Tips for Cooking Without Salt

Going Low-sodium is Simple

The dreaded news was delivered: Your doctor says you have to restrict your salt intake. This life-changing prescription could be made for a number of reasons, including treatment for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart ailments and hypertension. The good news is you don’t have to suffer bland food. Sure, you may have to give up some prepared foods. The recommended daily sodium intake is 2,400 milligrams, and you could easily blow half that allowance on one serving of canned soup. If your physician says to cut your salt intake by half, you’ll have to make serious adjustments. But that’s all they are. Adjustments, not sacrifices.

To get you started on getting used to enjoying food without salt, I highly recommend you either buy or get from the library The No-Salt Cookbook by David C. Anderson and Thomas D. Anderson. The father and son team created an extremely useful and easy-to-digest book stuffed with excellent recipes and handy information. They explain why you’ll have to give up most fast food: One Burger King Whopper has 1,020mg sodium, a Big Mac has 1,010mg and a Wendy’s Ultimate Chicken Grill sandwich has 1,050mg. The duo also warns against dining out at Asian restaurants with a lot of soy sauce in their recipes, because soy sauce has 1,319mg sodium per tablespoon.

So home cooking, they say, is the key to going low sodium and loving it. But you don’t just have to take the Andersons’ advice. Many fine dining chefs know how to deftly flavor food without salt. One of this country’s leaders in low- and no-salt cooking is Drew Rosen, executive chef at The Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Fla. People from all over the world go there to improve their health, lose weight and eat Chef Rosen’s incredible cuisine. He has several techniques any home cook could employ. “First, using the best and freshest ingredients is No. 1,” he says. “Also, use a combination of fresh herbs and dry spices. And think about using some type of acid, like vinegars or citrus.”

Part of the problem with many people thinking they can’t enjoy food without salt is due to their palates being overwhelmed with sodium, Chef Rosen says. “They’re so used to salt they can’t taste food for its natural flavors. But very quickly the palate adapts to a low-sodium diet, and people can taste what the food actually tastes like.” The process of shedding a salt dependency takes anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but once you break the habit you’ll discover subtle flavors salt was masking.

Gilles Foucard, a French-trained chef from Columbia, S.C., says he has “never been a heavy salt person.” The Paris native says he was shocked when he came to America and saw people salting their food before tasting it. “It would never occur to me to add seasoning without tasting,” he says, adding that “salt should be cooked with the meal, not added on later.” Foucard relies more on freshly ground black pepper, and herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chives and chervil. “Chervil looks like parsley and has a unique flavor. It’s great in a nice walnut tomato salad with shallots and vinaigrette.” Chef Rosen says salads are very easily adaptable to low sodium diets because the fresh produce in them is so flavorful.

Cooking methods such as braising, which slows eases out the full robustness of natural flavors in meats and vegetables, is also one of Rosen’s favorite tools. If a home cook wants to still use prepared products in their recipes, there are many useful ingredients on store shelves and available for purchase on-line. Following is a list of products from Chef Rosen and The No-Salt Cookbook.

  • Annie’s Naturals vinaigrettes
  • Arrowhead Mills cereals
  • Asher’s Chocolates
  • Ass Kickin’ chili seasoning
  • Atkins shakes
  • B&G Unsalted Pickles
  • Barbara’s Bakery cereals
  • Barbara’s Bakery fat free bars
  • Barbara’s Bakery Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Bearito popcorn
  • Bearito tortilla chips
  • Bernard Beef Soup and Gravy Base
  • Bernard Chicken Soup and Gravy Base
  • Bernard Cream of Chicken Soup and Gravy Base
  • Bernard Cream of Mushroom Soup and Gravy Base
  • Bernard Low Sodium Barbecue Sauce
  • Bernard Low Sodium Cheese SauceMix
  • Bernard Low Sodium Spaghetti Sauce Mix
  • Bernard Sugar Free Biscuit Mix
  • Bionaturae fruit juice nectars
  • Bob’s Red Mill cereals
  • Calorie Control gelatins
  • Calorie Control icing mixes
  • Cascadian Farm fruit spreads
  • Cascadian Farm potatoes
  • Cascadian Farm vegetables
  • Ceres fruit juices
  • Chatfield’s Cocoa Powder
  • Clif Bars
  • Consorzio salad dressings
  • Eden Foods beans
  • Edy’s sorbet
  • Featherweight Baking Powder
  • Featherweight Low Sodium Pickles
  • Food For Life breads
  • Garden of Eatin chips
  • Georgie’s Chewy Bonbons
  • Green Mountain Gringo salsas
  • Hain Pure Food rice cakes
  • Hain Pure Foods Eggless Mayonnaise
  • Health Valley fat-free and low-fat crackers
  • Health Valley soups
  • Horizon Neufchatel Spreadable Cheese
  • Horizon yogurt
  • Joseph’s Chocolate Walnut Cookies
  • Joseph’s Cookies
  • Kashi cereals
  • Kozy Shack pudding
  • Longhorn Low-Salt Mesquite Seasoning
  • Luna Bars
  • Lundberg Farms rice beverages
  • Lundberg Farms rice blends
  • Mrs. Dash seasonings
  • Muir Glen canned tomatoes
  • OldeCape Cod Orange Barbecue and Grilling Sauce
  • Parmalat milk
  • Perfect Addition stocks
  • Pritikin salad dressings
  • Rice Dream beverages
  • Sorbee cookies
  • Stonyfield Farm yogurt
  • Sweet ‘n Low Banana Cake
  • Mix Sweet ‘n Low Chocolate Wafers
  • Sweet ‘n Low Peanut Butter Wafers
  • Toufayan pita bread
  • Walnut Acres salsas
  • Wasa Crispbread
  • Westbrae canned beans
  • Westbrae Dijon Mustard
  • Westbrae Ketchup (also low in sugar)
  • Westbrae Mustard
  • WestSoy beverages
  • Whole Soy yogurt
  • Wild Thymes Spicy Island Barbecue Sauce
  • Mango Compote