Even though the vast majority Americans eat much more sodium than our bodies need, some people say they experience cravings for salty foods. It's debatable whether these cravings are just a mental thing or represent a true bodily need for salt (which serious athletes who lose a lot of sodium in their sweat may experience), and the root of the “craving” may vary from person to person. Regardless of what the cause may be, here are some tips for handling your salt cravings.
Eat less, crave less – and give it time
Many of us tend to eat the same foods over and over. If your eating patterns include a lot of salty foods, your body may come to expect them and then miss them if they aren’t there. The good news is that taste preferences adapt to changes in eating patterns. Research shows that if you cut back on the sodium you eat, you’ll likely begin to prefer foods with less salt over time. The shift in taste preferences could occur in as little as three weeks! You may even find that the higher-sodium foods you used to eat or even “crave” now taste too salty.
Try these 5 flavor alternatives to re-program your salt cravings
Even though salt can improve the flavor of many foods, there’s a world of delicious alternatives, like:
- Garlic – fresh garlic, sliced thinly and roasted in a little olive oil, is great for marinades. Powdered garlic peps up poultry, pasta, and sautéed vegetables. If you don’t like garlic, try onion powder instead.
- Black pepper– freshly ground pepper has a stronger smell and more intense flavor than pre-ground pepper.
- Ginger – use a microplane to zest fresh peeled ginger into stir-fries, sauces, and marinades.
- Citrus– the fresh juice and zest of lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits adds a tangy zip to dressings, sauces, veggies, grilled meats, and many other dishes.
- Vinegars – take your pick of red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, cider vinegar, and more. They add a pop of flavor to marinades, dressings, sauces, and even some soups.
As you start to incorporate a variety of flavors into your diet, you may find yourself craving these instead of salt.
Satisfy cravings healthfully
If non-salty alternatives just won’t do, act on your cravings in a healthy way. Stick to a reasonable portion size and choose foods that provide other beneficial nutrients - try whole-grain crackers, baked chips made from beans or whole grains, or a broth-based soup with plenty of vegetables.
Have a great tip for conquering a salt craving, or a great flavor alternative to suggest? Share it in the comments!