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Cutting back or eliminating salt?

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How do you cut back on salt in your cooking? I made 3 different vegetable recipes last night and all called for salt. I also made some pasta, and of course salted the water. I don't always follow a measurement exactly (tho in baking I do), usually I just grab a pinch. I think I usually use less than a recipe specifies, but can't see cutting out salt altogether.

Almost every recipe I see calls for salt....there must be a reason why, and a way to cut back without affecting the taste. I use a lot of herbs and spices in most recipes but I can definitely taste "something is missing" from a recipe cooked without salt.

Any thoughts on the subject?

Thanks!

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  1. Just use less salt than the recipe calls for. Perhaps try by reducing it a lot, then gradually increasing it. I've found lowering salt in your dishes can take some getting used to.

    Salt is used to enhance somethings natural flavour, so going by that theory, if it tastes salty, then it likely has too much salt.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Musie

      I haven't used Salt in pasta water for decades and have never heard a complaint from anyone who's eaten my food.

      A dash of Chile helps almost any recipe-Herbs well it depends.

      1. re: Sam Salmon

        If you have a good flavourful sauce I doubt you would miss the salt in the pasta water.

        1. re: Sam Salmon

          +1 to not salting your pasta water. No one will miss it.

          1. re: anthony.izzo

            I absolutely, 100% miss it. I've made it both ways, and had it served to me both ways without my knowing. I also am certainly not rude enough to tell anyone who is kind enough to cook for me that their pasta is bland. Unless you have to keep your salt at pretty much zero, the salt you add to pasta water is a very small amount, so it would probably be more beneficial to reduce processed foods (as noted below) if you are trying to reduce your salt just on general principle.

            That being said, you do get used to smaller quantities of salt in your cooking over time. Also, although it's counterintuitive, light-handed salting at every stage of cooking can actually decrease your total salt volume, because you wind up with a well-seasoned dish and don't wind up adding a bunch of salt to remedy blandness at the end.

            1. re: ErnieD

              The usual advice on salting your pasta water is that it should taste like either a) seawater or b) a well seasoned soup, which is much more than a very small amount.

              I think it varies on application. If you're doing a simple aglio olio, you want the pasta to shine, but if you're laddling on plenty of an ol' warhorse of a bolognese, I don't think salted pasta water would really make a difference.

              That being said, I would rather have bland pasta than heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, kidney failure, retinal hemorrhages, and all the other stuff that goes along with long standing, untreated hypertension. Salt reduction is just one part of comprehensive lifestyle modification that includes dietary changes, exercises and maybe medication, but reduction of sodium intake is always high on the list of recommendations.

      2. I'll presume you are doing this for health reasons. If so, you might consider cutting back on processed foods, rather than on the salt you add yourself, because that's where most of the dietary sodium in the US comes from.

        Here's some interesting reading.
        http://articles.chicagotribune.com/20...

        7 Replies
        1. re: FreddieJaye

          Cutting back on processed foods helps so much - and also just doing a little lable reading. Even certain products of canned tomatoes or beans can contain some sodium - and while it's not a lot, it can be a situation where everything adds up to make a home cooked meal have a lot more salt in it.

          Personally, I use lemon juice, vinegar, or other acids as a way of boosting flavor without using salt. I was raised in a very low sodium house growing up, so as an adult I'm a lot more sensitive to salt than my peers. But ultimately I think that it's something you can train your tastebuds to respond to differently.

          1. re: cresyd

            Definitely. If you're cooking for yourself, you've already cut out a huge amount of salt that you would take in by eating processed foods. If you do want to use canned goods/frozen meals/prepared stocks/etc, be sure to read labels and opt for "low salt" or "low sodium" varieties.

            1. re: cresyd

              cresyd said:
              Even certain products of canned tomatoes or beans can contain some sodium - and while it's not a lot...."

