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  • Writer's pictureDonna

Low Sodium Approach to Better Health

Salt is in nearly every prepared food you buy or eat and it can have a huge impact on your overall health and weight loss


Why did I choose to limit sodium in my recipes?

About two years ago, we decided to address our weight issues. We had put on weight and were unhappy with the impact to our joints, energy levels, appearance and overall health. My husband had developed high-blood pressure and had difficulty bringing it down. He was also dealing with pain from varicose veins in his legs.

The diet we choose to follow retaught us about eating the right way. Incorporating more vegetables and fruits, limiting carbs, and watching portion sizes were all key elements. The plan also recommended that we limit our sodium intake. To be very honest, limiting our sodium intake was hard to adjust to. Like most people, I typically salted meats, sauces... well, everything.

Once we started seeing results from the diet, we decided to tackle the sodium issue more and noticed an impact on our weight loss and his blood pressure. Since we were weighing ourselves frequently, I also noticed that when we indulged in eating out (not giving up that pleasure) my weight would go up ~4-5 pounds overnight from water retention due to the salt in the food. Now, watching sodium is key in our house; well, at least for my husband and myself.

Here are some tips on how we lowered our sodium intake:

Tip #1 - Paying Close Attention to Food Labels

I work full-time so buying prepared items, liked canned or frozen items, are essential time savers. When I shop, I look for "no sodium added" on canned good. Thankfully, there are quite a few options these days. When that is not an option, I stick to buying items with sodium content that is 10% or less of the daily recommended value/intake. You will be surprised by what you can find in that range and shocked at what some items actually contain. For instance, I found one sauce that I liked actually had 90% of my recommended daily salt intake... whoa!

Tip #2 - Reduce Sodium in Cooking

This is a big step in reducing your sodium intake. I realize that salt is used to enhance flavor and many chefs will cringe at the idea of not salting food. However, if you are using ingredients that naturally have salt or include low amounts of sodium, like cheese, you really don't need to add salt to your recipe (unless baking). Try using no salt added butter or use a salt substitute to help you adjust to the change.

Tip #3 - Make Your Own Spice Blends

Most of the spice blends you can buy, while very convenient, contain high levels of sodium. Instead, buy individual spices and make your own blends. You can even do this is batches and store your mixes to make it easier. You will find I use a mixture of spices in my recipes that I measure out individually. We also made a large batch of a few of our blends to use when time is tight or when there is more work involved in creating the blend.

Tip #4 - Use an Acid to Boost Flavor

I have found that adding a splash of lemon or lime juice can brighten a sauce or soup and can boost the flavor without changing the profile of the dish when used sparingly. I also use wine and vinegar to enhance the flavors rather than incorporating salt. I do recommend adding small amounts of these at a time. Sample and taste what you are cooking and add a little more at a time to get the flavor you are looking for.

Tip #5 - Eating Out

I am a foodie and love eating out; who doesn't like it when someone else does all the cooking and cleaning for them? The problem is the salt and the water retention I mentioned earlier. Solution... ask them to not salt your food. Some dishes have sauces and cheese in them that already have salt and this isn't something they will typically alter. But by asking them to hold the salt, they can skip the finishing salt and any little bit helps. I admit there are meals that you don't want to skip the salt on and just luxuriate in the deliciousness. That is absolutely fine. Life is about balance!

Reducing sodium intake isn't easy but it can be rewarding

It can be time consuming, takes changing how you look at food, forces you to ask people to change how they prepare something, and is hard to adjust to. It was a hard step for us, well for me really. The health benefits, however, have made this a must in our house. My husband is off all of his blood pressure medications now, our weights are more controlled, and his varicose veins rarely bother him. Now, we really notice salt in dishes at restaurants and have found that it can distract from that natural flavors of the food.

Be sure to check out the recipes on this blog for ideas on how to cook with less salt and feel free to email me with questions. I aim to show you that healthy eating can taste amazing even without the added salt!

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