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Dr. says, "No SALT ALLOWED" now what?

I recently spent 7 days in ICU and the end results are not pretty, (at least not from a Chowhound's viewpoint) NO SALT. So, my question to all of you is, can you make a decent meal without it? Believe me I've done my research and found Mrs. Dash. I've used the new marinades without salt and the "Lemon Pepper" is very good. But I need more.......

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  1. Oh boy, poor you. That is hard news to hear. Personally, I find that smoked paprika is a lifesaver when I am trying to cut down on salt. I use alot of herbs and spices but that one stands out for adding flavor to almost anything.

    1. I'm sorry to hear you were so sick. I hope you are feeling better. The Mrs. Dash products are great. I use them although I don't require a low sodium diet. I've heard (from a Marion Nestle interview) that it takes about 3 weeks of eating a low-sodium diet before your taste buds readjust and you don't even miss the salt. So hang in there and it will get easier.
      I think the best way to disguise a lack of salt is to use a lot of flavourful herbs and spices and to use quality ingredients that don't require salt to bring out or enhance their flavours. Also, beware of hidden salts (like in cottage cheese).
      Have you tried any of the salt substitutes? I haven't used them so I can't advise there but I know some people like them.
      The Mayo Clinic has quite a few of low-sodium recipes here:

      1. Check out Penzey's "no salt" herb and spice blends. That might help jazz things up for you. And would something like a salt substitute be allowed?


        1. Penzeys just introduced another salt-free flavor called Arizona Dreaming. It is a Mexican blend, and I liked it a lot. You should search that site for all the salt-free blends, because there are a lot, including salt-free versions of regular, salted flavorings (like lemon pepper).

          1 Reply
          1. It's now many years since I stopped cooking with salt or generally adding to the food on the plate. It took me about three weeks to get used it. Now I find "normal" amounts of salt in cooking to be "very" salty.

            1. Sodium is an acquired taste so as mentioned above as you continue with a decreased sodium diet you become used to it and eventually many things taste too salty. Use more fresh foods and eliminate the processed. Not only can you control the amount of sodium but they taste good. I would assume that your healthcare practitioner gave you a specific number of mgs of sodium to follow. If not ask! Your body does need some salt so you need to meet that minimum as well. Most people have no problem with that. Some salt substitutes contain potassium, so check with your healthcare provider to see how that fits in with your specific problems and medications.

              1. I join others in hoping you are feeling better, othervoice! Cutting salt allows you to actually start tasting the foods you are eating...so fresh vegetables and other fresh foods are best (of course)...your palate will adjust to not eating salt and the true flavors will start coming through. Lemon juice is a nice enhancer...lime juice too....vinegar is great in marinades and salad dressings, soups and stews. I agree with fresh herbs and spices, too. Good luck and good health!

                1. You haven't stated what the health issue is, but if you are having problems with too much potassium or have to restrict potassium in any way - Mrs. Dash and other "salt-free" subs are even worse for you than salt. Don't mean to scare you, just be careful.

                  Good luck re-training your palate, it can be done.

                  1. If you're not working with salt in your savory cooking, you've got to think about creating layers of flavor in other ways. When I'm going no-sodium (which is often, since I'm not that big on salt in the first place), I rely on a combination of fresh herbs or pungent spices, a hit of acid (citrus or your favorite vinegars) to perk things up, and some fat to carry the flavors. Hot and spicy ingredients (fresh peppers, red pepper flakes, or powdered chipotle) don't hurt either. Searing meats and caramelizing onions and garlic will help too.

                    The less processed your ingredients, the easier it is to avoid salt. Watch out for things like bread, crackers, cheeses, bottled dressings, and canned beans and vegetables -- often they have a lot of added salt. Frozen veggies are a much better bet, since they are not generally processed with added sodium. Also, the low-sodium, organic chicken broth at Trader Joe's has only 70mg of sodium per cup, much less than Swanson's or other common low-sodium brands.

                    Best of luck with your new style of cooking! Keep us posted on your no-salt-added kitchen triumphs =)

                    1. Do you mean no added salt, or no sodium whatsoever?

                      If it's the latter, I truly feel for you my friend b/c lots and lots of food have naturally occuring sodium and even "no-salt" spice mixtures usually contain some sodium.

                      Here are a couple of lists of the sodium content per serving of various foods. http://oto2.wustl.edu/men/sodium.htm and http://www.alsosalt.com/nosalt.html

                      But back to the more general question of how to cook and eat, try using things like lemon juice (or lime juice), garlic, and vinegar.


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Check out this website - http://www.lowsodiumcooking.com/
                        He produces a (semi)-regular newsletter of low-sodium recipes and has lists of substitutes etc to use.

                        1. re: Kajikit

                          This is a good blog, too. http://www.sodiumgirl.com/

                          Lemon juice will help a lot.

