Get ready for summer with a cucumber salad

Cucumber salad is one of my favorite summer side dishes but it’s a great side dish year-round too. I make it when I see cucumbers on sale.

For recipes featuring different variations of it read my past posts such as, A funky summer take on a cucumber salad; Tomatoes and cucumbers — two fun summer salads; Cucumbers everywhere — here’s 34 recipes to use them.

And watch this video for another cucumber salad recipe:

People still don’t get the connection between salt consumption and poor health

I’ve written about how food processors are not increasing the number of products they sell that have low-sodium claims on them. Maybe its because people still don;t seem to get how harmful all the salt they consume is.

A new survey found that while 64% of Americans know eating too much salt is unhealthy only 37% say they track their salt consumption.

You can read more about the survey — the site won’t let me take excerpts for my blog — by clicking here.

And if you’d like to know the difference between all the salt claims you see on food packages, check this Cooking Light guide to salt claims.

If you find yourself at a fast-food outlet, remember this list

Fast food is not a friend to people trying to eat low-salt, low-fat or low-sugar. I’ve written in the past about such troubles. But let’s face it, fast food outlets are ubiquitous and now that we’re all getting out more, you’re likely one day to find fast food is your only alternative.

McDonald's third-pound sirloin burger has too much salt and fat for me to eat it.

If that happens, review this list 19 Options for Low Sodium Fast Food from Healthline.com. It will give you some least-harmful choices like a baked potato at Wendy’s or soft tacos at Taco Bell (hard shells normally are loaded with salt). A lot of what’s on this list I wouldn’t eat (oatmeal, really?).

But if you do, remember this final warning from the story:

“Be sure to enjoy these foods in moderation, as most are still high in fat, calories, or added sugar.”

For more options when eating out, check my Eating Away from Home Page.

If you must buy pre-made tomato sauce, go low-salt

As an Italian-American, I consider it my duty to make my own tomato sauce (we call it gravy) for the various macaroni dishes I create. But if you’re one of those people who buys pre-made sauce, please, please read the nutrition label before you buy. Most sauces are loaded with salt.

Trader Joe's organic low-salt marinara sauce was a bit peppery for my taste but will do in a pinch.
Trader Joe’s organic low-salt marinara sauce is no longer being sold, a pandemic food casuality.

A recent taste test on Myrecipes.com reminded me how much salt is crammed into the jarred sauce. The winner of this taste test was Mezzetta’s Napa Valley Homemade Spicy Marinara, Looking up nutrition info for it, I found half a cup has 520 mgs of sodium. That compares to 140 mgs for the taste test low-sodium favorite, Engine 2, plant-strong, classic tomato basil pasta sauce.

My favorite low-sodium marinara sauce had been Trader’s Joe’s salt-free version but it was among many low-salt products that have disappeared from store shelves during the pandemic.

I plan to look for this Engine No. 2 variety (the site I found its nutrition info on says it’s sold at Whole Foods) to give it my own taste test.

Nutrition claims will continue to ignore low-salt

Food processors have been rolling out lots of low- and no-sugar products during the pandemic but not low-salt ones, said speakers at a 2022 food outlook presentation hosted by The Food Institute.

The pandemic has Americans thinking more about wellness and good nutrition, but that apparently hasn’t gotten them to realize they eat much more salt than they need every day.

Younger consumers also are concerned about sustainability, so sales of products with sustainability claims are likely to increase as Millennials’ buying power increases over the next five to six years, speakers said. Expect more meat-substitute products as well, including lab-grown offerings created cell-by-cell to resemble fish.

Looking at restaurants, the prediction was that restaurant sales levels would not return to what they were pre-pandemic in 2019 until 2023.

Speakers at the presentation included an old boss of mine, Joan Driggs, now vice president, content and thought leadership at IRI, a market research firm. We worked together at Mintel, another market research firm and were both journalists in our former lives.

Other scheduled speakers were:

Mike Kostyo
Trendologist and Senior Managing Editor, Datassential

Chris Dubois
Senior Vice President, Protein Practice Leader, IRI

The annual search for low-sodium Chirstmas meals — start here

Every year at this time I do a search for no-sodium Christmas meals” and I get disappointed. There are a few sites that talk about buying low-sodium turkey, which we’ve covered here too.

The Crab Pot seafood feast
We had this seafood feast at a restaurant in Seattle, but you can make your own at home for Christmas Eve.

And there are other sites that talk about healthy recipes, which usually mean lower-calorie alternatives to regular holiday fare.

But sites speaking specifically about low- and no-sodium Christmas meals? Our site is best for that, appearing on the first page of search results for our posts like 5 Sites With Low-sodium Christmas recipes and No Sugar, No Salt Recipes for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Holidays are difficult times to dump the salt, fat and sugar, but we’re here to help.

