Dietitian, Retha Harmse, informs us on how to make low sodium meals by using healthy herbs and spices.
Wintertime calls for more comforting stews, soups and curries and suddenly cold salads seem much less appealing. But with that comes another risk that people living with diabetes need to steer clear of: falling in the high salt trap.
We run the risk of wanting quick and easy convenience during winter, using pre-packaged sauces or stock cubes to limit the time spent cooking in the cold kitchen and increase the time under a warm blanket or close to the heater.
These convenient alternatives unfortunately often have a very high sodium (salt) content, and with the risk of comorbidities already being increased in diabetes patients and needing to keep blood pressures in check, the convenient way is not the healthiest way.
Avoiding the high salt trap
Choose food and beverages that are lower in salt and prepare food with little or no added salt:
- Choose fresh, simply prepared food as often as possible.
- Limit packaged, processed, and ready-to-serve food, such as snack food, processed meats, regular canned and dried soups, frozen meals, cheese, gravies, dressings and sauces.
- Use no added salt or reduced-sodium ingredients whenever possible.
- Read labels – if the sodium content in the nutrition facts table is 5% or less of the DV (daily value), then the product is considered low in salt.
Practical tips to reduce salt in cooking
This may seem easier said than done, but remember breaking a habit does take time. Herewith a few step-by-step tips.
How to add less salt to food:
- One small step at a time
- If you are used to adding salt at the table, try to break this habit first. Remove the saltshaker from the dinner table (often this already makes a huge difference – out of sight, out of mind).
- Start using less salt and sodium rich spices (like stock cubes other salts, etc.) when you are cooking.
- Reduce your salt intake gradually.
- Tips to cook with less salt
- During the cooking process, taste your food as it may not need added salt.
- Remember: if you’ve already added salty spices or a stock cube, you do not need to add salt too.
Healthy herbs and spices
But now you might ask: what should I use to flavour my food if I don’t use salt? To make your food tasty try these herbs and unsalted spices instead of salt:
- Lemon juice or vinegar.
- Herbs like Italian herbs mix, parsley or rosemary.
- Spices like curry powder, paprika or pepper.
- Garlic, ginger, chilli and onions.
Which foods to eat more often, only sometimes or eat less often
|Foods low in salt
(eat more often)
|Moderate salt foods
|Foods high in salt
(eat less often)
Look for lower salt options for these foods:
Nutritional Information Table
|Per 100g||Low eat more often||Moderate eat sometimes||High avoid or limit|
|Sodium||120 mg or less||120 mg – 600 mg||600 mg or more|
Popular herbs and how to use them
Here is the exciting and creative part, experimenting in the kitchen to find combinations you love. Certain herbs and certain combinations can elevate your meals to the next level. In the next table find staple herbs and ingredients they work well with.
|Herb||Complements||Complementary herbs, spices or flavours||Recipe ideas/ tips|
Thyme and oregano
Fennel and oregano
|Borscht and other stews
Cream and cottage cheese
Marjoram and Thyme
Fennel and Basil
|Add to sauce for subtler taste
|Sage||Sweet fruit and veg e.g. squash or apple
|Flavour holds well when cooked for long periods
|Parsley, chervil, chives
Parsley + tarragon = fines herbs
|Sauces for meats and vegetables
Eggs and cheese dishes
|Basil and chives
Be salt aware
- Use little or no salt in cooking – try using extra herbs and spices instead such as black pepper.
- Leave the saltshaker off the table.
- Cut down on salty processed foods and ready meals and try and make your own if you can.
- Check out food labels for salt and go for lower salt choices. There can be a really big difference between different types and brands.
- Compare salt levels among similar products and try to choose those lower in salt.
- Ask in restaurants and take-aways for no added salt.
- Be wary of fancy gourmet salts and salt substitutes claiming to be better for your health than table salt. These product ranges are still likely to add some form of salt to your diet.
MEET THE EXPERT
Retha Harmse is a registered dietitian and the ADSA Public relations portfolio holder. She has a passion for informing and equipping the in the field of nutrition. She is currently in private practice in Saxonwold, Houghton and believes that everyone deserves happiness and health and to achieve this she gives practical and individual-specific advice, guidelines and diets.
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