) chicken base and beef base online that is outstanding....just type in redibase and look for thier low sodium products....hoep this helps some....

                  1. My son is currently on a low sodium diet...this website has been pretty good for low-sodium recipes, constructed by a doctor, Timothy Harlan, M.D.:
                    I'm going to try his chicken mole recipe this weekend! (Doesn't that picture of him just crack you up, though???!!!! Riotous!


                    Another good recipe website is: http://www.lowsodiumcooking.com
                    I've tried the pulled pork from that and it is a VERY good recipe, you do it in a crockpot.

                    You can buy no-sodium ketchup now (Heinz) and some prepared mustards are okay, best I've found is Boar's Head, but you must read labels.

                    Recipezaar also has some good low-sodium recipes with ratings and so does MrsDash.com. I made a low-sodium turkey sloppy joe recipe over the weekend and it was SO delicious and easy.

                    Vinegar is your friend, offering so much flavor and no sodium; same is true for tabasco, lemon juice and lime juice. As many before me have said, fresh foods are best, period. My son has been snacking on fresh blueberries, strawberries and even blackberries because I can find them now at a somewhat reasonable price where I live in SW Florida. Good luck! OH, and you might also try Braggs Liquid Aminos, a great substitute for soy sauce but you still have to watch how much you use, of course, but it's a helluva lot better than low-sodium soy sauce or tamari or ponzu, that's for sure.

                    1. www.lowsodiumliving.com is a good website for recipes and tips. Garlic and onions are your friends as others have stated. Unfortunately, I can tell you from experience that it is a HUGE pain in the rear to live low sodium. Literally everything on the market that is not fresh is chock full of salt. On the plus side, it is possible. As other posters have suggested, read the labels on everything. Try to buy fresh, unprocessed foods as often as possible, and look to ingredients you may not have thought of before as flavor enhancers. I also found the library a valuable resource for cookbooks and recipes.

                      1. Try heartwisefood.com-I found alot of tasty items there and 2 good cookbooks: 500 Low Sodium Recipes by Dick Logue and Coumadin Cookbook-both had alot of helpful hints for my husband who suffered conjestive heart failure and could not have salt.

                        1. Can you get to a Trader Joe's? They are unparalleled for Lo-Na cookers (of which I am one). They have a Marinara Sauce that has an amazing 20 mg Na per 1/2 cup; excellent Lo-Na chicken stock in cardboard cartons; same packaging for tomato soup and tomato-pepper soup, and a "healthy" ham with 180 mg Na, very low for ham if the person longs for some. The chicken stock allows you to make a Lo-Na gravy. Other than TJ's, Classico brand spaghetti sauce has as little as 230 mg per 1/2 cup (compared with 600-700 in many brands). Read nutritional labels as if they were the Holy Gospel. Diamond Crystal has a new "Salt Sense" salt that has 30% less Na. Don't fall for myth that sea salt is Lo-Na; it's not. The main thing is to cook everything from real ingredients as commercially-prepared foods are almost always the kiss of death if you must limit Na. Re restaurants: my husband is instructed to weigh himself every morning and record weight on graph on computer; sudden gain means too much sodium>heart can't get rid of it> fluid builds up>weight suddenly increases. Punch line: every time he eats in a restaurant the graph shoots dramatically upward. Can't emphasize enough: stay away from commercially prepared food if sodium is a serious concern.

                          1. One more thing: baking powder and baking soda are very high sodium. Instead, buy sodium-free baking powder; the brand I have is Hain. I think I found it at WholeFood. Seems to work just like ordinary baking powder; biscuits, pancakes etc come out just fine. Also, you don't need a cookbook if you keep reading nutritional labels and buy salt-free canned vegetables, tomato sauce, tomato juice. If you find low-salt cheese, it tastes like plastic so turn it into a decent spread by whomping it up in Cuisinart with a lot of garlic and enough beer to make a spread.

                            1. My husband & I are in the same boat. My 3 favorite basics are low-sodium tomato sauce (any brand), low-fat/low-sodium chicken broth (only Swanson's) and minced garlic. I've been a salt addict forever, and these have helped me cut back.

                              That said, I do frequently use 2 salty seasonings - Jane's Crazy Mixed up salt & Old Bay seasoning. If I use either one, I cut them dramatically - Jane's with fresh pepper & Old Bay with a few of these... garlic powder, paprika, dried sage, dried thyme.

                              1. I'm a 2nd gen low sodium dieter. I grew up in a pretty much salt free household, and I do not miss salty things in the least. I can eat about three regular potato chips before I get grossed out. I shudder just thinking about green olives. I currently am not on a strict low sodium diet, but when I was, here are some things that worked well for me.

                                - As "Val" pointed out, vinegar is your friend. I leaned toward balsamic vinegar with Evoo and a tiny amt of sugar a LOT as a dressing for hot and cold foods.