My 2021 Pandemic Low-Salt Turkey Quest

I knew this would be a difficult year to find a low-sodium fresh turkey for Thanksgiving because of the
Pandemic and supply chain issues it had caused. But I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to find what I wanted.

Keep in mind a fresh turkey, one not injected with sodium solutions for self-basting should have about 70 mgs of sodium per serving. Turkeys with liquids injected can range as high as 300 mgs of sodium per serving. And, really who eats just one serving of turkey on Thanksgiving.

My medium-sodium pandemic turkey from Costco, $2.99 a pound.

I’d written you might have to buy a bigger bird than you wanted this year. But what I found was the opposite, larger turkeys, those over 14 pounds, were extremely difficult o find, regardless of salt content.

I started at a local Jewel, an Albertson chain in the Chicago area, where I found Butterball premium turkeys that were loaded with salt. I next tried Whole Foods, one had no turkeys whatsoever, the other had only frozen turkeys. A butcher there told me fresh turkeys would be in a few days later. But when I returned on that day, they had yet to appear.

I then swung by a local Mariano’s outlet (a Kroger chain in the Chicago area). Its website listed a low-sodium Jenny O turkey option but there were none in the store I went to.

Continue reading “My 2021 Pandemic Low-Salt Turkey Quest”

A lesson in reading food labels — canned garbanzo beans can be loaded with salt

Canned chickpeas can be loaded with salt, always check the label.

When you’re trying to get the salt out of your diet, you need to be constantly aware of the salt hidden in every food you buy. This was recently brought home to me when my wife asked me to pick up a can of garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas).

She planned to put them into a homemade soup that she wanted to be low-salt for me. Luckily, when I was searching for them, I came across a low-salt variety.

The low-salt chickpeas had only135 mgs of salt per serving. Regular brands had 340 mgs! Multiply that by the number of servings per can and you can see your salt intake rising before your eyes.

For more tips on cutting salt, read my post, Salt is everywhere, beware; become a smart shopper & diner, and check my Ingredients and Smart Shopper pages.

Pandemic food causalities — low- and no-salt products continue to disappear from store shelves

The Pandemic, and how supermarkets and other food sellers have reacted, has certainly made it more difficult to eat healthy. Last Thanksgiving, for example, I wasn’t able to find fresh, low-salt turkeys at Costco for the first time in years.

A recent buy from Healthy Heart Market.

Readers also keep writring me to tell me low-salt products I’ve written about in the past are no longer aavilable at Trader Joes, so I’ve created the hastag #ShameonTraderJoes.

Here’s a list of items I was able to buy pre-pandemic which are no longer available on store shelves in my area:

  • Trader’s Joe’s salt-free shrimp sauce.
  • Trader Joe’s salt-free marinara sauce
  • Mrs. Dash salt-free teriyaki sauce
  • Salt-free fresh turkeys at Costco
  • Low-fat frozen yogurt at Costco (chocolate was dropped pre-Pandemic, but vanilla is gone now too, replaced by ice cream)
  • Low-salt canned olives at several retailers (others still have them)
  • Trader Joes salt-free wheat bread (this disappeared before the pandemic, but its worth mentioning for #ShameonTraderJoes)

Stores are stocking the highest volumes products they sell now, and dropping others to simplify thier supply chain problems. And tjhose of us wanting to eat healthy are suffering as a result.

eI’ve turned to more stocking up when I do find items that can be stored. I’ve also done more shopping online at Amazon and Healthy Heart Market, despite the higher prices and shipping costs involved. I’m willing to pay those prices now, I want to survive this Pandemic and that means not letting the virus, or salt kill me.

Looking for a low-sodium Thanksgiving turkey during the Pandemic — shop early, buy big

Time to eat all those turkeys! Happy Thanksgiving!
Finder smaller, fresh turkeys under 16 pounds could be a challenge this year, shop early, and buy bigger.

Shortages, and talk of soon-to-happen shortages, have become a regular feature of the Covid Pandemic over the past two years. Already, stories are emerging about turkey shortages for Thanksgiving.

Doing some research, I found some of those stories overblown. The shortages are likely to be for fresh, smaller turkeys, those under 16 pounds. Of course, fresh turkeys also are low-sodium turkeys. They haven’t been injected with high-salt solutions like many frozen ones. I wrote about salt differences in turkeys back in 2014, read details by clicking here.

So, if like me, you’re planning to buy a fresh turkey, shop earlier than usual and freeze it until Thanksgiving. And think about buying a larger turkey than you otherwise might to get a better selection. I did that last year after a long quest for a fresh turkey, grabbing a 19-pound bird at a local Whole Foods for our small Thanksgiving gathering in the first year of the Pandemic.

You can easily freeze leftovers for a variety of future uses like your own homemade low-sodium soup or turkey fajitas which I made after last Thanksgiving.

Good hunting, and an early Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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