By: Patricia Garcia Guillen, DTR, CSUN Dietetic Intern Cohort 2021-2022
Let’s be honest: there is a misconception that low-sodium meals, or meals low in salt, can be unappetizing and lack some serious flavor. You are probably thinking, “How can I possibly add any flavor to my meals while using less salt?” Well, there are plenty of methods and ingredients that help make meals taste great by using little to no salt at all. Whether you are looking to decrease your sodium intake for health reasons, or are curious and excited about cooking new recipes, let’s explore the different ways we can make tasty, low-sodium meals packed with flavor!
Sodium is an essential nutrient necessary for our bodies to maintain fluid balance, heart function, nervous system integrity, and overall homeostasis.1 Most of us incorporate sodium into our diets in the form of table salt and processed foods. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended for us to consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg), or about 1 teaspoon, of sodium per day as part of a healthy diet.2 It is estimated that 90% of Americans, including older adults, consume far more sodium per day than the recommended amount.3 Watching our sodium intake matters because there is an association between excessive sodium intake and poor health outcomes, such as high blood pressure.3 Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the leading contributors to heart disease and affects over 85% of older adults.3 Low-sodium diets along with adequate consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and low intake of saturated fats have been associated with lower blood pressure in adults.4
Sodium is primarily found in table salt, but it can also be hidden in fast foods, restaurant foods, prepared foods sold in grocery stores, frozen meals, canned foods, and cold deli meats since it is a cheap way to preserve food products.5 The convenience of prepared and ready-to-eat foods can be tempting in the kitchen, especially for days when we do not feel like cooking elaborate meals after a long day at work and other responsibilities. The good news is that there are now many “low sodium” and “reduced sodium” options available at grocery stores that can replace foods with higher sodium content. Another way to make recipes more interesting is by adding a combination of herbs and spices to take your favorite dishes to the next level:
- Aromatic fresh herbs like basil and cilantro can add some bright flavor profiles to pasta dishes, stews, and salads.
- Spices like black pepper, chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and ginger powder can complement many dishes while adding great flavor.
- Fresh rosemary, garlic, onion, and citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons, can be a great addition to poultry dishes.
Recipes do not have to be boring, and experimenting with these awesome ingredients can give you an endless combination of flavor profiles. Making low-sodium meals can be easy, fast, and inexpensive! You can try combining different herbs and spices to make tasty crowd-pleasing dishes that you and your family will love. Next time you are in the mood to try a new recipe, you can try these simple and delicious meals that are sure to become a staple in your household!
Recipe #1: Shrimp and Nectarine Salad
Author: Patricia Garcia Guillen
Inspired by: Taste of Home6
Prep/Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Ingredients for Dressing:
⅓ cup orange juice
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ tsp honey
1 tbsp minced fresh tarragon
Ingredients for Salad:
4 tsp olive oil, divided
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 lb uncooked shrimp (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined
½ tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
⅛ tsp salt
8 cups mixed salad greens
2 medium nectarines, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup finely chopped red onion
- In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, vinegar, mustard, and honey until blended. Stir in tarragon.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat. Add corn kernels, and cook 1-2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from the pan.
- Sprinkle shrimp with lemon pepper and salt. In the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat.* Add shrimp; cook and stir for 3-4 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Stir in corn.
- In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Drizzle with ⅓ cup dressing and toss to coat. Divide mixture among four plates. Top with shrimp mixture, drizzle with remaining dressing. Serve immediately.
*Make sure to not let olive oil reach a smoking point since olive oil is not meant for high temperatures.
Recipe #2: Instant Pot Low-Sodium Turkey Chili
Author: Patricia Garcia Guillen
Inspired by: Olena Osipov7
Prep Time: 10 minutes – Cook Time: 20 minutes – Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 large onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 ½ cups corn, canned or frozen, rinsed and drained
14 oz can low-sodium red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
14 oz can low-sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
14 oz can low-sodium black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp Spicy Matador Seasoning
1 tbsp chili powder (or 2 tbsp for extra spicy)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp salt
28 oz can diced tomatoes (low-sodium)
6 oz can tomato paste (low-sodium)
Toppings: avocado slices, cilantro, green onions, lime juice, and plain Greek yogurt
- On a 6- or 8-quart Instant Pot or pressure cooker, press Sauté and let the appliance preheat until it displays the word “Hot.”
- Swirl a little oil to coat the bottom of the pot, add ground turkey and cook for 4 minutes, breaking it into small pieces with a spatula. The turkey does not need to cook through yet.
- If you notice that the bottom of the pot has stuck brown bits of meat, add ½ cup broth and deglaze the pot.
- Press cancel and add the remaining ½ cup (if deglazed) or 1 cup of broth.
- Add onions, garlic, bell pepper, corn, beans, Spicy Matador Seasoning, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Do not stir to avoid burning.
- Close the lid, set the pressure vent to Sealing, and press Pressure Cook on High or Manual for 15 minutes.
- Release pressure using Quick Release by turning the pressure valve to the venting position, which takes 2-3 minutes.
- Open the lid, stir, and serve hot with your favorite toppings. I recommend fresh cilantro, avocado slices, green onions, lime juice, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
*You can also cook this recipe as a one-pot meal using your stove. After you have combined all the ingredients in a pot, bring the liquid to a low boil. Then, reduce the heat (low to medium-low) to gently simmer the chili, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Farquhar WB, Edwards DG, Jurkovitz CT, Weintraub WS. Dietary sodium and health: more than just blood pressure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(10):1042-1050. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.12.039
- Salt. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated December 8, 2021. Accessed March 10, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm
- Juraschek SP, Millar CL, Foley A, et al. The Effects of a Low Sodium Meal Plan on Blood Pressure in Older Adults: The SOTRUE Randomized Feasibility Trial. Nutrients. 2021;13(3):964. doi:10.3390/nu13030964
- Juraschek SP, Miller ER 3rd, Weaver CM, Appel LJ. Effects of Sodium Reduction and the DASH Diet in Relation to Baseline Blood Pressure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017;70(23):2841-2848. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.10.011
- Ellis, E. The Facts on Sodium and High Blood Pressure. EatRight. February 1, 2021. Accessed March 10, 2022. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/heart-and-cardiovascular-health/the-facts-on-sodium-and-high-blood-pressure.
- Shrimp & Nectarine Salad. Taste of Home. Accessed March 10, 2022. https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/shrimp—nectarine-salad/.
- Osipov O. Instant Pot Turkey Chili. iFoodReal. October 25, 2019. Accessed March 10, 2022. https://ifoodreal.com/instant-pot-chili/.