Low sodium tips and information (CHF or otherwise).

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My mother has started a low sodium diet due to her CHF. It was a lot of work and frustrating to get this started but I think we're now doing fairly well.

For those of us that started this, we could share tips with those starting out. Also, I'm always looking for new tips.

And, even though my husband and I don't have CHF and aren't really looking to turn into "health nuts" ;-) we do know that sodium is the "silent killer" and were shocked how much sodium we were getting from things we hadn't been aware were so high in sodium.

For example, if a chicken breast is high in sodium, why am I avoiding eating bacon (tasty) to eat a chicken breast that is high in sodium (not so tasty). That's an extreme example, just saying "for instance."

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My basic tip - look at the labels for EVERYTHING. Try to avoid anything without a label, if you can.

One surprising area of sodium is meat, poultry and fish. Poultry and pork have been bred to be lean and are then injected with water and salt solutions to make them moist. Fish that will be frozen is injected with water and salt solution to keep it from getting freezer burn.

Oddly, a brand that inject it's whole turnkey might not inject its ground meat. Ground meat often doesn't have the high sodium content as the pieces do.

Stores with a true fishmonger/butcher can often answer questions about whether their products are injected or not.

Organic, all-natural and hormone-free have nothing to do with this injection. Things can be injected and still have these labels.

Also, when things are injected, you are paying more for water weight. I found a store by me that sometimes has good sales on non-injected chicken breasts where the price is THE SAME as the stores that have the injected breasts on sale. I do have to drive across town to buy it but it's sometimes possible to get good prices and non-injected items.

I should add that I live in a city of around 150,000 with many grocery stores. I realize it's not so easy for everyone.
Next tips:
Look at actual sodium content on a label, not percent of daily allowance. If it says zero percent of the daily allowance but you're using a lot of it, it might add-up.

Also, check the portion size. The same types of products can have difference portion sizes for difference brands. For example, one brand of bread we like has 150 mg sodium for two generous slices, another brand has 85 mg per single puny slice.
I was surprised to find out that the average person's biggest source of sodium is bread. Industrial bread bakers use salt as a way to control rising so the bread will have the right rise when the ovens are ready to receive it. Salt slows rise. Salt is also used to keep dough from sticking to the vats and equipment.

Since bread rises faster and higher in warm, humid weather, I suppose more salt would be used in the summer. The labels give no indication of how much salt is in any loaf or how it varies throughout the year.

I make my own bread when I have time and use no salt at all. It tastes fine so I guess commercial bakers don't add salt for taste. I buy artisan bread as well; somehow it agrees better with me. I also boil wheat berries for salads and make oatmeal. Bread is not the only way to consume wheat.

The book Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss gives some good info.
We're also currently experimenting with other baked goods to lower the sodium content. We love to bake cookies and cakes.

You can get a substitute for both baking soda and baking powder, another couple of leading sources of sodium in baked goods, but I haven't yet done that. However, by just leaving the salt out, some things actually taste okay, others clearly don't taste right by just leaving out the salt.

I baked a toll-house style mint-chocolate chip cookie and used mint extract instead of vanilla, thinking it would be more flavorful. Without the salt, it tasted really flat. I also baked oatmeal, pecan, white chocolate chip, craisin cookies and these seemed to be pretty good by just leaving out the salt.

In preparing for Easter, I'm starting to consider what kind of cake I could make that would be somewhat lower in sodium. Maybe chocolate souffle cake.

I should add that, with Easter being a special occasion for us, Mom probably will consume higher sodium. I'm just looking for ways to cut it down so that she won't feel too cheated at the end of the day.

Thanks goodness chocolate is naturally low in sodium (before you start adding other things to it, that is)! :-)
One thing I should mention about my personal situation is that we rarely eat out and we already eat few prepared foods. I also don't want to cook multiple meals or treats, if possible, but don't want my husband or I to feel to cheated. I'm also somewhat lucky that my mother has few taste buds.

But I encourage those people who do eat out quite often or eat many prepare foods to jump in. There's a lot of tips you can share, as well.

By the way, when you look at the web-sites of some of the chain restaurants, to find out the sodium content of their food, it's not always eat to find. However, if you do a Google search, it sometimes become easy to find. For example, my mother loves to go out for a hamburger on a bun (she wouldn't be happy without the bun, so I have to calculate that in), so I found more information with these searches:
red robin sodium content
elevation burger sodium content
bagger dave's sodium content

These searches helped me find the nutrition pages much more easily. On some sites, though, like for Applebee's, I think I found the nutrition information right on the menu.
I was kind of hoping some folks might share ideas about snacks.

It's not that easy to find some of the low-sodium foods. I haven't found low-sodium cottage cheese, for example.

Some snacks, but I'm looking for more:
Fruit
Unsalted nuts
Unsalted popcorn

I have a hard time having snacks with sodium like yogurt, or cookies because Mom forgets what she eats and overeats them. However, homemade cookies and wafer cookies of certain flavors can be low in sodium, for example.

One thing I started doing with cookies is putting them in small containers and hiding them, only bringing out one container at a time. That way, if there's just six cookies in there at 50 mg of sodium, each, then I at least know she's had 300 mg of sodium if she eats all of them.

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