How To Stay On Track With A Low Sodium Diet During the Holidays


What Is A Low Sodium Diet?

Sodium controls fluid balance in our bodies and maintains blood pressure.  Eating too much sodium, or salt, may raise blood pressure and cause fluid retention.  This could lead to swelling of the legs and feet or even other health issues such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease.  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium in a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.  Because the average American eats so much excess sodium, even cutting back by 1,000 mg a day can significantly improve blood pressure and heart health.

Eating During the Holidays

Holiday meals don’t have to be boring and bland to keep you on track.  Meals, based on classic dishes that are either family recipes or traditions can be updated and even enhanced to bring lots of holiday cheer. If you have health challenges, or have made a commitment to improve your overall health, in order to protect your heart, or reduce hypertension, this could be a fun way to start new traditions.

Steer clear of high sodium foods that could add more sodium to your meal than the actual salt shaker.  Protein sources that can easily go over the daily recommendation are deli meat finger sandwiches, turkeys basted or brined, salted nuts, and canned beans.  Dairy products such as processed cheese and cheese sauces could provide an excessive amount of sodium.  Dinner rolls with butter and prepackaged stuffing mixes are heavily laden with salt.  Pickled vegetables and pre-prepared vegetable dips could be easily modified to decrease the amount of sodium they would contain otherwise. 

So, gather everyone in the kitchen, and make a dish from scratch this year so that you have total control over the amount of sodium in your favorite dishes.  Experiment with different pairings to really perk up any dish, such as pumpkin and ginger, green beans with lemon and pepper, beets with orange and clove and purple, sweet, and white potatoes with rosemary and thyme to enliven everyone’s taste buds.

Holiday Cooking Tips

  • Use fresh ingredients or foods with no added salt.
  • Avoid convenience foods such as canned soups, prepackaged pasta, potato, stuffing, rice, gravy, and sauce mixes.
  • Be creative and season your foods with lots of spices, herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar and pepper.
  • Use fresh, frozen, no-added-salt canned vegetables, or canned vegetables that have been drained and rinsed before they are prepared.
  • Avoid mixed seasonings and spice blends that include salt, such as garlic salt.
  • Avoid adding ham, bacon, sausage, or salted pork to vegetable and side dishes.
  • Choose low, reduced, or no sodium varieties of broth, and dry or oil-less roux mixes when making gumbos and stews.
  • For favorite recipes, you may need to use other ingredients and delete or decrease the salt added. Salt can be removed from any recipe except from those containing yeast.
  • Sea salt contains the same amount of sodium as iodized salt.

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