              It's usually quite a lot. I'm looking at a 15.25 oz can of kidney beans, that has 380mg sodium per serving, which works out to 1330 mg per can. That said, WF has tetrapacks of beans with no added salt. Or, you can use dried beans.

              1. re: Steve Green

                This was my first thought as well. "Certain" - it's nearly all unless you pay attention and "some sodium" it's usually upwards of 10-25%. It's insanity really. Dried beans are of course no sodium, but if you want canned beans Whole Foods does have a great line of salt free beans and I'm sure other places as well but you have to pay attention. Salt is ubiquitous these days so all packaged products which go in my cart get the flip around and the label is carefully read.

            2. re: FreddieJaye

              +1 its actually not the salt that's the problem it's the sodium. Don't eat any processed food and you can salt your foods as you like...

              1. re: sparky403

                Sodium is the problem, but most of it comes from salt. MSG is another source, but that is not used as much as it once was.

              2. re: FreddieJaye

                Best advice FreddieJaye. If you must use processed food go frozen.

              3. I use kosher salt, and add it just before serving. Kosher salt has large grains, and because it's added at the last minute it fools the taste buds into thinking the food is more salted than it is (or so I tell myself).

                People require some salt in their diets, but not as much as most Americans consume. Cutting back or eliminating processed foods (and, alas, a lot of cheeses) can bring your salt consumption down enough that you can salt fresh vegetables to taste.

                1. I put the salt shaker away decades ago. I do not salt pasta water. I agree with using a tiny bit of kosher or sea salt on the plated food IF it needs it, which it seldom does. Lemon or other acidic
                  ingredients are good subs for salt, and pepper brightens flavors too. I went cold turkey. It takes a couple of weeks for your palate to re-set itself but once it does, most prepared and packaged foods taste too salty so you find you have committed yourself to cooking from scratch, something you might not have been doing.

                  1. I tend to just cut back a little at a time, until I start to really notice the difference. I don't often fully follow recipes (I usually use them as a guideline to get ingredient ratios or methods and then make it up), but I have managed to easily half the salt in a lot of the recipes that I use.

                    It makes it easier that I have an extensive spice/herb collection that I use as well. I do always salt my pasta water, but my mother never does. My brother and I can taste the difference (but I'm very sensitive to taste differences), but my husband cannot, and neither can my mother or father.

                    1. Several years ago I had to do a lot of low-salt cooking for my mother, who had congestive heart failure. I found that it's very hard to make starchy foods palatable without salt. For example, potatoes without salt are very bland. You should consider this when deciding which dishes to make.

                      To make low-salt food taste good, you need to replace the lost flavor with other flavors. Sour and spicy flavors work well for this. Garlic helps. So does wine.

                      If you really want to reduce the sodium in your diet, you need to read labels. Many packaged foods are very high in sodium. So are cured meats. Some foods are high in sodium without tasting salty - for example, cottage cheese has a lot of sodium (the Swiss-type cheeses are usually very low in sodium).

                      Low-salt food does take some getting used to. Your palate will eventually adjust.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: swazoo

                        a good teaspoon of curry in the taters ought to do the trick. plus a dash of liquid smoke.

                      2. It's many years since I decided to stop using salt in cooking, or adding it to food at the table. It was a health related decision which seemed easier than stopping smoking or drinking alcohol (both of which I've now done). Took me about a month to adjust, during which time everything seemed very bland and just "not right". Nowadays, if I eat something someone else has prepared with "normal" salting, I often find the taste of salt overpowers everything else.

                        1. There's some good advice here already: I agree completely with the others who said cutting out all processed foods, it's surprising that some of that stuff is even edible with the amount of salt in it. Also agree with playing around with the other tastes (especially sour, sweet, and spicy), and adding sea salt as a garnish...

                          I would add that if you have a specific amount of salt you can use, measure that into a small dish every morning, and just know you will have to make it last through the day (and obviously read labels to account/subtract for the sodium in any packaged/processed foods you eat).

