How to Cook with Less Salt

Cut sodium in the kitchen--without cutting flavor. We show you how.

By Marsha McCulloch, M.S., R.D.


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Buy salt-free blends
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    We've gathered low-sodium seasonings and cooking tips from nutrition experts and people following low-sodium diets.

    We'll show you how to:
    --Pick spice blends and salt substitutes

    -- Add flavor without salt

    -- Add tasty, low-sodium ingredients to recipes to keep your sodium intake in check

    Buy Salt-Free Blends
    Salt-free herb and spice blends add flavor without added sodium, but check the ingredient lists of store-bought blends for the sodium amounts. If you're still unsure what's in a seasoning, call the company?s toll-free number or visit the company's Web site for more information.

    Sodium-free spice blends to try:
    -- Mrs. Dash Seasoning Table Blend

    -- Lawry's Salt-Free 17 Seasoning

    Nantucket Off-Shore Garden Rub

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Look for Lite Salts

    "Lite" salts are commonly made by replacing part of the sodium with potassium (you'll see "potassium chloride" in the ingredients listing). But they still contain sodium and may not be appropriate for some people following sodium-restricted diets.

    For example, 1/4 teaspoon Morton Lite Salt Mixture has:
    --290 mg sodium

    -- 350 mg potassium

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Salt Substitutes and Your Health

    Salt substitutes, such as No Salt, commonly replace all of the sodium with potassium (with as much as 650 mg potassium per 1/4 teaspoon). But these products aren't for everyone.

    "People who are taking high blood pressure medicine that causes their bodies to hold on to potassium could get potassium overload if they add a salt substitute," says cardiologist J. James Rohack, president-elect of the American Medical Association.

    The potassium in salt substitutes could also pose problems for people with kidney disease. Check with your doctor before using salt substitutes or lite (reduced-sodium) salt.

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Flavor with Fruit

    Instead of salting your food, use citrus fruits. "Use a lemon or lime wedge as a garnish for low-sodium soup, stew, salads, and fish, then squeeze it over the dish before eating," says Don Gazzaniga, a congestive heart failure survivor and author of The No-Salt, Lowest Sodium Cookbook (St. Martin's Griffin, 2002).

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Introduce Wine Instead of Salt

    Lower the sodium by using wine instead. "Add wine to dishes during cooking and reduce it down," says Marla Heller, M.S., R.D., who has taught chefs at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago to lower the sodium in dishes. "Sauteing chicken in red wine gives it great flavor."

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Grill Your Food

    Use the grill to add zip to your dinner. "Grill meat and vegetables for a smoky flavor with no added salt," says Elizabeth Burt, R.D., L.D., Heart-Healthy Living test kitchen nutrition specialist.

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Add Flavor with Vegetables

    Cooking meat alongside vegetables not only gives you healthful nutrients, it also adds salt-free flavor. "Add minced onions and garlic to lean ground chicken, turkey, or beef before cooking. Or cook meat with grated carrots, diced zucchini, mushrooms, or any vegetable you really like," cookbook author Don Gazzaniga says.

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Substitute Garlic Powder for Salt

    A basic kitchen must-have, garlic powder can be a healthful alternative to salt. "Sprinkle pasta and homemade pizza with garlic powder (not garlic salt) to add extra flavor," says Karl Spady, a 43-year-old heart attack survivor and former restaurant owner.

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Grow Fresh Herbs

    Instead of flavoring with spices that may have added salt, grow your own fresh herbs for your cooking. "Fresh herbs add flavor and instantly dress up an everyday meal," Elizabeth Burt, R.D., L.D., says. "Try fresh basil in low-sodium tomato sauce or fresh cilantro in taco filling."

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Add Vinegar

    Vinegar is easy to cook with and can add zip to your meals. "Use balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar, or other specially flavored vinegars such as garlic or basil to add flavor to fresh vegetables and meat," cookbook author Don Gazzaniga says.

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Make Your Own Spice Mixes

    You can make your own low-sodium and salt-free herb and spice mixes. Stir up a month's worth and store them in labeled, airtight containers so they're ready to use.

    Try homemade spice blends on chicken, lean pork or beef, vegetables, popcorn, and more. Keep notes on your favorite flavor combinations.

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