Read other Low Salt Journey installments: Senior Parents Get Started in Their 80′s: Part I, Hospital Cafeterias With No Low-Sodium Options? Part II, Making Sense of Sodium Labels and Numbers: Part III, and 5 Lessons Learned About Cutting Back on Sodium: Low-Salt Eating: Part IV.
My father left the hospital just over two weeks ago, after his heart attack. His discharge instructions directed him to follow a low sodium diet. Good-bye salt.
The goal is to stay under 1500 milligrams of sodium each day — not an easy change for someone who is 88 years and his wife, age 84, who does the cooking. If you Google low salt, low sodium, or low salt recipes, there are lots of materials to discover. But if you try to find simple food preparation information aimed at older seniors, the resources, as far as I can tell, are scarce.
I’ve found a couple of interesting sites with great explanations. Check out the Salt Shockers Slideshow at WebMD. The American Heart Association posts this know your sodium quiz. Believe me, after taking the quiz I realized that most of us, myself included, do not know our sodium facts that well.
The taste of foods is the big challenge. Salt-free or low-sodium food does not taste the same as food with salt. My parents, my mom really, must figure out how to make different choices and cook differently, and while they love to eat out, it may be necessary to prepare more meals at home. In general, they do not prepare recipes, rather they choose a fish, salad, some vegetables, and a starch for each meal — not bad if the goal is low sodium. However, their snacks include crackers, drinks, breads, pretzels, and other prepared foods that are moderately high in sodium. For heaven sakes, sodium is even in yogurt (70 mg) and skim milk (130 mg).
My husband and I decided that we will work at lowering our salt intake, right along with my parents. We have not been told to lower our salt intake, but it seems like the perfect time to think more about the process since a low salt diet is a healthier one.
So for the past two weeks we have all been busily reading labels, figuring out which crackers are low in sodium but still have at least some taste, and reassessing our other snack foods. Who knew that potato chips have less sodium than pretzels?
But here’s something really interesting after just two weeks. According to my mom, they are feeling like they are getting into the routine. And I, too have made a discovery. The wonderful King Arthur Flour Catalog features bread machine mixes that I love, especially the pumpernickel. I made a load the other day, and after just a week or two of focusing on salt reduction, my favorite bread machine recipe tastes too salty. King Arthur is one of the best companies around. I expect any day they are going to market bread machine mix with a lower sodium content.
Amazingly I’ve found a few products that I really like, and I’ll report on them in a future post.
The best handout that I’ve found so far is a PDF at the medically accurate, but not especially warm and fuzzily named Heart Failure Society of America. Their online module, How to Follow a Low Sodium Diet, is a well-written, clear, and easy-to-follow guide to help us all get started.
Check out these other posts about my family’s low-sodium adventure.
Aging Parents, Disease of Aging, and Sodium – Low Sodium Diet: Seniors Get Started in their Eighties – Hospital Cafeteria with No Low Sodium Options – Making Sense of Sodium Labels and Numbers – Five Lessons Learned About Cutting Back on Sodium – Cooking and Eating on Vacation – We Kept to the Program on Vacation! – Figuring Out How to Adjust a Much-Loved Thanksgiving Recipe – Making Choices that Lower the Count – New Research About American Sodium Consumption