Limiting salt in my diet
Heather Metell is the executive chef at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert and Anne Lougher is a registered dietitian at the medical center.
Question: I have just been told I have to limit salt in my diet. How can I avoid foods with salt and cook healthier meals?
Answer: The first step is to understand your limits. Even healthy people without high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease should limit their salt intake to no more than one teaspoon of salt a day, including salt that occurs naturally in foods.
Second, start reading food ingredient labels. High sodium foods are everywhere – restaurants, fast foods, packaged items, canned foods and processed foods. While these foods offer convenience, they are often full of salt.
Third, put down the salt shaker. Instead, use fresh herbs to heighten flavor at the end of cooking. A dash of lemon or lime juice can enhance the flavor of most foods. Choose foods that are naturally low in sodium like fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh meats and poultry.
Blend fresh herbs with canola or olive oil to make a pesto base, and then add nuts, garlic or a small amount of cheese. Toss it with pasta, flavor a baked potato, use as a marinade or mix with vegetables. Or chop up fresh herbs and freeze them in an ice cube tray with vegetable stock. This makes a great flavor boost to a steam fry or soup, and can be mixed with your pesto for a light, low sodium pasta sauce.
Basil and parsley are good choices for herbs as they go well with most foods. Thyme pairs well with chicken and turkey. Fish needs a lighter seasoning like dill or chervil. Pork and beef cook well with stronger seasonings like chopped rosemary.
Low-sodium cooking can be an adventure. Your taste buds will rejuvenate and you will be surprised by how much better many foods taste without salt masking their flavor. Plus, your heart will love you for it!