                          I always salt pasta water, and I do think it makes a difference in the finished dish, but not a major one. I put replacing salt with herbs, or eliminating salt altogether, in the same category as sauteing in chicken broth... good intentions gone way too far.

                          1. I have not cooked with salt for years. Just stop using it and you'll stop wanting the taste. Research shows that your taste for salt will dimenish over 6 weeks. Then things taste better. Don't substitute amything. You'll enjoy food more.

                            1. I get a box of kosher salt and put some in a dish so I can use less and aim better when I season plus it is coarse salt so per the nutrition facts on the box of Kosher Salt and the container of Morton's iodinized table salt I have the Kosher salt has 1/2 the sodium of the table salt.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Berheenia

                                Kosher salt has the same amount of sodium as an equal weight of table salt. If you measure salt by volume, as most people do most of the time, the rougher texture of kosher salt means there's as much air as salt in a teaspoon, while finer-grain salt like table salt is more densely packed with very little air space.

                                1. re: Berheenia

                                  that is what I do, I am sensitive to "salty" tastes and I only use coarse Kosher salt, no salt shaker in the house. I do salt pasta water, but a) I don't eat very much pasta, and b) I use some of the cooking water in the sauce to finish.

                                2. Almost every recipe calls for salt because salt makes almost every food taste better, even sweets; not saltier but more vividly itself. Eliminate salt and what you cook will go bland and blah, the "something missing" you mention. But by all means don't always take the recipe's word for how much salt it takes to bring your food to life. "Season to taste" is the watchword.

                                  Since you cook from scratch, you're already consuming less salt than people who live on prepared foods, which often include lots of sodium. Whether you need to cut back still further is a tough one. Unless your doctor has prescribed a low-salt diet for someone in your family, you may be OK.

                                  1. "Best ingredients and preparation" help.

                                    When making hamburgers, I'd buy the freshest ground beef I could find, prepare patties with minimal handling and cook them medium rare, all right before I sit down to eat the gurger. By only using lettice that has been crisped (soaked in cold water, shaken dry, stored in the frig up until the moment I assemble the burgers), tomato that's local and RIPE, onion that's sweet and sliced thick, buns that have the cut surfaces crisped in a buttter-brushed skillet one can mak a delicious hamburger that requires no salt, no pepper and no pickles and yet so tasty that the eater surely will ask for one more.

                                    I found acidity and spiciness help in cutting salt uses in general. But certain things (e.g. butter and hot peppers) do taste so much better with some salt I just can't do without.

                                    1. You're on the right track is to use less salt than the recipe calls for, or go cold turkey and just don't add any salt in your cooking just have a shaker at your table where you only allow yourself a pinch.

                                      Cut back on condiments - ketchups, mayo, soy sauce, pickles... etc.

                                      Don't add salt to pasta water.

                                      One thing about salt. Your taste buds become accustomed to a lot of salt which gives you that "something is missing" feeling. On the upside, is your taste buds readjust to taste other flavors instead of being clobbered by salt.

                                      1. I don't agree with those who would not salt pasta water. I follow Michael Ruhlman (The Elements of Cooking) who wrote: "... pasta water should taste like properly seasoned soup." This means it should taste neither salty nor flat. Then the sauce is seasoned separately. You don't want to try to make up for unsalted pasta by oversalting the sauce. If people don't notice that the pasta is flat, it is because they are accustomed to poorly cooked pasta.

                                        Reduce the salt by experimenting with adjusting the salt in the water to find the minimum suitable amount, then stick with that proportion for consistency.

                                        By the way, excessive salt in the diet usually comes from commercially prepared foods, not from home cooked foods.

