Consumer Reports finds the best low-sodium soup is…homemade!

Processed soups, whether in cans or at deli counters or in restaurants, traditionally are overloaded with salt. Even soups labeled low-sodium have a ton of salt, as I’ve written about the many low-sodium broths on supermakret shelves, for example.

So I was intrigued by a headline I saw about Consumer Reports rating low-sodium soups. Had the venerable journal found a low-sodium soup I’d missed? Not exactly.

Imagine low-sodium soups: I applaud the effort, but taste is lacking, big time.

Consumer Reports’ top choice in the blind test is a homemade minestrone made by its trained chef. It had less sodium and the best flavor of all of them. So if you have a little more time, consider making your own soup. It just might taste better and be better for you,” according to a report on the magazine’s findings by news4jax.com.

Here’s the recipe for that homemade soup:

Consumer Reports’ easy minestrone recipe

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ tsp dried thyme

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (28 ounce) can no salt added crushed tomatoes

3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 (15 ounce) can no salt added chickpeas, drained

1 (15 ounce) can no salt added kidney beans, drained

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces ditalini pasta, cooked according to package directions

4 cups fresh spinach

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

1. Add the oil, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic to a multi-cooker on Sauté mode or a traditional large pot on the stovetop. Stir and sauté the ingredients for 5 minutes. Stir in oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the tomatoes, broth, water, chickpeas, kidney beans, zucchini, and green beans. For multi-cooker: Close the lid with the vent in the sealing position. Change the setting to Pressure mode. Set the timer for 5 minutes. When the multi-cooker beeps, do a quick pressure release according to the manufacturer’s directions. For stovetop: bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Stir in the spinach until wilted, about 1 minute; add cooked pasta. Serve topped with the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Makes about 10 servings

Nutritional information per 1 cup serving: 210 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 33 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 10 g protein, 190 mg sodium

The low-salt message is being heard, even in South Africa

It’s always nice to see articles touting the low-salt message. I get regular Google alerts every day with stories that do just that and I was excited to see one recently from South Africa.

If the message has reached there, perhaps it’s really beginning to sink in with people, that eating less salt can help their overall health.

Salt is salt, I avoid it to help control my blood pressure.

The piece by a South African dietitian, is consistent with stories from other parts of the world in its recommendations that we strive for less than 2,000 mgs of sodium a day. Someone with heart issues such as I have should aim even lower, perhaps 1,500 mgs, depending on their weight.

One fun comment in the story, ““Lemon is the new salt. Lemon juice enhances the flavour [British spelling here] of the food. Adding a squeeze of lemon to a meal can give you flavour without the risk.”

Another fun fact, March 11-17 is World Salt Awareness Week!

The author’s tips for cutting salt ocnsumption:

1. Choose less salty food.
2. Cook with less salt, adding natural flavurs like a squeeze of lemon.
3. Do not add more salt to your meal at the table.
4. Remove the salt shaker from the table.
5. Taste your food before adding salt (it might be a habit).

Check out our newly expanded recipe page

The most popular page on my food blog, by far, is my no-salt, no-fat, no-sugar recipe page. People are hungry for healthy recipes and we do our best to supply them on that page. Check it out, we’ve just expanded it, adding a section of pandemic meals, recipes we’ve been trying during the pandemic when we’re all cooking more at home.

And we’ve also added a slide show of some of our favorite dishes. Enjoy and let us know what else you’d like to see on that page..

We’ve taken down the picture of my low-fat, low-salt manicotti that was on the top of our recipe page, replacing it with a slide show of some of our favorite healthy dishes.

You can never have too many salmon recipes, so here’s 26 more

Your salmon feast awaits.
I love making salmon in a variety of ways.

Trying to stay on a heart-healthy diet means giving up almost all of the foods I once enjoyed.

Salmon, thankfully, is not one of those, however. Current nutritional thinking is that salmon has “healthy” fats and so is fine to eat for everyone, regardless of health concerns. In our house, salmon really has come to replace beef several nights a week.

