I am sort of an efficiency junkie. I can distinctly remember being in awe of how quickly the delivery crew got my new mattress into my apartment, out of the bag, and set up. So things that add steps or time to basic life tasks like going to the grocery, laundry etc. don’t make me the happiest of clams. Turns out low sodium eating requires an immense amount of pre-planning. My normal routine of going to Trader Joes on Sunday in search of inspiration with a list that simply includes OJ, milk, avocado, and, shrimp was no longer possible.
Before I could even reach for my car keys I spent the better part of an hour searching Pinterest and other recipe hubs for ‘low-sodium recipes’ and ‘a heart healthy diet’. I attempted to discern which ingredients I could find a low-sodium substitute for, chicken broth, and which I had to give up altogether, my beloved vodka penne sauce. I settled on three options I could eat over multiple days that all had less than 400mg of sodium per serving : tuna stir fry, black bean soup, and stuffed bell peppers.
TIP: Just because a site says something is a ‘low sodium recipe’ does not mean it is low enough to keep you under 2000mg a day (the max recommendation for most heart failure patients). I found the best recipes on the American Heart Association which clearly laid out the mgs of sodium per serving and provided videos filled with extra tips.
Next, I headed to the grocery store with my list keen to find the lowest sodium substitutes. This meant a lot of label reading and having to pick up six different cans of petite diced tomatoes to discern which one had the least added salt. But the effort paid off, the sodium in regular black beans was twice as much as that in the low sodium option.
TIP: Be careful, don't try to short cut the process of identifying low sodium alternatives. Some foods will say heart healthy or low sodium but will still have higher than suggested amounts of sodium. This was incredibly frustrating because instead of just picking those with the heart shaped label I had to do the quick math to make sure I stayed under 2000mg of sodium per day.
Finally I got to the fun part: the cooking. I am happy report it wasn’t any less fun with less sodium. It simply meant that the time between the ‘I should probably go to the grocery store’ moment and bellying up to a plate of low sodium tuna stir fry was a few hours longer. The second week is going to be easier because I don't have to start from scratch with my sodium literacy but if I want to try a new recipe or type of food I am back at square one.
Stay tuned for updates from the other fellows and feel free to post your favorite low-sodium recipes below.