In an attempt to reach my weight loss goals for 2023, I have been calorie-counting my meals using a calorie app. These apps are wonderful at giving an insight into the nutritional values of the food we consume. Things we could be a little ignorant of. I have noticed the amount of salt or sodium that some of the food I log contains. Pre-packaged food and convenience items are great for having a clear calorie content and great for grabbing on the go, but I was surprised at how much sodium the food I was logging contained. Although my ultimate goal is weight loss – health is always my priority, and I see this as a key learning point to help tackle not only the number of calories I consume but the health value those calories hold. I’ve put together some ways to reduce salt intake, which is perfect for anyone on a low salt and sugar diet as well as anyone just wanting to lower their salt intake.
Low Salt and Sugar Diet-Friendly Ways To Reduce Salt Intake
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Taste Food Before Adding Seasoning
We seem to be conditioned as humans to season our food when it reaches the table automatically. Food should be seasoned to taste; if you haven’t tasted the food, how do you know what level of seasoning it needs? Making sure you taste your food before adding anything additional prevents you from overseasoning or seasoning unnecessarily. If you are following a no salt and sugar diet or a low salt and sugar diet, then food can taste bland initially. This is likely because you have actually been over-seasoning for such a long time. Although it feels bland, it often really isn’t.
Fully Utilise Herbs and Spices
Salt is used as a common flavour additive to food, but it isn’t the only way to add dimension. Cooking with herbs and spices can add flavour without the addition of salt. Sometimes it’s not a lack of salt in food but a lack of taste. By creating delicious and exciting meals using herbs and spices, you can achieve the same goal without the negatives. Fresh or dried herbs can be used in a multitude of different ways, and fully utilising this part of your store cupboard can see your meals take a complete turn into flavour town minus the need for salt!
Experiment With the Acidity of Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are perfect for their high vitamin C content, which can boost your immune system. They are also rich in antioxidants, which can protect your cells from damage and reduce inflammation in the body. Citrus fruits can even aid in digestion and improve the absorption of certain nutrients. They are a food that is certainly worth incorporating into your diet, but their acidic nature can elevate the flavour of a dish adding exciting new tastes that don’t require any salt. Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits can all be used interchangeably to bring a different dimension to any dish.
Spice is Nice
If you don’t mind a little heat in your food, then experimenting with dried or fresh chillies is another way to level up your food – especially if you are on a no-salt and sugar diet or a low-salt and sugar diet. Your food doesn’t have to be hot enough to blow your mind or so spicy your tastebuds no longer function – that is never fun! Heat and spice really bring out the flavours of food in a similar way that salt does but without the negatives. Add fresh chillies to stir-fries or soups to add dimension. Dried chillies make a great addition to marinades and meat dishes! Like anything in cooking, experimentation is the best way to find what works for you. Remember though – less is more, and you can always add, but taking away isn’t always an option!!
Avoid Processed or Pre Packaged Foods
Processed foods, such as canned soups, deli meats, and pre-packaged snacks, are notorious for their sodium content. Although these foods make our lives easier – especially as busy parents they aren’t always the healthiest option. These convenience foods may seem harmless at first glance, but a closer look at the nutrition labels reveals their true saltiness. Many processed foods are loaded with hidden salt, used as a preservative or flavour enhancer- salt is a cheap way for manufacturers to turn out bulk food that has some flavour. Consuming these foods regularly can contribute to an array of health issues and is definitely, something to avoid, especially if you are on a low-salt and sugar diet!
Although processed food shouldn’t be a staple, it is a huge part of the diets of most households. To avoid the pitfalls of falling foul of these secret salt traps, it’s essential to become a label detective. Take the time to carefully examine the nutrition information on any packaged items you purchase. Calories are only one indication of the food’s nutritional value, and in order to fully analyse what you are consuming, you need to look at the bigger picture. Salt is hidden in places you would never expect, so if you are on a no-salt and sugar diet, you need to be extra cautious.
Remember that salt may appear under various names, so be vigilant in your search. Look for keywords like sodium, salt, or sodium chloride on the ingredients list. Additionally, keep an eye out for symbols or claims on the packaging that indicate low-sodium or reduced-salt options and check these with the actual figures on the back to ensure you aren’t miss-led.
Of course, when shopping for groceries, opt for fresh, whole foods as much as possible. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains are naturally low in sodium and offer a range of health benefits. By cooking meals from scratch using these ingredients, you have full control over the amount of salt you consume.
Budget Items Can Contain ore Salt – Check Labels
As I’ve already mentioned, salt is a cheap flavour enhancer that manufacturers exploit. Flavour costs money, so to have a higher profit margin, you better believe these companies will use salt before any alternative if they can. For this reason, a lot of budget ranges will contain a much higher sodium content than a more expensive brand. Although this isn’t a cast iron rule, it’s always best to check the nutritional information of items when comparing. A cheaper alternative might save you money, but it could mean an increased level of salt content. This means that even though these products might save you money, they can significantly contribute to your overall salt intake. It’s essential to be aware of this and learn the art of label reading to make informed choices.
Start by looking at the sodium content per serving size, as this will give you a better understanding of the salt content in a particular product. Aim for items that have lower sodium levels or, ideally, no added salt. It’s ultimately about balance. With the cost of living increasing, saving money is a priority for most families, but being aware of the salt content can at least help you make reductions elsewhere.
Salt is probably coming up more in your diet than you realise. Increased salt intake is linked to many health conditions, and prevention is always advised. Although we can absolutely incorporate salt into a healthy diet, it is important to be aware of those hidden salt levels so you can accurately keep your levels under control.
If you are following a low-salt and sugar diet or a no-salt and sugar diet, then these tips for reducing salt without sacrificing flavour might just help you out!
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