So I have a lot of salmon recipes on my recipe page. But you can never have enough.

So I was happy to read this piece on EatingWell.com 26 High-Protein Salmon Dinners for Weeknights. Some of these don’t appeal to me because they’re highly spiced, but others, like one-skillet salmon with fennel and sun-dried tomato couscous, sound intriguing.

A nice feature about these recipes is they include nutritional information so you can see if they’re truly healthy, i.e. low in salt, fat and sugar, or just claiming to be. Remember, never assume a recipe is healthy just because whoever posts it says so.

Pandemic eating: Another warning to eat healthier in the age of Covid-19

Being stuck at home during this pandemic has meant more take-out and more quick snacks for many people, I’ve written about the dangers of that before. But now a new warning about such eating habits comes from the website eatthis.com

“As we change the way we live, we have the risk of developing some very serious patterns that do real damage to our bodies and potentially put us in harm’s way,” the site notes.

Splurge on the garlic fries at Safeco Field. They were a garlic-lover's dream.
Beware the fried foods you may be eating more of these days.

The site asked nutritionists for advice. Among the recommendations — take care with what type of take-out foods you order, don’t keep junk food in plain sight around your house, and watch your salt intake, a constant challenge for most Americans.

As someone who decided to splurge on hot dogs and fries the past two weekends, I’m feeling this is written to me — and to all of you.

2021 Food Trends — breakfast is in, so are cookies

The Food Network is predicting that 2021 will be a year of big breakfasts, cookies and easier ways to find “healthy” foods, although what healthy emans depends on who is using the term, as ever.

The pandemic disrupted the usual breakfast routine for 80% of Americans. Less commuting to work and school meant more time for the most important meal of the day and food manufacturers are adapting. Look out for more convenient breakfast foods that are packed with functional ingredients like protein and fiber, such as Jimmy Dean Casserole Bites and Flourish Pancake Mix. Also expect familiar brands to up their breakfast game with tempting offers like Cinnabon’s CinnaBiscuit Chicken Sandwich,” Food Network reports in a piece entitled The Biggest Food Trends We’ll Be Talking About in 2021.

You can read all the predictions by clicking on this link.

A Record Year for Nosaltnofatnosugar.com Thank You All

We had a record number of visitors to our No Salt No Fat No Sugar Journal in 2020, more than 34,600 people, eclipsing our old record set in 2017.

“Covid and the move to more eating at home sent a lot of people looking for healthier recipes like we provide,” says site Founder and Editor John N. Frank. “While a lot of people were binging on chips and junk food, I’d like to think some realized they need to get the salt, fat and sugar out of their diets as they think more about what they eat every day.”

This site’s recipe page remains its most popular feature.

Frank started the blog in late 2012 after his first angioplasty to open a blocked artery which nearly killed him. He’s since had a second stent inserted in a different artery in 2017.

He has utilized his prior experience as a food journalist to find or modify recipes to get out the excessive salt, bad fats, and high amounts of sugar that many Americans eat every day without realizing what’s in their food.

Frank recently was named a 2020 top executive by Marquis’ Who’s Who in recognition of his career in journalism, his work on this blog, his efforts to start a small theater and his volunteer work with Mended Hearts, a national peer-to-peer support group for those dealing with heart disease.

“I’ve been stuck inside all year like everyone else but I’ve tried to keep busy,” he jokes.

Pandemic Cooking: A Quick, and Tasty, Tilapia Recipe

I’ve been eating a lot more fish since my heart issues started back in 2012, but fish preparation can sometimes confuse people and take time. So when I came across a recipe called Easy Baked Tilapia (or Cod), how could I not check it out, and try it?

I used tilapia and the result was a very tasty dinner that was, indeed, easy to make. I made one major change to the recipe, however, switching in olive oil where it called for butter in the topping to get a healthier fat into the mix.

My baked tilapia just after it came out of the oven. Using panko breadcrumbs cuts the salt in the dish since they normally have less salt than regular breadcrumbs.