                                        1. The type of salt you use and how you season have a lot to do with the outcome of a dish. I have five salts I like to use. Kosher for seasoning water, course Celtic sea salt for general seasoning, Pink Himalayan, Red Hawaiian and Black Hawaiian Lava salts for seasoning specific dishes. They all taste different with difference degrees of "saltiness". I find Kosher salt to taste sour on the one end and the black salt almost sweet on the other. As always "season to taste" is the rule.

                                          1. Thanks for all the replies and suggestions. Yes, it is a health matter--my BP is thru the roof.

                                            I have always been careful about checking labels on processed foods (and I don't consume that much of that anyway) and do salt to taste, but I've noticed lately almost every recipe I see has salt and pepper. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I do use kosher salt but just very little. I am definitely now going to cook pasta without salt (and am thinking of lowing those carbs as well) and be that much more careful in other ways. Eating out is a challenge that has to be met and mastered....

                                            I just found a list that I received a long time ago and will have to watch this consumption as well:

                                            Hidden Salt
                                            Red = Ketchup (rarely)
                                            White - Table Salt (never use)
                                            Black = Soy Sauce (rarely)
                                            Yellow = Mustard (ditto)
                                            Pink = Processed Meats (work days only)
                                            Green = Pickles (I get this) and Parsley (that one I don't get)
                                            Brown = Soups and Gravies (not much)

                                            Thanks again for all the replies.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                              every workday you eat processed meat?
                                              take some jheera rice to work! Meat unnecessary! ;-)
                                              (you'd be better off with cold homemade pizza than processed meat...)

                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                No, I don't eat processed meat every workday. What I meant was, I ONLY eat processed meat (in sandwiches) at work. Most days I eat at my desk and have access to an employee cafeteria. When the cafe is closed, I run out and grab a sandwich so as to eat quickly. I work long hours so don't cook much dinner during the week. I cook extra vegetables on the weekend and eat that during the week with whatever I can pull together.

                                                Cold left-over pizza is not appealing to me, sorry.

                                            2. It is a process that you get used to. I cannot add salt to many items as two family members have dietary restrictions on salt. I personally feel better if I limit my salt. As well I like lemon rind in many foods. Read your labels, they can be very informative, I put items back if they are too high in salt and purchase very few ready made meal items.

                                              1. For reasons why - salt enhances the flavour of many foods, giving it a kick in tastiness with little effort.

                                                My mom is on a medical low salt diet for kidneys, so I've been discussing this with her, and reading about it.

                                                If you want to cut back on salt in your diet, then the first line of attack is processed foods, many of which contain absurd amounts of salt - think fast food and chain restaurants, snack foods, canned soups, deli meats, soup mixes and things like hamburger helper or noodles and sauce, dips, any sort of pre-made dishes that you heat and serve.

                                                Even basic ingredients like chicken breasts can have salt injected - my Mom had to ditch M&M meat products completely for this reason. Watch for "no salt added" on labels for things like chicken stock, rather than "low/reduced sodium" (or read the labels very carefully on the low/reduced items, because the definition of "low" is wildly varying).

                                                If you're going really low salt, your tastebuds will adjust themselves in time, and normally salted food will begin to seem too salty.

                                                To ramp up the flavour of home-cooked stuff without salt, fresh lemon or lime juice can do wonders to punch up the flavour of a dish. Learn to use strongly flavoured seasonings well - garlic, ginger, vinegars, spices, herbs, chilis, etc. And use good quality ingredients - one of the reasons processed foods have so much salt in them is that it's a cheap way to make them taste more appealing.

                                                As an aside, you can make some good refrigerator vinegar pickles with no or very little salt, for side dishes, if you're really cutting down.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                  The reason that food tastes flat without salt is because our body fluids are saline. A little salt brings food into balance with body chemistry. That doesn't explain why too much salt is qdded, however.

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    Yep. One can certainly exist having removed salt from their diet, but there is no substitute for the taste – physiologically. Here’s an interesting and timely NPR Story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012... Personally, I think that admonitions to lower sodium intake are often a poor substitute for weight loss and increased exercise intensity. I’d do anything it took to avoid having to take salt out of my cooking.

