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Hold the Salt, Pass the Spices

Trying to cut your salt consumption in the New Year? It can be done without sacrificing flavor!

Most of us consume about 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day — well above the recommended intake of no more than 2,300 milligrams daily. And, according to the "2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans" (updated by the government's Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments every five years), about half of us should be consuming even less. Those with hypertension, diabetes or kidney disease, African Americans and people over age 50 (because those two groups have a higher rate of high blood pressure) are advised to cut their intake to fewer than 1,500 mg per day.

Label reading is important, of course. Many packaged foods contain a full day's supply of sodium in just one serving. Restaurant meals also are often highly salted — and you have no way to monitor the sodium.

Home-cooked meals offer plenty of opportunity to cut your salt intake, without settling for bland food. In fact, by substituting herbs and spices for the salt in your recipes, you'll probably make food that's more — not less — flavorful.

Tips for reducing sodium:

  • Replace the contents of your table salt shaker with salt-free herb and spice blends. You'll find these blends handy for easily spicing up standard fare, and while cooking too (macaroni and cheese, scrambled eggs, soups, etc.). There are plenty of convenient and delicious blends already prepared for you, like Frontier’s All Purpose Seasoning, Garlic Pepper, and Herbal Seasoning. And you can easily create your own homemade spice blends based on your favorite seasonings that use little or no salt.
  • Use a spritz of citrus, like lemon or lime, on foods to perk them up. This works especially well with soups and stews, salads and fish. Lemon juice powder is great to have on hand for this purpose, as is lemon peel.
  • Include wine in your dishes (especially poultry and fish recipes) to boost the taste without salt.
  • Explore vinegars. Vegetables, meats, and any roasted foods will become more flavorful with the addition of vinegars. Try balsamic, herb, rice, cider and wine vinegars.
  • Use low-sodium broth powders to make soups and stews, gravies and sauces.
  • Don't overcook your food. Gentle cooking will preserve flavor, while boiling for too long will kill flavor.
  • Make it fresh. Opt for fresh veggies over canned whenever possible. Canned veggies are typically high in sodium.
  • Cook vegetables (like onions and peppers) alongside meats in order to flavor the meats without salting.
  • Choose unsalted butter, if you use butter.

Cooking with less salt can be an adjustment, but with a few tips and flavorful seasonings, it needn't feel like deprivation. As you increasingly rely on other methods of boosting the flavor of your foods, you'll likely create more interesting fare than ever.

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