How to Cook with Less Salt
Be in The Know
We've gathered low-sodium seasonings and cooking tips from nutrition experts and people following low-sodium meal plans. Learn how to:
-Pick spice blends and salt substitutes
-Add flavor without salt to make low salt recipes
-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 website for more information. Here are a few sodium-free spice blends to try:
-Mrs. Dash Seasoning Table Blend
-Lawry's Salt-Free 17 Seasoning
-Nantucket Off-Shore Garden Rub
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). For example, 1/4 teaspoon Morton Lite Salt Mixture has 290 mg sodium and 350 mg potassium. But since these still contain sodium, they may not be appropriate for some people following sodium-restricted diets.
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 a salt substitute or lite (reduced-sodium) salt.
Flavor with Fruit
Instead of salting your food, use citrus fruits in low sodium recipes. "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). Citrus fruits are low sodium foods that add huge flavor without adding salt, many calories, or fat.
Introduce Wine Instead of Salt
Cooking without salt? Lower the sodium by reaching for a bottle of 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. "Sautéing chicken in red wine gives it great flavor."
Grill Your Food
Some of the easiest low sodium foods involve firing up the grill. Use grilling 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.
Add Flavor with Vegetables
For easy low sodium recipes, throw everything in the same pan. 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.
Substitute Garlic Powder for Salt
A basic kitchen must-have, garlic powder can be a healthful salt substitute. "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.
You can also mince your own cloves of garlic for a burst of flavor that goes a long way.
Grow Fresh Herbs
Instead of flavoring with store-bought spices that may have added salt, grow your own fresh herbs to replace salts. "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."
Vinegar is easy to cook with and can add zing 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.
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.
Now that you've got a salt substitute, fresh herbs, or homemade spice blends, it's time to hit the kitchen! Put them to good use with a set of easy low sodium recipes—we've covered everything from salads to soup and pasta to tacos. These recipes are better for your body, and better for you.