                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                      +1

                                                      If one really wants to reduce sodium in their diet, just eat less. Of everything.

                                                  2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                    Even flash frozen fish can have a very high salt content, so if you are trying to eat more fish you also have to watch the salt content, tuna fish in can also.
                                                    As well I watch the levels of salt in canned goods and made quite a discovery, Canadian canned tomatoes are extremely high in salt whereas the ones from Italy are much lower. Is salt a North American habit?

                                                  3. My blood pressure likes to creep up on me....so I monitor with a home device and watch my whole diet as well as salt. What works for me:
                                                    1--use a sieve to shake the salt out of nuts and chips (I won't buy unsalted, they taste bad and go rancid quickly.)
                                                    2--buy as few processed foods as your cooking time will allow. This way you control the salt in pasta, soups, etc
                                                    3--always measure. I try to stick to 1/2 tsp salt per pound of meat; most recipes for burgers etc call for a full tsp. Start with half and see if you can manage.
                                                    4--try for a week or two to avoid all super-salty foods and added salt, then adjust your diet. It's amazing how we get used to over-salted foods, and if you condition your tongue to a boot camp period of less, then you'll find you taste the salt more easily and use less. Added bonus: other food flavours start to come to the front and you enjoy things more.
                                                    5--dump all of your old spices and go to the bulk food store. Make a fresh store of new things like cumin, oregano, rosemary....etc etc and search out recipes for each.
                                                    6--cut the salt content of all home baked goods in half
                                                    7--use unsalted butter where you can
                                                    8--add high potassium foods like apples, bananas, potatoes every day. It's as important to go high potassium as it is to go lower sodium (assuming no kidney/renal issues.)

                                                    Hope this helps. Thus far my B.P. is under good control without medication, just through diet, exercise, and weight management. Boring, but effective!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: applgrl

                                                      Thanks for these helpful hints. Again, I use very little processed food and always check labels. I've used unsalted butter for years, buy my spices & herbs at Penzey's and in general, do eat very healthy at home. But like I said above, every single recipe I find has salt in it, and except for baking, I generally use much less than the stated amount. The high potassium suggestion is especially good and I can follow that easily enough.

                                                      Thanks again.

                                                    2. One of the biggest things you can do to avoid salt is avoid foods that must be salted throughout to taste right. It's not just about how salty something tastes. For example, a serving of chocolate pudding generally has twice as much salt as a single serving bag of potato chips.

                                                      In effect, this means that many people could cut sodium significantly by avoiding soups, sauces, and other savory foods that don't just call for salt sprinkled on top. Salting a steak to your preference, you'll still wind up eating much less salt than had you eaten a sausage or a braise or a stew instead. Your preferred amount of salt sprinkled on top of some vegetables will not even come close to the amount of salt you'd eat in vegetable soup or a gratin or creamed vegetables. Mixing salt through hamburger meat, you'll wind up using much more to achieve the same 'saltiness' than had you just sprinkled salt on top the formed patty. A risotto will tend to call for a lot of salt to taste right - a baked potato will need much less. It's not just about cutting salt in any individual thing you eat - it's about what you choose to eat in the first place.

                                                      If that alone isn't enough and you find yourself eating things that taste bland in an effort to reduce salt, one thing that will help is paying more attention to how you use acids - vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, etc - in flavoring your dishes. This has the added upside of potentially making you a better cook - it's the kind of thing that professional cooks pay a lot of attention to but home cooks tend to overlook. And as others have said, eventually, your palate will come to expect less salt and less salty food will taste 'right' to you.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        Very interesting commentary, thanks. I think it's mostly the veggie recipes I have to adapt and I'll use more acid somehow. I'll have to work on it 1 recipe at a time.

                                                        Thanks again.

                                                        1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                          lemon butter is your friend.

