Dang, this post was meant for me b/c not only am I a nurse who has background with cardiac patients and post-open heart patients (always counseling on low-sodium diets), but I love to cook! Food is such a passion of mine…oh my, where to start…
First off, you got some very good recommendations so far. Not only do you have to stop using the salt shaker, but look at foods when you buy them…you’d be surprised at what has hidden sodium in it! Frozen vegetables are an unlikely source, but some are loaded! Also, always but unsalted butter and low-sodium stocks. Another note on stocks…use the low-sodium ones to cook with wherever you would use water…rice, mashed potatoes, use them as a base for sauces, etc. If you wanna spend the time, it would actually be better to make your own stock homemade, that way it can be sodium free. Homemade stock really isn’t hard and not that time-consuming, and it is FAR superior to anything you can buy in the store. Look up a recipe online…they are a cinch…throw chicken and vegetables in pot, simmer all day away, strain and save…easy and delicious!
Make wine reduction sauces to flavor foods…for example, you just finished some sautéed boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the skillet on stovetop (skinless please, as a cardiac patient, I know you need to watch your cholesterol and fat intake as well ;)) so take some red or white wine (wine that you enjoy drinking straight from the glass, never cook with anything that you wouldn’t drink straight b/c in cooking the flavor of the wine will intensify) and add some to pan and reduce till it is desired consistency…finish with a pat of salt free butter and sprinkle whatever fresh herb you have on hand (amount depending on taste) and pour over chicken…voila! Delicious and good for you!
As for spices, go to Penzeys.com…they have great spices and salt-free combos as well! Experiment as well…buy tons of spices and get creative with spice mixtures…be wary to buy pre-made spice mixtures in the store though unless it says it’s salt-free b/c most of them are loaded with sodium.
Ok, as for fresh herbs go, always have parsley on hand! Parsley is so under-used in america and it’s a shame…it goes with just about everything and has a long shelf life if stored correctly! I would suggest growing your own herbs (I do, and it works out great) and any extra you have you can dry and use later on in the season my just crumbling it up and adding to dishes. Here are some other low-sodium ways to eat flavorfully:
I make herb butters - start with a stick of unsalted butter and let it come to room temperature, then add 2 TBS of fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary all work well for this, use any combo you desire) or more to taste. Mix well in a bowl then lay out a piece of plastic cling wrap, put butter on wrap, then roll it up into a log again and store in fridge. Use in sauces, top steaks or other meats with it, potatoes, rice, anything! I like it best on grilled corn…and no need to dump a bunch of salt on corn this way!!!
Add acidity by fresh lemon or lime juice, splashes of vinegar, cooking with wine, etc…also, if you have fresh lemons and limes, or any citrus, use the zest to flavor dishes…the zest has more flavor than the actual juice of a fruit!
If you must add salt, the best salt to use is kosher salt. Why? The salt flakes are bigger than traditional table salt and so melt slowly if used during cooking and in effect, you could get away with using less kosher salt to flavor a dish. But I would stay away from this if possible (look at me, what a terrible nurse I am to suggest a less sinful salt! :p:rolleyes:)