It wasn’t until I had to live with a low-sodium diet that I came to realize that salt is literally in almost everything! It occurs naturally in most proteins, and is added to pretty much anything that isn’t a fresh fruit or vegetable.
Eating used to be a matter of feeling hungry, picking up whatever was handy and my problem was solved, just like that. These days it’s not nearly that simple.
In the very beginning, adjusting to my new diet was probably the hardest part of my new life. While it’s still not fun, with the help of my family, I’ve accumulated some tips that have made my life significantly easier:
- Know your limits. Chances are you haven’t taken on this diet by choice it — was given to you either a dietician or doctors. Ask them what your daily limit is, and what they consider to be low sodium in relation to nutrition labels – for instance, my limit is 2,300 mg per day, and I try to always keep to 600 mg per meal. When reading nutrition labels, I look for <350 mg per 100 grams.
- Read your way through the supermarket. Pick up everything you see, and read the back of anything and everything, so that you can get a general idea of what kinds of things you can and cannot have.
- Don’t be disheartened. Just because most brands of things you like contain too much sodium, that doesn’t mean every type of that food always will. If you have something you genuinely love to eat, don’t give up! There are low-sodium recipes for pretty much everything these days. So, if you definitely can’t buy something that fits your diet, with the help of Google and a little hard work, you don’t always have to say goodbye forever.
- Take notes. If you find something that fits into your parameters, keep note of what brand it is and where you bought it for future reference!
- Use the freezer. Since changing my diet, freezers have become my very best friend. There are many times when I’m just too tired and unmotivated to cook something from scratch. I used to be so jealous when my family members would walk to the freezer, pull out a frozen meal and voila! These days whatever I make, I cook in a big batch, so I’ve extra meals for the next few days and enough to freeze for another day; it’s like a gift from me to the future tired me – and trust me, you’ll love yourself for it!
- Prepare, prepare, prepare! It’s little things like soup stock and different spice mixtures and seasonings that can make all the difference in low-sodium meals. Unfortunately, many store-bought meals — even the reduced salt versions — contain huge amounts of sodium! Buy the ingredients and create your own sans salt — if you put together a new one every now and then, soon you’ll have a spice rack of ready-made guilt-free options to flavor all your meals.
- NEVER overlook the little guy! My best piece of advice is to frequent as many farmer’s markets and green grocers as you can. I’ve found that generally the larger the manufacturer, the higher the sodium content of its product. Smaller companies and family businesses tend to use less salt and have more flavor. It’s always more expensive, but that’s the tradeoff for a little bit of convenience.
- Be open-minded and think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to try new things. For instance, while most traditional cheeses may be off the table, many goats cheeses/curds are much lower in salt.
Eating should never be a chore! If you have the time and energy, put the effort into your meals and explore the art of cooking. Endeavor to stray off the path of what you know and get creative: you’ll taste the hard work in every meal and your taste buds will love you eternally — trust me!
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