                                                      2. Reducing salt involves an adjustment period. I very rarely use salt now. Grated lemon rind can certainly add flavour in recipes. Fresh herbs and fresh ground pepper are good. As well if you want some heat peppers can certainly add to flavour for your spicy dishes.

                                                        1. Salt is purposeful ingredient. It helps sear and carmelize meats. It helps remove water and it binds with starch to enhance flavor.

                                                          There is no need to go crazy with salt. Just make sure you are not using iodized salts because the process of removing the iodine from salt is often done with aluminum and other chemicals.

                                                          Use good sea salt or quality mined salts. Sodium in excess is not a good thing but good quality salt has iodine and other trace minerals that are beneficial to the body.

                                                          Sugar is more likely to cause high blood pressure. Salt has been poorly blamed for heart problems when in fact the root cause is from a poor diet of refined sugars.

                                                          I like to use smoked alder salt. It's got a wonderful smokey flavor and less of it does a good job enhancing dishes such as salmon and grilled meats. Good luck.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: DillMuncher

                                                            The science regarding salt intake and hypertension, and especially mortality, has always been fairly contentious. Here are a couple articles:

                                                            http://www.scientificamerican.com/art...
                                                            http://www.nature.com/ajh/journal/v24...

                                                            When it comes to dietary science, there is a LOT of bad science, a lot of studies with conflicts of interest that aren't declared, a lot of studies that don't properly account for confounding, a whole lot contradictory studies, and correlations with no proof of causation. Consensus is often formed with weak evidence, and then it is fought tooth and nail to retain the consensus, whether the evidence to support it exists or not. Often times they set out to provide evidence for the consensus with studies, and when these studies fail to provide the evidence they're looking for, they don't ask if the consensus is correct, they ask what they did wrong in the study. The issues with dietary science are massive.

                                                            As a result, most of our medical establishment continues to focus on the wrong things and/or or prioritize the wrong things. If you walk by the break room and see how the average doctor or nurse eats, it's not surprising. My sister is an NP and her diet is absolutely awful, and she's an insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic. The Harvard School of Public Health is one of the few groups that generally gets it right and is willing to question a lot of the dogma.

                                                          2. We cut way back on salt about 12 years ago after Mr. Sueatmo's bypass. I liked to use Lawrey's seasoned salt at the time. I looked for a lower salt alternative, and I found Spike. I used Spike quite a bit for a few years, but I noticed that I cut back even on that. I do like a little salt, but I know I must use much less than most cooks do. One thing we tried was using a salt sub that had some sodium in it. Can't remember the name. We used it for awhile. Mr. Sueatmo however salts everything I make. I usually like what I make as is.

                                                            1. Add Garlic. It seems to enhance the salt

                                                              1. Our bodies need salt. The Wikipedia article on salt explains:

                                                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt

                                                                This gives the standard guidelines on sodium intake and reducing same. Depending on what you eat, you may not need to cut back on salt, or do so in a big way.

                                                                DillMuncher speaks of using chemicals to remove iodine from salt. That's wrong. Salt is made of sodium and chlorine; iodine is often added to deal with hypothyroidism and goitre. Many people use kosher salt because it's free of such additives, which some can taste, but that may not be a good idea healthwise.

                                                                Salt doesn't just make food taste salty - often that's a sign that it has too much salt. It also enhances other flavors, which is why you taste something missing when you omit the salt from a recipe. Nowadays you see chocolates etc.with sea salt added. For me that's taking epicureanism too far. :-)

                                                                1. OP here. Interesting that my thread popped up again after so many months. I've been on BP medicine since last August since despite my best efforts, I couldn't get my numbers down.

                                                                  Cooking isn't much of a challenge now as I'm using much less salt than before. I still cook lots of veggies and use just a pinch here and there. No more salting water for pasta-that was done a long time ago. I've always looked for interesting recipes online and lately have seen some that call for adding salt and pepper 3 times in one recipe! So I will have to adjust those.

