Nutrition & Diabetes

Low Salt Dinner Ideas

Posted on: December 2, 2010

This week’s question is: I have pre-diabetes and have just been diagnosed with high blood pressure as well.  My doctor says to watch my sodium intake.  I feel like I’ve been hit with a double whammy!  In addition to trying to lose weight and watch my carb intake, I now have to watch my salt as well.  Could you give me some low salt ideas for dinner meals?

There are so many ways to reduce your salt (sodium) intake and still make delicious dinners.

First, here are some helpful tips to reduce your salt intake.

These tips are part of a No Added Salt (NAS) diet:

1.     Prepare your dishes without salt and do not add any salt to your dishes after they are prepared.   A solution for this is to use different seasonings and spices to season your dish.  For example, Mrs. Dash seasoning is great for this.  You can prepare your food using these seasoning.  If the food needs more flavor after it is cooked, you can add some more Mrs. Dash to the meal. Here is the Mrs. Dash website to learn more about these items

2.     Stay away from cured meats because those are preserved with lots of salt.

3.     Stay away from tomato or vegetable juice in a can because again those items can contain a lot of salt.

4.     Avoid breads that have any salt on top

The following tips take the above diet further.  These tips can further reduce your salt intake:

5.     Stay away from canned vegetables, vegetable juices, soups or broths.

6.     Avoid smoked meats

7.     Stay away from commercially prepared rice, potato, or pasta mixes

8.     Avoid salad dressings with pork

9.     Stay away from regular or processed cheese or spread.   A solution for this is reduced sodium cheese.

Note:  Reduced sodium on a food label means 25% less sodium than the original version.  Still look at that food label.

Overall, some simple tips to reduced your sodium intake would be to:

A.    Reduce your canned food intake

B.    Reduce your cured meat intake

C.    Reduce your frozen dinners or microwavable meals

D.    Omit salt when cooking foods

E.     Reduce your processed food intake.  (Processed foods are foods that are different from original forms)

F.     Read those food labels and watch out for the sodium content.

According to the Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes by the American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association foods that are high in sodium have more than 480 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving.   It was mention combination foods like frozen meals, deli-style potato salad, casserole type foods, soups and stews, and fast foods which had sodium levels of more than 600 mg are considered high in sodium.

Some other good tips to help you control your sodium is to increase your consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Increasing your fiber intake will help you feel fuller.  Reduce your intake of total fat and saturated fat by using lower fat versions of foods like milk, salad dressing, mayo, and cheese.

Here are some low salt dinner ideas:

Tacos prepared with a homemade no salt added taco seasoning. A lot of the store bought taco seasonings contain a lot of salt.  You can also use reduced sodium beans.  Also, you can soak your own beans and this way you can really control the sodium content. (Note: canned refried beans are usually high in sodium).  Reduced sodium low-fat cheese would be recommended.

Black bean burrito using the recommendations above with a side salad made with greens, corn, and low-fat dressing (Note: Regular and Reduced fat dressing are high in sodium)

Meats prepared with Mrs. Dash seasoning, other salt substitutes, or no salt marinades.  Try to select lean meats, trim fat, and remove skin from poultry.   You can serve this with a side salad with a low fat dressing.  Sides dishes can be pasta salad, brown rice, or oven-baked potatoes made with seasonings and spices and no added salt.

Fresh or frozen fish, or shellfish prepared with salt substitutes, maybe some lemon, or marinades that do not use salt.  (Note: smoked fish like herring or lox can be high in sodium)

Believe or not, eggs can make great dinner.  Just find recipes that do not include a lot of salt.

If you decide to eat Asian food as dinner, try to avoid the soy sauce.  Both light and regular soy sauce are high in sodium.  Try to look at the no salt added and healthy menu items.  You can use your own seasoning to give it more flavor, if needed.

Frozen or fast food delivery of pizza are high in sodium.  I would suggest to try to make your own and use reduce sodium low-fat cheese.  If you can’t do this, try to get a plain slice or load the pizza with vegetables.

If you want a bread item like a roll with your dinner, try to eat a whole wheat roll.

For more information about how to control high blood pressure and to get some more low salt meal ideas check out the National Heart and Lung Institute website:

This website has information on high blood pressure, diabetes, and even the DASH diet, which is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).

Sources for the information I provided:

Lecture notes from my Medical Nutrition Therapy class, which is taught by a Registered Dietitian.

Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes by the American Dietetic Association and American Diabetic Association

Nelms, M., et al.   Nutrition Therapy & Pathophysiology.


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December 2010
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About Me

Iris M. Pacheco, MS, RD, LD/N

This was a blog I wrote during 2010-2011 while I was a dietetics and nutrition student.

Through this blog I volunteered to answer questions from people with diabetes that were submitted to is a website that helps people with diabetes make better food choices. It holds of large databases of food items and gives recommendations on which foods to have "More Often," "In Moderation," or "Less Often."

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