If your doctor has told you to cut back on salt because your life depends on it – welcome to the club. I was diagnosed with Essential Hypertension (that’s genetic high blood pressure) in 2011, and since then I’ve become like a ninja at cutting sodium from my diet. Now, I’m no doctor, but I’ve been on quite the low-salt journey, so here’s what I’ve learnt.
The impact can be quick
Cutting back on salt is a lot like alcohol – you’ll notice the difference real quick. I found that even after a couple of weeks of being on a low-sodium diet I became super sensitive to salty food. This helps your radar in knowing what you should and shouldn’t be eating.
Don’t be afraid to ask people to cut it out
Sure, you might get some odd looks when ordering hot chips without salt (I’ve been there), but I’ve found most hospitality staff are very accommodating, especially when you explain that it’s for a medical condition. By asking, you can avoid giving up fun things like hot chips entirely. Nobody wants that. If you’re not up for going full-on salt-free, ask the cook to hold the salt, and then you can add a very light sprinkling yourself and know exactly how much salt is on your meal.
Learn to read labels and make swaps
You’d be surprised how much sodium is in packaged foods. The guide I was given for reading food labels was anything with more than 120mg of sodium per 100g of food is a no-go. For context, standard Weet-Bix have 270mg per 100g. On the other hand, Uncle Tobys Traditional Oats have 6mg per 100g.
The key here is making smart choices. There are plenty of salt-reduced options for sauces, stocks and even canned spaghetti and baked beans – you just need to keep an eye out for them. Some foods are naturally high in salt, like bread and cheese, but there are easy swaps you can do so that you don’t feel like you’re completely depriving yourself. If you love a cheeseboard (who doesn’t?!), you can swap out the crackers and use sliced apple or pear with your brie, blue and camembert instead.
Make it yourself
We all know homemade meals are as wholesome as it gets, but the idea of cooking all your meals from scratch can be pretty daunting if you’re just starting out on your sodium assault. This is where batch cooking is your best friend – I make my own pasta sauce and I do it in a large pot so I end up with at least half a dozen portions that I can freeze. Soup is also great here, and baked beauties like shepherd’s pie.
Herbs and chillis are also great for adding flavour, rather than handfuls of salt. You can still add a little salt and pepper to your cooking for seasoning — just remember a pinch is not a handful.