                      2. After the first few weeks I didn't miss salt. I don't care for Mrs. Dash, Nu-Salt, etc. Lemon, vinegar, and pepper help a lot. I don't care for sour so for me it's usually sweet&sour, via Splenda. Garlic and other herbs and spices. You will not be able to eat out much, if at all. Restaurants use way more salt than you'd think. Often it's covered up by other seasonings so you'd never guess (e.g. Indian food) until you see your feet swell. Note that MSG(Accent) has sodium as do some artificial sweeteners.

                        1. Other Voice, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss of salt, but sorry because of the health issues you're having to endure. Not half as sorry about your loss of salt! '-)

                          Actually, I've been a "low sodium" person for years. Nothing to do with health issues. Everything to do with flavor! There's a little family history that paves my road to discovery. Both my mother, and my daughter (who emulated my mother regardless of right or wrong) were compulsive salters! Before even tasing things, they would both start burying their food in salt. Nagging my daughter did no good. So as a test, I began cooking totally salt free. She still salted at the table, but she didn't use any more salt than she did when I salted food in the kitchen. With time, I realized I LIKED my food that way! For me, gingered and buttered carrots tasted more like gingered and buttered carrots when I made them without salt.

                          When you look at the history of the culinary uses of salt, there is no arguing that it is a great preservative. But whether it's salt cod or salt pork or salt anything else, the FIRST thing you do with it before cooking is try to get the salt out of it. If you're cooking food that is the far-other-side of fresh, adding salt will trick you into thinking it doesn't taste so bad and have the added benefit of probably neutralizing any harmful thingies in the food. I heavily salt eggplant and let it sit before cooking so the salt draws out the bitterness, then wash the salt and fluids away and on with the dish! So salt DRAWS OUT liquids form all foods. When I posted the results on these boards regarding an experiment in which I cooked three identical beef filets (from the same tenderloin) and salted one ahead, one immediately before cooking, and one without salting until it was served, the unsalted tenderloin came out markedly more tender than the other two, which flies in the face of tradition! And when I reported it here, oh my god, the conflagration! Caroline the Heretic!!! And bless his heart, Sam Fujisaka came to my defense. I've seen the incident referred to as "The Salt War" on these boards. I suggested then and suggest now that people try for themselves.

                          My point is that salt and the use of salt is a condition we are taught. It is cultural and familial bias. But that is not to say that you aren't in a grieving state when your doctor says no, you can't have any more! So I say grieve. Get it out of your system so that you can move forward without bias or regret. Think of it as an adventure. I've never tried Mrs. Dash, or whatever it's called. But I do love manipulating the flavor of things all on my own. Right now I have a 4 pound grass fed organic beef roast marinating in the fridge for three days to make saurbraten. NO salt in the marinade! Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, cloves, black peppercorns, juniper berries, pickeling spices, red wine, red wine vinegar, and beef stock. Again, NO salt! I will thicken the gravy with traditional gingersnaps, and after tasting it at the table, there will be a salt mill with sea salt in it for anyone who wants it. I will be cooking it on Tuesday, along with a batch of sweet and sour red cabbage, also made salt free. But I WILL salt the water I boil my spaetzle in. Or noodles. And that's about the only time I use salt in cooking any more; for pasta and maybe a dash of salt in rice. As of this morning, I have about 150 spices, herbs, special oils, and other flavor enhancers and modifiers in my aresenal of creativity. And that count does not include any of my aresenal of nine different types of salt. Nor does it include citrus! Zest, juiced, sliced, whatever works.

                          So my best advice to you is to grieve, get it out of your system, drop the Mrs. Dash (or is it Mr. Dash?) and start playing the mad chef/scientist in search of great new flavors! Who knows what sort of magic you may create? Oh, and most of all, get and stay healthy...! '-)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Caroline, I completely agree with you, except that I think you might scare off the OP with the part about your arsenal of 150 seasonings. I too "splurchase" some of these on a whim when they strike my fancy, but that wide a variety is by no means essential. Many of them are just pre-mixed combinations of common pantry seasonings. You can season well with a dozen or so herbs and spices from any supermarket, 4 or more vinegars, wine, and some juices. It's nice, but not essential, to gild the lily with a larger collection.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              The ONLY "premixes" I have in my arsenal come in a bottle or a jar with labels that say things like "Worcestershire Sauce." When it comes to dry things, I even mix my own Herbs de Provence from scratch, and like them better. But you're right, you do not have to have that many to go on a taste adventure.

                          2. In the beginning, the food will seem bland, but after awhile you won't notice it. You can use other favors to substitute for salt. Use more herbs and spices and maybe even sugar.

                            1. Too bad about your hospital stay. But, welcome to my world.

                              Don't bother with the Mrs Dash stuff, it doesn't taste like salt and will just make you miss the real stuff. Go cold turkey on added salt, and after a few weeks you really won't miss it.

