Why you have to read the nutrition label — a barbecue sauce comparison

I have repeatedly harped on the importance of reading food labels so you can stay on a low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar diet. And I’ve created an entire page of low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar products that I use regularly since my heart issues began in 2012.

With summer hear and all of us grilling outside again, reading labels becomes even more important for products you might not be using in winter, like barbecue sauce.

Take a look at these pictures of two brands — Localfolks low-salt, low-sugar barbecue sauce, and a store brand, Signature Select (an Albertson’s house brand). I use nothing by Localfolks now, but happened the get the Signature Select bottle free ina recent store give-away.

A serving of the Signature select, 37 grams, has 260 mgs of sodium and 12 grams of sugar, 14 grams of carbs if you count those as well.

The Localfolks measures one serving as an ounce, which is 28.34 grams, so about a third less. Still, it has only 30 mgs of sodium and 4 grams of sugar, five grams of carbs. Even adding a third to that gets you to only 40 mgs of sodium and about five and a third of sugar.

Salt and sugar hide in all processed foods, that’s wehy most Americans eat more than they should. Read those food labels, and happy grilling!

Can your cookouts be healthy? Yes, if you plan ahead and shop wisely

When I was a much younger man, I would routinely have a start-of-summer cookout at my house with a menu that included Italian sausage and peppers, ribs, chicken legs, fatty hamburgers, hot dogs — in other words all the things I can’t eat now that I’m dealing with heart issues. So I stopped having those cookouts, not wanting to serve people foods I can’t eat and assuming they would not be happy with what I could eat.

But that was then, this is now, some nine years after my first stent went in and I changed my eating habits.

I haven’t had a large cookout party in some time, especially not last year when we were all isolating, but I have developed healthy cookout menus for us.

A recent article I saw, Nutrition: Making summer barbecues healthier from the Duluth News Tribune, can help you make your cookouts healthier as well.

The article covers the basics — grill lean proteins like fish and chicken, use whole wheat breadstuffs when you must have a bun, grill fruits. It even touches on how high in salt most condiments are and suggests finding substitutes for those as well.

A good place to start grilling healthier is my recipe page. The Memorial Day special meals (under special occasion meals) all deal with grilling, for example. And check my smart shopping page for tips on low- and no-salt condiments.

A quick primer on low-sodium, reduced-sodium, et. al.

This blog is all about eating less sodium (and less fat and sugar). Cutting back on salt helped lower my blood pressure over the years and can do the same for you. We write about low-salt foods and recipes so much, we assume everyone knows how much salt they should be eating every day. But of course that’s not true, so here’s a quick primer we found recently on tylerpaper.com.

“The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day of sodium and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. On average, Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day,” writes Claudann Jones Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Looks promising, lots of protein too.
Read every label for salt content!

The author talks about where to find salt content on food labels and also includes this handy primer of all the terms food processors use about salt, most designed to make you think the products have less sodium than they actually do:

• Sodium-free – Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving and contains no sodium chloride

• Very low sodium – 35 milligrams or less per serving

• Low sodium – 140 milligrams or less per serving

• Reduced (or less) sodium – At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level

• Light (for sodium-reduced products) – If the food is “low calorie” and “low fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving

• Light in sodium – If sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving

She also reminds readers to think about how many servings of a given product they would normally eat. The label lists salt for one serving but who really eats only one serving of anything?

Sadly no surprise here, people pin healthy recipes but cook unhealthy ones

The road to healthy eating is paved with good intentions, at least when it comes to Pinterest. A new study by George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services found people are pinning healthy recipes on Pinterest. But when it comes to what they’re actually cooking and eating, unhealthy recipes win out.

“It’s an interesting discrepancy between what pinners posted/liked and how users actually consumed the information,” said Hong Xue, PhD, who led the study.

“Pinners are more likely to post recipes that are socially rewarded with likes and repins. They are more likely to adhere to an elite social norm set by celebrities and influencers promoting healthier, low-calorie, clean eating. But when it comes to the recipes users are more interested in making food high in fat, sugar, and high calories. We see a very different picture. They’re commenting on and posting finished dish photos of the less healthy recipes.”

This disconnect might have shocked naïve university students, but those of us who have been writing about food a long time are not surprised. People talk a good game when it comes to healthy eating but few actually carry through on it consistently.

Take a look at our slide show and tell me which dishes appeal more to you, the healthy ones or the fried, unhealthy ones?

  • Splurge on the garlic fries at Safeco Field. They were a garlic-lover's dream.
  • My Chinese birthday dinner, egg rolls, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef. Not shown was the fried rice.

Salmon is a must-have for health eating, so treat it right. Here are some tips

Salmon has replaced red meat to a large extent in my diet since my first angioplasty in 2012 brought about a radical rethinking to my eating habits. My recipe page has a hot of salmon recipes you can try.

In another sheet of aluminum foil, place your four pieces of salmon and separate with aluminum foil. Then rub in marinades for each.
Grilling salmon is a luscious experience.

But like any food, salmon not cooked properly can be a disaster, so I was interested in reading This One Mistake Can Completely Ruin Baked Salmon on myrecipes.,com

The headline is a bit misleading because while the piece does say don’t overcook or undercook salmon (that’s the worst mistake), it also lays out some important details to cook salmon properly such as:

  • Don’t cook it cold, let it reach room temperature first.
  • Cook it in an oven at 400 degrees
  • Use a shallow dish or a shallow oven-proof skillet to cook it to allow for good airflow around the fish.
  • Let it rest before cutting/serving.

Remembering those should help you to become a salmon master in no time.

American Heart Association offers healthy cooking help

The American Heart Association currently is offering what it calls a Healthy Cooking Starter Kit to those who donate. The kit includes the association’s newest heart-healthy cooking book and a kitchen conversion chart (I assume that’s for weights and measures).

The association has sometimes lent it’s endorsements to foods I consider too high in salt. But, that said, it’s cookbooks often have some tasty recipes and you can adjust salt down with the ingredients you use.

If you were planning to support the association this year, this offer gives an added incentive.

Some good advice for a truly heart-healthy diet

The term heart-healthy diet has been co-opted by all sorts of people to push their favorite products. Many processed foods call themselves heart-healthy when they are still loaded with salt, fat and sugar. So it’s refreshing to see some tips for a truly heart-healthy diet in this piece, Ask A Dietitian: What Makes a Diet Heart-Healthy?

One of my favorite here is to develop a collection of seafood recipes you can’t wait to eat. A good place to start is on our recipe page, where we have a seafood section all ready for you. Supermarket fish counters often give away seafood recipe cards too. You may have to modify them to take out butter and salt, but they’re a starting point for you.

Use some spray-on canola oil to cook your tilapia
Tilapia such as these would work for fish tacos.

Another good tip is to use more spices instead of salt in your cooking. When you do, be sure to buy salt-free spice mixtures. Many pre-mixed spice offerings are loaded with salt. If you see salt listed as the first ingredient on such a mix, you know it is primarily salt, avoid it.

Check the article for other tips, just click here.

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