Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family and Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Salt is a traditional flavor enhancer, but research suggests that a high salt diet could contribute to a range of health problems including high blood pressure. Suggestions to decrease your consumption include:
- Taste food first; don’t automatically add salt as you will add more than needed for taste and your health.
- Add a splash of olive oil or lemon juice close to the end of cooking vegetables – it will enhance the flavor and eliminate the need for salt.
- Choose fresh or frozen vegetables, since canned and pickled ones tend to include high amounts of salt.
- Limit your consumption of salty processed meats such as salami, ham, corned beef, bacon, smoked salmon, and hot dogs.
- Choose reduced salt bread, crackers, breakfast cereals, and snack foods.
- Avoid salt-laden processed foods, such as flavored instant pasta, noodles or rice, canned or dehydrated soup mixes, chips, and salted nuts.
- Choose margarine and butter that are ‘no added salt’ varieties.
- Limit your intake of cheese or choose ‘lower salt’ varieties.
- Reduce your use of soy sauce, tomato sauce, and condiments like mayonnaise and salad dressings because they contain high levels of salt.
- Use herbs, spices, vinegars, or lemon juice to add extra zing to your salad, main dish, side dish or dessert and reduce the need for salt.
Culinary herbs are leafy plants that add flavor to all types of dishes. They are also rich in health-protective phyto-estrogens and may be used to replace salt and oil as a seasoning when cooking.
- Herbs are delicately flavored, so add them at the end of the cooking time.
- Dried herbs are more strongly flavored than fresh. As a general rule, one teaspoon of dried herbs equals four teaspoons of fresh.
- Herbs can be added to meat and main dishes, soups, breads, salad dressings, desserts, and drinks.
- Coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, and lemongrass give wonderful flavor to vegetable-based stir-fry recipes.
To make a sandwich healthier:
- Switch to wholegrain or whole wheat bread, bagels, or wraps.
- Eliminate the butter, margarine, or mayonnaise on your sandwich. You won’t miss it if your sandwich already has a few tasty ingredients.
- Limit your use of spreads high in saturated fat like cream cheese. Replace them with a thin spread of nut butter, hummus, low fat cheese spread, or avocado.
Spend a little time on presentation of your food. You are more likely to enjoy a meal if it’s visually appealing as well as tasty. Make every meal an occasion by setting the table. Eat with your family and give yourself the opportunity to enjoy your food without distractions like a television, ipod, or cell phone.
For more information:
- Contact a Family and Community Health Sciences Educator through Rutgers Cooperative Extension or a registered dietitian through the American Dietetic Association.
- Read Small Steps to Health & Wealth monthly messages to keep yourself updated on the latest information for making small changes that will impact your overall health.