Liz O’Donnell, of Working Daughter, is joining the Sodium Blog as a Guest Blogger this week.
When my mother was in hospice and my sister and I were staying with her round-the-clock, caring for ourselves fell off of our to-do lists. As my mother was dying, my sister and I were just trying to survive.
We alternated shifts bedside, and for a few weeks, it wasn’t uncommon for me to sleep at the hospice house four nights a week, sometimes being away from home for more than 48 hours. The nurses always had a pot of coffee brewing and a mug waiting for me, but for all other food and drink I was on my own. I kept some Diet Cokes in the family fridge and my sister and I kept a stash of Pop Tarts in my mother’s room. And like so many busy, tired and stressed family caregivers, I relied on takeout and prepackaged grocery food when I had the time to pick it up.
Meals-on-the-go are not uncommon for caregivers.
We can get so busy and overwhelmed taking care of our aging parents and trying to balance our children’s needs and our careers, that we have no time to cook. Having someone else prepare our meals feels like a luxury, but it can actually be quite harmful. That’s because about three quarters of the sodium in Americans’ diets comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant food.
And for caregivers, already at higher risk than many for health problem such as heart disease and stroke, that’s very bad news. Ninety percent of Americans adults are expected to develop high blood pressure in their lifetimes, and eating too much sodium is strongly linked to the development of high blood pressure.
But here’s the good news: it is estimated that if the U.S. population moved to an average intake of 1,500 mg/day sodium, it could result in a 25.6% overall decrease in blood pressure. And that’s an achievable goal, even for busy caregivers like me, because not all processed food has too much sodium in it.
So whether you are a caregiver, a busy parent, or both, you can reduce your sodium intake and make a positive change for a healthier heart.
Here are 6 ways to break up with sodium, and prioritize self-care, even if you are caring for someone else.
Check labels. Read the nutrition labels on the food you buy. Choose the items with the lowest amount of sodium per serving. Even packaged goods at coffee shops and convenience stores are labeled with nutrition information. You have no excuse not to know what you are eating.
Watch out for the salty six. Breads, cold cuts, poultry, pizza, chicken and soups, have more sodium than you think. Beware these salty six, and read labels before you make a choice.
Swap your snacks. Fill up on water, fruits and vegetables. You can buy produce prepackaged if you are feeling too pressed for time and unable to rinse and chop your own.
Make it official. Take the pledge to Break Up With Salt and sign on the dotted line that you will reduce your sodium intake.
Take action. Tell the food industry and policy makers in Washington that you want less sodium in the food supply. Learn more about the food companies who have reduced sodium and to reach out those who have not.
- Be prepared (without prepared food). Keep some apples, unsalted nuts, and sliced cucumbers or celery sticks on hand so you won’t feel tempted to grab something salty off the shelf.
According to the American Heart Association, over the past year, nearly half of Americans have tried to reduce sodium and/or sugar. I am one of them because I know I can’t take care of anyone else if I don’t take care of myself. Will you join me?
The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.