Salt and pepper. Kitchen staples we expect to see referenced in nearly every savory recipe, whether incorporated at the start or dusted on at the end of cooking. Too often we can rely on salt as the sole seasoning of a dish, resulting in one-note flavor and an unnecessarily high amount of sodium.
Sodium is a necessary part of a balanced diet that helps our bodies regulate blood pressure and muscle function. And, as you might have learned in chemistry class, salt is partly made of sodium. But adding table salt to food is not the only way we consume sodium. Many foods already have naturally occurring sodium, while packaged foods might have added saltiness hiding in plain sight inside names like monosodium glutamate or sodium nitrate.
Just like sugars, sodium intake can add up quickly and easily exceed the daily recommended amount. Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to hold on to excess fluids. This can lead to high blood pressure and, in turn, increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Adults should aim to limit sodium to 2,300 mg a day, or about 1 teaspoon of table salt. Simple steps to help lower your sodium consumption include avoiding foods with added salt, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and seasoning foods with fresh herbs and spices. Swap garlic or celery salt with garlic or celery powder and avoid seasoned salt blends in favor of salt-free spices. Be wary of “salt substitutes” because some may contain ingredients that can interact with medications or existing health conditions.
Here, are a few ideas for low-sodium salt alternatives that you can try with your next meal. So put the salt shaker down and try adding some spice instead!
Fresh Citrus and Cilantro
1 serving, Pairs well with fish, chicken
Chop 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro and sprinkle over your dish. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice to taste. For added flavor, try adding lime zest (the grated outer peel) to marinades, or incorporating a finely chopped zest with sprinkled cilantro.
Quick Garlic and Basil Oil Infusion
1-2 servings, Pairs well with pasta, potatoes, pork
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil (or a heart smart blend as recommended by the American Heart Association) in a pan over medium heat. Finely mince 1-2 cloves garlic and sauté in pan with oil for 1 minute, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil leaves and stir to coat with warm oil. Remove from heat, let sit 5 minutes, and drizzle over your meal. Use in moderation — 1 tablespoon olive oil contains about 120 calories.
Chili Spice Seasoning Mix
10+ servings, Pairs well with steak, burgers, chicken
Combine 2 tablespoons cumin, 1 tablespoon each of chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in a small mason jar with lid. Shake well to combine. Use as spice rub, add to marinades, or sprinkle to taste over a finished meal. Store with other spices for up to 6 months.
Ranch Seasoning Mix
10+ servings, Pairs well with chicken, steamed veggies, burgers
Combine 1 tablespoon each of dried chives, dried parsley, dried dill, garlic powder, 2 teaspoons onion powder, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper in a small mason jar with lid. Shake well to combine. Sprinkle to taste over steamed veggies, mix into burger meat, or rub on chicken before grilling. Try stirring 1 tablespoon of this Ranch Seasoning Mix into 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt and refrigerate for 30 minutes for a healthy homemade veggie dip or store the dry mix with other spices for up to 6 months.
Herbes de Provence Blend
4 servings, Pairs well with steaks, chicken, goat cheese, “spring mix” style salad blends
Combine 2 teaspoons culinary-grade lavender and ½ teaspoon each of finely chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Use immediately as a dry rub on meats before cooking. Whisk with ¼ cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic or champagne vinegar and use immediately as salad dressing.
The information provided here may help you make more informed choices. However, it is not a substitute for an individualized nutrition plan, medical opinion, or diagnosis. You should always consult with your personal physician to make decisions about your diet and nutrition.
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