A week ago my cardiologist put me on a low salt and restricted liquids diet.
Yesterday was my first trip to the grocery store since this life-changing event, and I have to say I’m both depressed and frustrated by the limited options available to me and the millions of Americans like me who need to reduce their sodium intake.
Packaged foods? For the most part forget about them! A full can of Chicken Noodle soup has 2225 mg of sodium in it, which is nearly 1.5 times my daily allowance, without crackers, and pretty close to the federal recommendation for daily sodium intake for healthy adults. (The nutrition label says it makes 2.5 servings, but who serves it that way?)
Time to say goodbye to Mac and Cheese (and probably cheese in general), hash, canned spaghetti sauce, sausages (including hot dogs) and almost anything breaded. Chips are out too. Interestingly enough, there are taco shells available with no sodium, but taco sauces are loaded with salt. (A complicating factor is my wife’s garlic allergy, we’ve only found one brand of taco sauce/salsa that doesn’t have garlic in it.)
This was a fairly quick trip, but I didn’t see a lot of low-sodium options on the shelf, and if the store has a low-sodium section, I didn’t find it. Many canned vegetables have salt added, I’ll have to check the frozen food aisle to see if that is a way to save on sodium.
Fast food? Same problem. A Quarter Pounder with cheese is 730 mg of sodium. Leaving off the cheese, ketchup and pickle cuts that down to 460 mg. McDonald’s recommendations for those on a low-sodium diet suggest ordering it without the grill seasoning (salt and pepper), but their nutrition calculator doesn’t say how much sodium that saves. And forget the fries!
So I’ll be doing even more of my own cooking, with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Fortunately, I have a lot of experience making my own breads, and most bread recipes are already lower in salt than most packaged breads, and I can probably cut back on what salt I do use when baking.
Likewise, I’ve been experimenting with herbs and spices when cooking so I’ve already got a number of options for adding flavor without adding salt.
I will continue to document my journey, looking for ways to continue to eat some of my favorite foods while staying within my daily sodium budget.
But Bette Davis’s line in “All About Eve” comes to mind: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!