Picture this: You sit a table, craving a snack, and I offer you a jar of low-sodium, salt-free pickles. Most likely, you (politely) pass on the watered-down imitation. But next, I offer you a jar of cumin-scented, cider-spiked, pickled carrots and, this time, it doesn't take long before your fingers dive in for a taste.
Now what if I told you that those two jars contained the exact same ingredients? The only difference being that one label focused on the loss of salt and the other highlighted the addition of exciting flavors. One became dulled by the absence of sodium, the other brightened by unusual spices. One portrayed as health food, the other promising culinary creativity. See where I'm going with this?
The problem with low-sodium diets is not the food itself, but how we talk about it. On average, people eat 50 percent more than the daily recommended intake; there are over 70 million people diagnosed with hypertension, and more with kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, and other general health needs who could greatly benefit from kicking back on salt; and billions of dollars to be saved in health-care costs. So what's stopping people? The messaging.
For a long time, low-sodium foods focused on what one lost. It focused on restrictions. And those whose health could greatly benefit from the diet were rightly uninspired to give it a try. Especially since most low-sodium dishes simply removed the salty ingredients -- the flavoring agents -- without adding anything back.
But then something happened. Taking a page from successful vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free playbooks, people remembered that when you lose one ingredient, you can replace it with something else. Something similar, something satisfying, and something creative. Which leads to finding freedom in your ingredient-free food and becoming an innovator instead of a limited eater.
People remembered that salt is just a single "spice" on the rack -- that, actually, there are a lot of other ways to flavor foods. And when you remove the salt, it makes room for exciting new flavor combinations and creative versions of classic recipes, like using quinoa for meatballs or matzo crackers for pie crust, and serving up cumin-scented, cider-pickled carrots instead of just salt-less snacks.
Today, low-sodium messaging is starting to shift. By focusing on the gains instead of the losses, low-sodium food is transforming from a culinary punishment to an active player in the growing culinary lexicon. It is changing from something you eat alone to something you share with others. And most importantly, it is becoming indicative of food that people, especially those with health-related needs, will be inspired and excited to try.
So to celebrate Heart Health Month and these great strides in low-sodium cooking, I'm hosting my Third Annual Love Your Heart Recipe Rally, where an amazing fleet of salt-loving food bloggers ditch the high-sodium ingredients and dish up some crave-worthy food -- all in the name of inspiration and changing the look of low-sodium food.
Participants this year include:
Picky Palate: Roasted Pepper Parmesan Baked Eggs (recipe)
Recipe Girl: Sweet Potato Fries (recipe)
Photo by Lori Lange from Recipe Girl
Hogwash: Simple Smoky Roast Chicken (recipe)
Photo by Jess Thomson from Hogwash
The Tomato Tart: Heart Healthier Buffalo Chicken (recipe)
Photo by Sabrina Modelle, The Tomato Tart
This Week for Dinner: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (recipe)
With Style & Grace: Pistachio and Broccoli Pesto Crusted Salmon (recipe)
Photo by Lisa Thiele from With Style and Grace
The Blender Girl: Spiced Alkaline Sugar-Free Vegan Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (recipe)
Healthy Happy Life: Lemon Avocado Toast with Nutty Basil Pesto (recipe)
The Healthy Apple: Apple Pumpkin Yogurt Parfait (recipe)
Photo by Amie Valpone from The Healthy Apple
Foodie Crush: Sweet and Spicy Popcorn (recipe)
and Sodium Girl: Pigs in a Salt-Free Blankets (recipe)
Photo by Jessica Goldman Foung Sodium Girl
Share these links and recipes with those who need it and those who think they don't. And if there is something in a recipe you need to leave out (a pinch of salt, store-bought veggie broth, shrimp, pork, etc and etc) remember to not just remove it, but replace it and make some satisfying substitutions of your own.
Links to all the recipes can be found on SodiumGirl.com and for even more low-sodium information, follow the hashtag #lowosdiumlove on Facebook and Twitter all day on Tuesday February 12.
Want more finger licking low-sodium recipes? Check out www.SodiumGirl.com and Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, now available everywhere books are sold.
For more by Jessica Goldman Foung, click here.
For more on diet and nutrition, click here.