                              Throw away all your canned food. Check the labels first, but almost everything will have too much salt for you to use. That said, you really don't need that canned food, because it's just as easy to make most of that from scratch and freeze it. So during the summer when you can get great tomatoes, make tomato sauce and freeze it. I only have a freezer unit at the top of my frig, and yes, you can store enough there if you pack carefully.

                              Give up on most frozen food, because it will have too much salt also.

                              Ask your doctor how many MG salt you are allowed in your daily intake. Then chart your use daily, to figure out patterns. You can use the chart to strategize on how to plan your meals.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 512window

                                Instead of throwing away the canned foods, perhaps donate it to your local food pantry instead. And there are canned tomato sauces with no salt, such as Muir Glen, so not everything has to be gotten rid of.

                              2. Hi everyone,

                                I just wanted to thank you all for your ideas and well wishes. It's been 4 weeks since leaving the hospital and I "almost" don't miss the salt at all. Once in a while I would love to grab a bag of chips or a bowl of "canned" soup, but I want to be around to teach my daughters how to cook, so I'm being good. The world of herbs is exciting and I'm even growing my own rosemary, (which I love). Again, thanks to all.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: othervoice

                                  If you do get ahold of some canned soup it will taste TOO salty!

                                  1. re: othervoice

                                    So how many mg/day are you allowed? With few processed foods, then the occasional pinch is going to be fine and dandy. My late MIL would brag that she didn't salt her food and I could never convince her to read labels of all the prepared foods she was eating. She could have salted to her heart's (!) content if not for those.

                                    1. re: othervoice

                                      Regarding chips...my (85 year old) health nut low salt eating mother turned me on to Utz unsalted potato chips---they are really good!

                                    2. Sheesh! I answered this three years ago. Can we say "Senior Moment"? '-)

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        Try cutting down on the salt a little........

                                        1. re: Robin Joy


                                          But seriously, does anyone know if othervoice is okay? She hasn't posted since last January. Thanks!

                                      2. Stay away from baked goods! There is a lot of salt in those suckers.

                                        Read the labels - you will not be eating too much processed (industrial) food.

                                        But, get either fresh or dried spices (Indo-Pak stores have a lot) to flavor up things.

                                        The other item is hot pepper (chile, siracha) to liven things up. Just a drop or 2 is all you need.

                                        Fresh basil - available at most supermarkets in a pot - you can put on a windowsill, snip a leaf or two & it will last for a few weeks is cheap enough.

                                        1. I have the same problem. Have my salt/sodium daily intake down to 500 mg. The are a lot of no salt added products out there. Most bigger stores around here have organic sections which have a lot no salt added canned goods like beans and soups,pasta sauce,etc. Major brands of tomato products that are no salt added.There is mail order market here in Minnesota that specializes on low and no salt products some that you can't find in any store.
                                          http://healthyheartmarket.com/ they ship Fed Ex.
                                          I now make everything from scratch,with no salt ingredients
                                          and lots of Penzey spices. I have just about anything I want
                                          just making a few substitutes. It gets easier after a while. I eat better know than before..

                                          1. ) If you live where you have access to a Trader Joe's, they sell the single most useful low-salt product I know of, Organic Low-Sodium Marinara Sauce. The name brands spaghetti sauce have 300-700 mgm sodium per 1/2 cup but this one has 35 mg per 1/2 cup and you can use it in dozens of ways. It is tomato-y and delicious. 2) Enjoy foods that you would not normally put salt on---fresh fruit salads come to mind. 3) Green vegetables are surprisingly good with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice rather than salt. 4) Sweet-and-sour Asian dishes don't need salt---just skip the soy sauce. 5) Within other dietary parameters like fat, remember that many desserts are very low-sodium---puddings, baked apples, ice cream, sorbet. 6) Baking powder is high-sodium so try waffles made with yeast. 7) Focus on spices and condiments---garlic powder, nutmeg, cumin, oregano, pepper, celery seed, chopped fresh dill, etc.

                                            I cooked low-salt for my heart patient husband for years---you can eat very well. And the alternative can be really bad---a load of sodium can land you in the ER at 3 AM. You'll do fine with this.

                                            Avoid processed foods like frozen dinners. Get in the habit of reading the sodium content on the nutritional label before you buy. You may be shocked at the amount of sodium in some foods.

                                            Are you having to avoid caffeine too? If so, we found that the Puerto Rican decaf has more body than American decaf---GOYA is good. Check out the Hispanic markets for this. Also, Cafe du Monde, New Orleans coffee with chicory, has a decaf variety that is wonderful. If you have a Vietnamese market, look there as they sell it 'way cheaper than mainline markets.

                                            One more thing. If you can find low-salt cheese, it tastes like plastic, but put the cheddar through the Cuisinart with enough beer to make a spread and some garlic salt and you'll get a pretty good cheese spread.