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

Pandemic Shopping: Food Prices Will Continue Climbing in 2021

It’s no secret that food prices shot up as the pandemic took hold last year. The bad news is you can expect those prices to continue to rise this year. Grocery store prices will climb 1-2%, predicts the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Restaurant/take-out food prices will increase 2-3 percent after climbing 3.9% last year, the USDA says.

The actual impact of the pandemic on your food bills has likely been much more severe than a percent or two. Pandemic shopping has meant shortages of items and an inability to shop for deals from store to store.

Shopping at Trader Joe's
The line I encountered waiting to get into a Chicago-area Trader Joe’s. These were all seniors waiting for the 8 a.m. opening of the store for senior shopping.

How many stores have you gone to in the average pandemic week? Pre-pandemic, I would normally go to three or four different stores, searching for the best deals on low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar products. During the pandemic, I’ve limited myself to one store a week, sometimes two.

The first change I plan in my life now that I’ve had both my vaccine shots is a return to more normal food shopping to combat rising prices.

Super foods? Maybe think again about these 25

I’ve never been a believer in so-called “super foods,” items that someone or other decides will do amazing things for our bodies. Every body is different which is what makes giving nutrition advice so complex.

So when I see articles like Don’t Spend Your Money on These 25 “Superfoods”, Say Nutritionists in Men’s Health UK, I’m not surprised.

Salt is salt, no matter where it comes from, I avoid it to help control my blood pressure.

The story says such offerings as banana bread, a pandemic favorite, cauliflower, raw spinach, Himalayan salt and turkey bacon aren’t all that some have said they are.

It’s a good reminder, no one food is going to turn your life around. Find what works for you and stick with that.

Know what clean eating means? Here’s some help

Clean eating is one of those food terms that has been tossed around so much in recent years it’s almost lost it’s meaning. What does it mean, exactly?

Good question. You could do a Google search and get pages of links to explore. Or you can check this piece I found recently from the Cooking Light diet blog, Ask Our Expert: What Is Clean Eating, And How Can I Eat Clean With This Meal Plan?

Clean eating means sticking to whole foods as opposed to processed ones.

“In its broadest and most agreed-upon sense, clean eating means centering one’s diet around whole and minimally processed foods and ingredients,” the blog expert notes. But also, “it’s important to first note that “clean eating” has no official definition or defined protocol. Because of this, the eating approach can be interpreted and twisted to also include a variety of additional restrictions.”

So beware of food offerings claiming to be “clean,” with no official definition or regulation, the term is open to marketing manipulation.

Love eating local? Then here’s where you should live, according to a new study

I’ve written before about the challenges of eating local. How much locally grown food is available to us is often a function of geography. A new study shows the truth in that, with a few surprising exceptions.

A firm called Lawn Starter looked at the 150 largest U.S, cities and came up with the following rankings of the best cities for eating (and drinking) local:

Continue reading “Love eating local? Then here’s where you should live, according to a new study”

5 Sites With Low-sodium Christmas recipes (one is our site!)

Google “Low Sodium Christmas recipes” and you won’t find a lot, unfortunately. We know, we just tried it. But we have found some for you, so don’t lose hope. Ourcommuntiynow,com, for example, runs through where you can find low-salt ways to make turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. It sounds a bit Thanksgiving, but I have made turkey for Christmas too, so it’s feasible.

Epicurious.com has a page of side-dish recipes that are low in sodium.

Good Housekeeping has a piece called 35 Healthy Christmas Recipes That Still Taste Totally Indulgent. It seems to start with sides too but does have an interesting salad take on the traditional Italian Christmas Eve feast of the seven fishes.

And while not Christmas focued, tasteofhome.com does have 40 Low-Sodium Recipes That Are Kind to Your Heart which has some interesting sounding main courses you could make for Christmas.

And don’t forget to check our recipe page which has a host of special occasion low-sodium recipes to choose from, including a low-salt, low-fat take on a traditional Italian holiday manicotti.

