Sunday, May 8, 2011

How Low Can You Go?

Just as it takes years of practice for a limbo dancer to get his body under a flaming pole without injury, it will take a long time for anyone trying to reduce sodium to get themselves to a consistently low intake. But it IS possible, with a little discipline, planning, and knowledge.  It's all about the decisions we make every meal, every day.  

Here's a little exercise I like to call "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!" 

Let's look at an average day's worth of meals- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack in the morning and the afternoon.  Snacks are important because they help prevent us from overeating at mealtime!

This exercise shows that on a normal day, you can eat the foods you like and still stay under 1,500 mg of sodium.  A breakfast sandwich, soup and salad for lunch, and a spaghetti dinner. It's all in how you get there!

It all starts with a good breakfast, right? So our "Good" breakfast is a sandwich made with egg whites and a whole wheat roll, and some easy to prepare frozen hash browns.  Our "Bad" breakfast would probably be okay for people without hypertension, but it has too much sodium and fat for us.  And the "Ugly" breakfast is just not healthy for anyone, although we've all done it from time to time!

In our Good breakfast, even though the potatoes are prepared in oil,  it's controlled to 2 teaspoons because they are pan-fried, not deep fried. And the sodium content of McDonald's breakfast is off the charts.

For lunch, we're having soup and salad.  The Low Sodium Queen keeps homemade soup in her freezer and pantry, so she can throw a container in her lunch bag each morning as she heads out to work.  She makes her own broth to have a "Good" lunch with no sodium in the soup, but even the "Bad" lunch is not so bad with commercially available low-sodium broth!  The Campbells Soup in the "Ugly" lunch has a whopping 1780 mg of sodium, and that blows our daily goal in the "suggested" one cup serving.  But who opens a can of soup and eats only half!  If you eat the whole can, as most people would, it comes in at 4,450 mg of sodium! 

A healthy dinner could start with a "Lean Cuisine" from the freezer, right?  Check the label! Those frozen dinners are almost as bad as canned soup!  690 mg of sodium is too salty for any single food, and is over one third of our goal!  Making our own spaghetti with Ragu jarred sauce is even worse!  Our best best is to make our own spaghetti sauce, which can be done in large batches and canned in jars or frozen in containers for convenience!  By using low fat ground meat and eliminating salt, we can create a homemade sauce with only 49 mg of sodium!

We even get a frozen dessert, if we choose it wisely!  Would you have expected to find sodium in ice cream?  It's there, although some flavors have more than others!  Check the labels if you have to have the real deal!  A smarter choice overall is frozen yogurt, as long as you choose the fat free kind. And smarter still is frozen sorbet, which is the best choice among commercially available desserts.  It's even possible to make your own sorbet from frozen fruit using a blender or food processor, so you could reduce the sodium content even further!

Here's the full day, with snacks:

And, here are our totals:

Our "Good" meal plan comes in at 886 mg of sodium, well under our goal of 1,500 mg.  And, at only 1,293 calories, it's perfect for someone who is trying to shed a few extra pounds!

The "Bad" meal plan would probably be okay for most healthy people, although it's too high in sodium for most high blood pressure patients.  1,843 calories would be sufficient for most people to maintain their current weight.

The "Ugly" plan is just plain ugly! Even though the menu is the same, poor food choices make the sodium intake rise to a staggering 5,527 mg!! 2,400 calories is about the limit of a healthy caloric intake for most people, but 111 grams of fat is a lot of fat for our bodies to process. Anyone with a family history of heart disease would be well advised to adjust that fat intake at least to the "Good" range!

DISCLAIMER: The Low Sodium Queen is not a professional dietitian,nor a medical professional, although she did once portray "Nurse Goodbody" in a Mardi Gras ball, but that's another blog! 

So, use your own judgement, do your own research, and take her advice with a grain of salt substitute!


  1. i would love to try your recipe for spaghetti sauce- do you have a no-meat version?


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