Looking for low sodium diet meal ideas? I was, too, and sadly disappointed.
Have you ever seen cooking shows on television where they promise a ‘healthier’ version of a meal – but don’t define what their version of “healthier” means? It’s frustrating, isn’t it, especially to those of us who are serious about watching what we eat to improve our health. My family has gone on a low sodium diet, which is also low cholesterol, to improve our health and lose weight. But one of the eye-openers for us was that the supposedly “healthy” diet we had been eating previously wasn’t healthy at all!
Why We Started this Recipe Rehab Project
My spouse did not enjoy the vegetarian and vegan meals I’d made from the cookbooks recommended by our family doctor. “I just want something…normal,” he’d say.
I knew exactly what he meant. Our “normal” foods were those we cooked at home. We thought we were doing well by making our meals at home and by cooking from scratch.
Then we started tallying up the sodium and cholesterol.
Oh. My. Goodness. What an eye opener.
One of our favorite meals, tacos, had over 2,300 milligrams of salt! That’s over the recommended limit of salt in one meal. Add to that a breakfast cereal (hello, salt!) and a can of soup or a fast food meal out for lunch (bam!) and you’ve just eaten close to 4,000 milligrams of salt…in one day.
We needed low sodium diet meal ideas, but rarely found those we liked. So we set out to rehab our recipes and reduce sodium and cholesterol while still eating “normal” foods.
Generally each meal we developed contains:
- 80% – yes, that’s correct – less sodium
- 30-40% less cholesterol
- 40-60% fewer calories
Why Choose a Low Sodium Diet?
Americans are killing themselves with their knives and forks. Far too many people develop diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Some die far too young or become debilitated, dependent on medication, experiencing serious surgeries.
A low sodium diet, defined by the American Heart Association as 1,500 milligrams per day, is possible, but hard to accomplish in today’s world of easy processed foods and fast foods.
Our family doctor suggested we begin the nutritarian or “eat to live” diet, a term coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Dr. Fuhrman recommends a base of green vegetables (cooked or raw), other non-starchy vegetables, fresh fruit, and limited nuts, seeds, and “extras.” He recommends giving up meat, dairy, sugar, and all processed food.
It sounds healthy and it is healthy but we found it difficult to transition to it. We developed these low sodium diet meal ideas to provide variety without the sodium.
As you transition to a low sodium diet, you’ll notice a few things. First, everything at the market has salt added to it – and I mean everything. We looked at canned beans. A healthy food, right? Wrong. Each can has over 300-400 milligrams of salt. We switched to the no-salt-added variety. No taste difference, and zero to 15 milligrams of sodium. It’s amazing how common foods including canned fruits and frozen vegetables have salt added to them. Package labels become your best friend when on this diet.
Low Sodium Diet Meal Ideas
Each Friday, I’ll share with you one of our family’s low sodium diet meal ideas. These menus were created from our family’s typical weekly meals with modifications to make it low sodium diet-friendly. The calories loss is just a bonus!
I’ve also included our calorie calculations. These are based on food labels and information found online. They aren’t infallible, but you can easily plug the information into any standard calorie counter to find out other facts such as vitamin content or fiber if you are tracking that, too.
Low Salt Recipes
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.