                                                                  BUT: I haven't had much time lately to cook at all. I just finished the work season from hell, sometimes tallying 12 days in a row (today is day 8 of 10) and many times, 12+ hours a day. So, breakfast, lunch and dinner at my desk. The nature of my job means that meals are often rushed and my best plans are shot, so I have to grab what I can and inhale lunch in about 10 minutes. That often means the dreaded deli sandwich (salads take too long to consume) just to get some nourishment down.

                                                                  I've also been much more cognizant of package labeling. Before I just used to look for fat and fiber content (trying to control my weight) but now I am also looking at sodium numbers. There are only a few packaged items that I buy now so I think I'm doing much, much better.

                                                                  Thanks again for all the helpful responses. It's good to review all the advice again and remind myself that there are many techniques I must remember to do.

                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                  1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                    Dude. Do you want me to post a 20-day meal?
                                                                    (ya cook enough for 20 days, and then can just eat that).

                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                      Dudette perhaps, I'm not really a dude.

                                                                      Thanks for the offer. I've got the cooking down fine, it's the workdays that really are the challenge. And when I don't have time to cook (weekends) then the weekdays and nights are the really difficult days. I usually cook enough on the weekend to last me thru most of the week.

                                                                      And coming up, some travel just to make life more interesting.

                                                                      Thanks for the offer tho. ~ Dudette.

                                                                      1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                        I just use a ricecooker plus a sauce (picadillo, ropa vieja, lentils and carrots). Ricecooker takes 2 minutes to get started (done in 30 min), and the sauce microwaves ontop of the rice, in about 2-3 minutes.

                                                                        1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                          Can you pack the night before? A simple sandwich wouldn't be too difficult, have lettuce, tomato, whatever else you like at home and just keep it in compartments, toss it in you bag and eat it for lunch. Bake chicken breasts and have it with a dressing or favorite condiment.

                                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                            I can't say that I've made an effort in this area, but I hate waste and have been reluctant to stock up on anything during the crazy periods when I know I'll be very busy. But--lame excuse here--when I get home after a 12-15 hour day, the last thing I want to do is anything in the kitchen. And, spending my whole day--every day--thinking about food (professionally) and I just can't think about it too much when I get home. Thus, I cop out and go for what is easy.

                                                                            I used to do Weight Watchers and I was able to plan my meals better. But when I first started WW, I had less responsbilities and work load, so it was easier for me to eat healthy. I really have to get back to that frame of mind.

                                                                            Thanks for your very valuable suggestion!

                                                                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                              Yea, I guess it's whatever you're willing to do. I often work 16, even 18 hour days or several days in a row on call but I haul myself into the kitchen or at least plan to have something around to eat. No salt added tuna, no salt turkey deli slices, eggs, there are a lot of quick things that don't require cooking or much effort. I think you can get back to that frame of mind but you have to tell yourself that instead of "I can't think about it too much when I get home" that you will think about it ahead of time or you will think about it when you get home. I try to remind myself that easy is easy but I often regret it and would rather not. Many nights I could just order or pick up food but I will inevitably get heartburn and not be able to sleep which defeats the purpose or become a bloated water retention mess which also doesn't feel good all because I didn't feel like it. I'm not criticizing by any means as I used to struggle with this as well but now that I've made the commitment I don't even have to think about it much.

                                                                              1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                If you don't want to think about it, then make it as simple as you can and be willing to eat the same thing for lunch everyday (if you're trying to lose weight, given the WW comment, then this might be up your alley as recent research has said the repetition makes food boring or less of an event resulting in fewer calories consumed and greater success in weight loss).

                                                                                This doesn't necessarily fit in low sodium, but just to give an idea because I sometimes have a similar schedule and workload. Originally, I resigned to eating more pre-packaged foods at first because they were easy to grab and I valued my time more than my monetary cost - fruit snacks, 100 calorie packs of almonds, small bags of pretzels, those frozen PB&J sandwich pockets, fruit, those 2 packs of peeled hard boiled eggs.

