Some food companies add ingredients like sodium to processed and restaurant food before it even reaches your table. That’s why the American Heart Association launched the first-ever #BreakUpwithSalt Contest this month. We asked you for tips, tricks and hacks that you can use to watch for sodium in processed and restaurant food.
We enjoyed reading more than 200 entries into the contest – and there was stiff competition! Today, we are thrilled to announce the top three hacks from both the processed food and the restaurant food categories.
And the winners are…
Top #BreakUpWithSalt Hacks for Processed Foods
1st Place: When preparing processed foods at home, divide portions in half and add an equal amount of cooked veggies. It lessens the sodium and multiplies the vegetables.
- Keltcie Delamar, Richmond, VA
When you cut the amount of processed food you eat, you usually cut sodium too! And, replacing less-healthy foods with vegetables is a smart idea. We know that fruits and veggies add color to your plate, and they also help you get needed potassium. On this hack, Keltcie says that it “works with almost any recipe. The family hasn't even noticed.”
2nd Place: Use fresh herbs to add delicious flavor and aroma to low-sodium and no-salt-added processed foods. Many herbs can be easily and affordably grown at home in a pot or planter box.
- Catherine Callahan, Federal Way, WA
In her entry, Catherine said that some of the low-sodium and no-salt-added processed foods she was eating “seemed bland and tasteless.” Not anymore! Spices and herbs add flavor without the extra sodium. Need help planting an herb garden?
3rd Place: Gradually switch to lower-sodium options to get used to the taste over time. For example, move to reduced sodium, then low-sodium, then no-salt-added processed foods.
- Anne-Marie Calderone, Monmouth Junction, NJ
Anne-Marie had a great idea on how to reduce sodium – by helping your tasted buds adjust to less salt. Studies have shown that when people are given a lower sodium diet for a period of time, they begin to prefer lower-sodium foods and the foods they used to enjoy taste too salty.
Top #BreakUpWithSalt Hacks for Restaurant Foods
1st Place: Restaurants and foodservice can make small, stealthy changes that diners won’t notice, such as switching to lower sodium soup bases and canned ingredients.
- Michelle Duke, Spokane, WA
Sodium can be sneaky, but with this tip, restaurants can sneak sodium out of recipes before the food even reaches your table. And, we know it can be done! Michelle, a food service director for a retirement community, said that by following her own hack, within 4 months her team had “reduced sodium on campus by 8,827,414 milligrams.” What an amazing accomplishment. You can ask restaurants to follow Michelle’s example too!
2nd Place: When eating out, ask for extra lemon or lime, no salt added, and seeds for seasoning (such as sesame, pumpkin or pine nuts) when possible. You can even keep a small lemon in your purse (just in case)! The juice brings out the natural flavor in foods and can replace dressing.
- Leticia Orosco, Oklahoma City, OK
Leticia observed that “my lovely lemon/lime brings out the natural flavor in my favorite foods.” We love that Leticia recommends going to a restaurant prepared to add flavors without the added sodium. And, she’s right! Many restaurants will accommodate requests for lemon, limes or other flavors to add to your dishes. If you are looking for more tips, check out our post on how lots of salt sneaks into restaurant foods.
3rd Place: Before dining out, go to the restaurant’s website to check for nutritional info, and choose the best options in advance. Bring your own low-sodium dressing or condiments with you.
- Eileen Lepionka, Columbus, OH
While not all cities have a sodium warning label, most restaurants have nutrition information available on their websites. And, if you want to make your own dressing or condiments in advance, try these recipes for simplest vinegar and oil quick salad dressing or ketchup-homemade condiments.
Try these hacks for yourself, and let us know if they have helped you!