Also, because I had five large tilapia fillets instead of the four in the original recipe, I doubled the amount of everything to make the topping, which worked out great. I also used bottled lemon juice since I did not have a fresh lemon.

So, as with any recipe, be prepared to adjust depending on what you have available for cooking.

Here are the details:

Easy Baked Tilapia

  • PREP TIME 5 minutes
  • COOK TIME 15 minutes
  • TOTAL TIME 20 minutes
  • SERVINGS 4 servings
  • AUTHOR Holly Nilsson
  • COURSE Dinner
  • CUISINE Asian

Ingredients
4 filets white fish such as cod or tilapia
½ lemon
1 ½ tablespoons melted butter

Topping

  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon butter melted (I used olive oil instead)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Rinse tilapia filets, pat dry and place on a pan sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Squeeze lemon juice over the filets.
  • Top with the Panko mixture.
  • Cook 15 minutes or just until cooked through and fish is flaky.
  • Broil for the last minute if desired

And kudos to Spendwithpennies.com for also listing the nutrition information for the dish.

NUTRITION INFORMATION
Calories: 240, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 35g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 100mg, Sodium: 203mg, Potassium: 532mg, Vitamin A: 390IU, Vitamin C: 8.5mg, Calcium: 57mg, Iron: 1.3mg

I think using the oil instead of the butter likely cut some, if mot all, of the saturated fat content too.

Pandemic recipe idea: Garlic Panko Flounder

I’m a big believer in buying what’s on sale each week and creating meals around those items. Recently, frozen flounder fillets were on sale at my local store, so I bought some and went recipe hunting.

The recipe I found to make them, Garlic Parmesan Flounder, was delicious and didn’t use fatty butter as did so many of the other flounder recipes I came across after a quick search. The cheese does have salt, so go light on it.

My garlic, parmesan flounder

Making it was fairly simple too. Let’s start with:

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
4 fillets flounder
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 c. bread crumbs (I use panko crumbs, they’re lower in salt)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (I used bottled lemon juice to taste)

Then the steops:

Preheat oven to 425°.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil on a large baking sheet. Season flounder with salt and pepper.

Combine Parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic, and lemon zest. Season with pepper.

Dredge fish in bread crumb mixture, pressing to coat. (I first coated the fillets with egg whites to hold the crumbs on)


Place fish on prepared baking sheet and drizzle with remaining two tablespoons oil and lemon juice.

Bake until golden and fish flakes easily with a fork, 20 minutes.

We had them with a side of steamed green beans for a wonderfully tasty fall meal.

Salt-free Product Review: Mrs. Dash Sloppy Joe’s Mix

I’ve long been a fan of Mrs. Dash’s salt-free marinades and salt-free taco seasoning. I recently also tried Mrs. Dash’s salt-free Sloppy Joe mix and found it a great substitute for the salt-ladened Manwich Sloppy Joe in a can I used to buy when my children were young.

The Mrs. Dash product did taste different, I think primarily because of the lack of salt. Manwich Sloppy Joe has 310 mgs of sodium a serving and claims one can is 10 servings!. If you’ve ever made it, you know that’s really not the case. I’d say a can is about three real-people servings, so each person would get about 1,000 mgs of sodium, half a day’s worth.

Our ground turkey Sloppy Joe’s.

The Mrs Dash mix includes:

Sugar, Dried Onion, Brown Sugar, Spices (Black Pepper, Celery Seed, Chili Pepper, Cinnamon, Cumin, Nutmeg), Cornstarch, Maltodextrin, Potassium Chloride, Yeast Extract, Tomato Powder, Dried Red and Green Bell Pepper, Dried Garlic, Citric Acid, Glucose, Natural Flavors, Vinegar.

We tried the Mrs. Dash seasoning with ground turkey instead of ground beef to hold the fat down as well. The combination worked well. I might modify the recipe on the package a bit and add more tomato paste than called for to give it a bit more tomato zwing.

One note, my local food stores don’t carry this product, so I bought it online at the Healthy Heart Market.

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