I was raised in a family where salt was a staple in the kitchen and at the dining room table. We added a dash while roasting a chicken, a sprinkle before taking a bite of mashed potatoes and a shake over freshly sliced tomatoes or melon to make it sweeter. Salt was a big part of our diet — and we never thought about how it could be affecting our health.
We now know that many Americans consume way beyond the recommended amount of sodium per day (less than 1500mg/or less than one teaspoon salt). Too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, and increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and stroke is No. 5?
Most of us think that no salt equals no flavor, but it’s easier than you may think to cut back. Here’s how:
Roast your fruits and veggies.
Most of us don’t get nearly enough fruits and vegetables. Roasting is a tasty way to jazz up fruits and veggies, which are naturally low in fat and calories. Grab sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, beets or tomatoes. Toss them lightly with extra virgin olive oil, put them in the oven and sprinkle with fresh pepper, garlic or a dash of smoked paprika when finished. You can also cut an apple or pear in half, lightly drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and roast. Delicious — and no salt needed!
Make it a family affair.
Make a family goal to reduce your household’s sodium consumption by 50 percent in two months. Identify the areas where your family consumes the most sodium. Hint: There’s lots in packaged and processed foods. Explain why cutting back on salt is important to their health and give everyone a job. One person is in charge of clearing the salt shakers from the dinner table, another makes sure you choose low-sodium foods in the grocery store and another asks for low-sodium entrees when dining out or asks the chef to leave the salt out. Track your family progress and celebrate when you achieve your goals!
Get in the kitchen.
Dining out or ordering in is convenient but many meals are filled with sodium and can put you over the daily sodium recommendations. Pizza, Chinese food and hot wings are some of the biggest culprits. Start cooking at home using low- and no-sodium ingredients. If you’re pressed for time, cook larger meals and freeze half. Extra vegetables and beans can be used on a salad the next day. You’ll save money and decrease your salt intake.
Add a squeeze of citrus.
Like salt, lemon, lime and other citrus fruits can enhance the flavor of your food. Try a squeeze of lime and a dash of pepper in place of salt over roasted chicken. The next time you sauté green beans add lemon zest just before serving. Enjoy!