The holiday season is about family, fun, and food. But did you know that many of your favorite holiday treats might be packed with sodium and not great for your older adult loved ones — like grandma and grandpa?
While it’s true that our bodies need a certain amount of sodium to function properly, most of us get far more than we need daily. This puts us at an increased risk for several serious health concerns including stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure and kidney stones (to name just a few).
Quelling the Sodium Grinch this Holiday Season
With a few minor adjustments you can keep the food traditions you love while reducing the impact of the Sodium Grinch.
One of the easiest ways to reduce sodium is to make things from scratch using fresh ingredients instead of eating an abundance of packaged foods. Salt acts as a preservative in shelf-stable food products which is why those foods often contain so much of it. If you make the same dish from scratch, you’ll be able to cut out a ton of sodium. For instance, stuffing (or dressing) made from your own bread, veggies and herbs contains far less sodium than the dried version that you buy in a box and add water to. Making food from scratch can take more time (and sometimes more money) than the store-bought version; if time or money are in short supply choose just one or two dishes to make from scratch. Every bit helps!
Another simple way to lower sodium intake is to use lots of fresh herbs and spices in your meal. When we reach for the saltshaker we are often craving more taste from our plate. Doubling up on fresh herbs or upping the dried spices by 50 percent adds flavor while lowering the likelihood that you’ll be reaching for the salt. (Double check spice blends to make sure they don’t contain sodium before doing this.)
Finally, cutting down on condiments and sauces will help decrease your sodium intake. While these add great flavor, the secret behind that great flavor is — you guessed it — sodium. It can be hard to cut condiments out completely, but even reducing intake a little bit will be beneficial to your health. Again, you can turn to herbs and other fresh ingredients to add flavor. Homemade salsas and chimichurri sauces, for example, have great flavor but not a lot of salt (this is not typically true of their store-bought alternatives).
With only minor adjustments to the holiday foods that you know and love, you can make great strides in your health and the health of your loved ones. We here at Gateway Hancock Health wish you a healthy and tasty holiday season!