Q. How can I manage on a salt-free diet?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 02 July 2013.
Tagged: balanced diet, diet foods, diet meals, eating out, food labels, health, healthy cooking, healthy eating, healthy heart, healthy lifestyle, nutrition, salt

Q.  How can I manage on a salt-free diet?
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Q. My doctor's just ordered a virtually salt-free diet which I'm finding is a challenge! It seems anything with flavour has way more than 120 mg per 100 grams, the limit to which I have to keep under. Most store bought items seems to have an excess of salt - even Tim Tams and milk are outside my range. I am in desperate need of HELP. Where can we find nutritional and tasty meals without salt?

A. Any recipes that utilise only fresh ingredients such as meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, rice or pasta without any bought sauces or condiments would be suitable for you. The only seasonings you should cook with are fresh or dried herbs, pepper, garlic, tomato (fresh or bottled with no added salt), lemon, chillis and pure curry powder, all of which help create flavour when you cut out salt.

Unfortunately, most quick, convenient recipes tend to use commercial bottled sauces, curry pastes, pasta sauces, soup mixes and other meal bases - all of which have salt, as you have no doubt discovered.

You have two options:

1. Substitute salt-free or no-added-salt ingredients in your favourite recipes e.g. canned tomatoes, tomato paste, butter/margarine, frozen peas, frozen spinach, canned corn, canned baked beans, canned kidney beans and other legumes, puffed wheat cereal, rice cakes, canned salmon no-added-salt, most baby food (handy as a snack), etc. The number of such products is small but you'll find them at supermarkets or health food outlets.

I recommend you check out the websites of Find Low Salt Foods at www.findlowsaltfood.info for ideas for more of these products.

2. Cook everything from scratch with no salt and add lots of flavour from herbs, wine, garlic, etc. This means home-made tomato pasta sauce, oil-vinegar dressing for salads, marinades for meat and chicken based on garlic, lemon, olive oil or grated orange rind, orange juice and home-made mayonnaise or white sauce.

Bakeries and hot bread shops will bake you salt-free bread on order so you can buy in bulk and freeze. Or invest in a home bread maker and bake your own fresh bread at home.

When eating out, ask the chef to cook you char-grilled fish or steak with a baked jacket potato and steamed vegetables or a salad with oil and vinegar on the side. It's not easy eating out on a salt-free diet as chefs love to "season" most dishes even if they already contain ingredients with salt such as stock or cheese.

Salt-free chicken stock - make up and freeze for later

Here's my recipe for home-made salt-free Chicken Stock which you can make in bulk and freeze in serves of 1 or 2 cups so you've always got some on hand. It's easy to make (just time-consuming) but tastes so much richer and more broth-ey than the bought liquid stock anyway.

What to look for when shopping

Buy products with less than 120mg sodium per 100g. This is the official definition of "low salt" and includes unsalted nuts, uncooked grains (rice, quinoa, oats), dried lentils and beans, vegetables, fresh fruit, fresh herbs, pure dried herbs and spices, meats, fresh fish, unsalted butter, oils and plain flour.

Label detective for SALT

On the list of ingredients, remember that there are many other words for salt:

  • Rock salt
  • Sea salt
  • Booster
  • Marinade
  • Seasoning
  • Onion salt
  • Garlic salt
  • Chicken salt
  • Celery salt
  • Meat or yeast extract
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Baking powder
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Sodium metabisulphate
  • Sodium nitrate/nitrite
  • Stock cubes
  • Anything with sodium in the word


Catherine Saxelby About the author

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Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her award-winning book My Nutritionary will help you cut through the jargon. Do you know your MCTs from your LCTs? How about sterols from stanols? What’s the difference between glucose and dextrose? Or probiotics and prebiotics? What additive is number 330? How safe is acesulfame K? If you find yourself confused by food labels, grab your copy of Catherine Saxelby’s comprehensive guide My Nutritionary NOW!