                                - Melted unsalted butter, and Balsamic Vinegar will make anyone forget about a salt shaker in short order. Also used as kind of a sauce or dressing for hot foods.

                                - For some reason, the tanginess of sour cream always cured me when I would be feeling "salt deprived." Sour cream also takes the edge off of that bitter-ish flavor that the salt substitutes tend to have.

                                - Pick foods that you LOVE, that are naturally low in sodium, and concentrate on those. For me, it was all about fresh fruits, homemade granola, cashews, orange juice, seared / sauteed vegetables, and meat.

                                - Along with picking the foods you love to eat that also happen to be low in sodium, do not try to customize dishes that are generally only good when they have adequate salt. This only works well after your palate has adjusted. Hard to explain. Maybe it's better said as: don't eat foods that will remind you that you are sodium restricted. However, once your palate has adjusted, you can eat the same things that you used to eat, just with much less salt. I can enjoy a big tub of hot popcorn with unsalted butter, and it tastes just as good as it used to. My palate is much more sensitive to salt now, and I can taste tiny amounts of it, and it's just fine that way.My tongue doesn't need as much salt to get a salty flavor out of things any more. I basically can't eat many processed foods any more. WAAAAAY too salty.

                                Some things that I can rarely eat any more because they just taste too salty:
                                Jarred pasta sauce.

                                Canned soup (although Healthy Choice has started a new Lower Sodium option that other brands are following)

                                Most of Mcdonald's menu.


                                American cheese

                                Generally, any processed sausage product. Hot dogs, polish sausage, bratwurst, etc - Whoa - sodium overload!

                                Cheap Deli Ham, most cured meats, be aware of sodium in things like deli turkey, deli meats - you'd be very surprised!

                                Prepared foods that contain things that suck up salty flavors like potatoes, and pasta.

                                Canned tuna tends to be loaded with salt.

                                But, surprisingly, your palate adjusts, and all those things that most people enjoy as "salty snacks" can be enjoyed without salt as well. Most people cringe when they hear about my no salt cashews, or peanuts, trail mix, or potato chips, but I cringe when I eat the regular stuff. It just tastes horribly salty to me.

                                A simple recipe that I used to love making:

                                Cooked pasta, grilled chicken, and sauteed veggies (especially spinach in this one)
                                The sauce I used would consist of evoo, balsamic vinegar, unsalted butter, loads of garlic, basil, hot peppers, and whatever spices you think would go well, and a splash of lemon juice, and white wine.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: gordeaux

                                  There is a No Salt Added canned tuna, marketed by Crown Prince, by the way...just trying to tell others in case they are looking for it but, of course, I don't know if it's available in their area...my health food store here in Naples, FL sells it along with Crown Prince Smoked Kippers, just delicious. You can still get your Omega 3's without loading up on the sodium. I've joined my son on his low-sodium diet, though I've always been conscious of it and have avoided fast foods for years now (I said 'avoided'...every now & then, that McD's sausage biscuit is da bomb, I confess!)

                                  1. re: Val

                                    lol - Another one that will absolutely floor you with the amt of sodium are those canned biscuits! I have to start looking for lower (or no added) sodium tuna now. Sounds right up my alley!!

                                    1. re: gordeaux

                                      If you rinse your tuna you don't need to buy low sodium. that is what I do. I have found low sodium tuna very expensive. rinsing it was told to me by my renal dietician. try it

                                2. I think just be patient and give yourself time to adjust. When my Mum cut salt out when I was growing up we first tried the K-salt (potassium chloride, which was vile), but over time just got used to the taste of food without salt. In fact, you begin to appreciate the flavor of each ingredient so much more - for me salt (and sugar) seem to blur the distinct flavors.

                                  These many years since moving out of home I'm not so salt adverse (there's a pot of Kosher salt in my kitchen, never a salt shaker on the table though), but still there are things that I buy that I can't imagine people eating. And I'm constantly appalled by the amount of salt used on some TV shows Emeril.

                                  1. I am on a very low sodium diet and so is my husband. If I have to use salt I use sea salt which is lower in sodium. There are only a few things that I do use salt for. We have learned to live without it. You have to really read the labels on everything. You can buy canned veggies tomato sauce, tomato paste broth..etc without alot of sodium. Using fresh veggies and lots of spices can make a world of difference in how your food tastes. I have been pretty much salt free for 5 years and it was hard at first but now if there is alot of salt in my food I can taste it and don't care for it. Spices are the best flavorings

                                    1. I bought some great grill sauces and chicken bouillon that are low sodium at heartwisefood.com, everything is low sodium. See if you can find some things there...Good Luck!

                                      1. My aunt's family eats very very low in sodium. She usually cooks with indian spices and makes a lot of biryani.