                                                                                Now, I make a big pot of chili, lentil soup, or bean soup on the weekend. As much as I like sleep, I now set my alarm six minutes earlier than I used to and do the following:

                                                                                Grab insulated lunch bag
                                                                                Get tap water as hot as I can get it and fill thermos with water to heat it up.
                                                                                Grab big container of soup from fridge, put some in a bowl and nuke it for 4 minutes to get it extra hot.
                                                                                Grab a baggie, toss some carrots into it.
                                                                                Grab a small container and spoon some sun butter or hummus into it for the carrots.
                                                                                Grab a yogurt, an apple, an orange out of the fridge.
                                                                                Grab a banana off the counter.
                                                                                Grab a pack of fruit snacks out of the drawer.
                                                                                Empty my thermos, take the soup out of the microwave and dump it in my thermos.
                                                                                Shove it all in my bag and zip it up.

                                                                                It's all done in roughly 5 minutes - 6 minutes if I didn't bother to wash the thermos the night before. I usually pack the yogurt and the banana for breakfast. The orange is a mid-morning snack and the apple is a mid-afternoon snack to perk me up. I have all of my lunch food on one shelf in the fridge, keep my bananas on the counter next to the fridge, put all my other stuff (thermos, small containers, baggies, disposable spoons, and fruit snacks - as well as the bowl I heat up my soup in and the measuring cup I use to measure it out in) in a drawer underneath the bananas, next to the fridge.

                                                                                No muss, no fuss other than washing out the thermos, container, and bowl when I get home from work. Requires little thought or effort on my part other than making a big pot of something and I just go on down the line in my fridge and my drawer and shove it all in my bag.

                                                                                It's a matter of prioritizing and figuring out what you can do with the lifestyle you lead. I may not be the most environmentally friendly or budget friendly lunch packer in the world, but it keeps me out of fast food restaurants or being ravenous and overeating at the end of the day.

                                                                        2. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                          If you're anywhere near a Trader Joe's, you might try some of their prepared foods, which are lower in salt and fat than the national brands, while still being very appetizing. Some are labeled "Reduced Guilt." :-)

                                                                          1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                            Sitting at your desk and not getting enough exercise and rest is more detrimental than salt. Telling you from experience. Runs in my family and I lower my bp when I get my exercise, rest and balanced meals that are not made with prepared foods

                                                                            1. re: Tazbuster

                                                                              I know that, believe me. Some days I am on my feet for hours at a time (and no time to sit, not even for a minute), other days I am stuck doing paperwork all day, and get up only to stretch my legs and clear my brain.

                                                                              Thanks for the reminder!

                                                                          2. Reading through this thread, I'm surprised that no one has
                                                                            mentioned a little olive oil in the pasta water instead of salt.

                                                                            Or, use of Nu Salt or other potassium chloride products in lieu
                                                                            of table salt. it's the sodium that is to be reduced when there
                                                                            are assorted health problems like high blood pressure.

                                                                            As a retired lifetime salt addict, I just don't cook with salt at all, but season lightly with lemon juice or Nu salt to taste
                                                                            at the table. Baking is a different matter--would not try that
                                                                            at all without salt. Garlic, chili, etc sub for the kick that salt
                                                                            gives food nicely.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Bashful3

                                                                              I tried using olive oil but found it just made the pasta slimy and sauce wouldn't stick.

                                                                              Thanks for the response.

                                                                              1. re: Bashful3

                                                                                Potassium chloride doesn't taste like salt, or not enough. I've tried it and thrown it out.

                                                                              2. I use salt in my cooking, but normally less than a recipe calls for. You can add salt, but once it's in the mix you can't take it out. When a dish is almost ready I taste it, add a bit more salt if needed, but sparingly.