My low-fat, low-salt manicotti, One of these has 128 calories, 1.8 grams of fat and 70 mgs of sodium. I eat five at a time

Pandemic Food Shopping: Predictions for 2021

While talk of vaccines is everywhere these days, those in the know seem to agree we’ll be well into 2021 before a large part of the country has access to vaccines, let alone has gotten the two shots of one to protect themselves. So how will that impact food shopping trends as 2021 begins?

Florida-based sales and marketing firm Acosta has put together the following predictions.

“Many of the changes we saw implemented in 2020 due to the pandemic will carry over into 2021,” said Colin Stewart, executive vice president of Business Intelligence at Acosta, ina press release. “Health and safety will continue to be paramount for retailers and consumers, and e-commerce growth will continue on its accelerated path. Grocery shopping was not fun this year, and post-COVID, stores will need to make it a more enjoyable experience with unique offerings, better prices and stocked shelves.”

Pandemic Shopping: Tips for bulk storage

The Covid-019 pandemic has certainly changed American eating and food-shopping habits. People are cooking at home and emptying store shelves of many staple items as a result. Just trying buying some yeast to find out what I mean.

Many people ahve turned to bulk buying, which is jsut a step short of hoarding in that hopefully they have need of the large quantities of foodstuffs they’re buying for large families.

We store non-perishable paper and cleaning products in our basement store room.

But buying in bulk can have its pitfalls, which is why I was attracted to this piece, 7 Life-Changing Tips from a Bulk Shopping Expert. While the headline is a bit melodramatic, the piece makes a few good points. Chief among those:

  • Determine (and buy) your highest-use items and target those for large purchases.
  • Have the proper storage space and type for items you stock up on.
  • Plan enough time to repackage perishables as soon as you get home.
  • Label everything with dates, keep a list of what you have, and use oldest to newest.

As the article states, “Buying in bulk is a shockingly great way to save money and to reduce the frequency of shopping trips for staples.” With food prices rising in the pandemic, stocking up may be the best way to stretch your food dollars.

Pandemic food casualty: Hey Costco, where’s my low-salt Thanksgiving turkey?

Looks like Costco let me down again (just like when it dumped chocolate frozen yogurt) and this time, only two weeks before Thanksgiving.

I journeyed out for a major shopping trip last week, knowing our locality would soon be telling us to stay home because of worsening Covid infection rates in our area.

I’ve written about how Costco normally has fresh, low-sodium turkeys this time of year — turkeys without any high-sodium liquids injecting into them for self-basting.

Time to eat all those turkeys! Happy Thanksgiving!
Where have all the turkeys gone at Costco? There were none two weeks before Thanksgiving.

But when I arrived last Thursday, there were no turkeys to be found at my local Costco in Glenview, Il. I asked a butcher who told me it was too soon for them. Too soon, two weeks before Thanksgiving and a day before we were told not to go out?

I know I’ve bought them earlier than that in the past because I’ve had to freeze them to keep them from spoiling before I cook them.

I looked at the home delivery option Costco offers through Instacart and did not find a fresh turkey last week either. I did find one this week, but at this point, I’ve found another source.

Romaine Lettuce Recall Hits 20 States

California-based grower Tanimura & Antle has announced a romaine lettuce recall that impacts product it shipped to 20 states.

The company is recalling packages of its single-head romaine lettuce with a packed on date of 10/15/2020 or 10/16/2020 and a UPC number of 0-27918-20314-9. The culprit — E. coli again.

The recall is effective in the following states plus Peurto Rico:

Illinois, Alaska, California, Oregon, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Massachusetts.

No lettuce-linked illnesses have been reported yet but for safety, if you ahve it, throw it out.

The recall doesn’t seem to ahve spread to other romaine lettuce so far. I was just at Costco today and saw its usual two brands of romaine hearts (regular and organic) on the shelves.

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