For many people, Halloween marks the start of a loooong holiday season. While we should first remember that holidays are just that, a single day, I know that everyone is tempted during November and December by the overabundance of foods and snacks we should have in moderation, and excessive high calorie beverages. Thanksgiving is fast approaching, so I thought it would be fitting to make my next post of the holiday season about how to decrease the salt and sugar in food by adding flavor in other ways! Instead of all of the sodium and sugar, you can add so much nutrition with the antioxidant powers in spices and herbs.
While sodium is often demonized for its impact on high blood pressure, the truth is many people do not see a blood pressure impact due to salt consumption. That doesn’t mean it isn’t impacting your health though. The minimum sodium recommendation is 1500 mg per day and most Americans are eating closer to 4000 mg. At this level of intake, research shows a negative influence on bone health, kidney health and even type II diabetes risk. Foods you may not expect to be very high in sodium include cheese (sorry, that is why it’s your favorite type of dairy), packaged bread and dough, and meat. Another hidden source? Those low calorie frozen meals that claim to make you “lean”, “smart” and “healthy” and attract your attention with their green labels. Healthy choice soup at 100 calories per cup? Sounds great! With the 1300 mg of sodium? Not so great!
I don’t think I need to convince you that most people need to reduce their sugar intake, too! The American Heart Association recommends adult women consume no more than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons of added sugar each day and that adult men consume no more than 38 grams, or 9 teaspoons, of added sugar each day. For reference, one container of Yoplait strawberry yogurt has 26 grams! The average American adult, according to NHANES data is eating over 20 teaspoons each day. Imagine how much higher it gets during the holiday season! This does not just effect your waistline but is also linked to mood disturbances, depression, altered appetite, headaches, skin problems, and poor attention span.
I am a self-proclaimed foodie and love not only cooking and food but also baking and treats. Here are some tips on how to lighten up your favorite dishes while reducing your sodium and sugar intake. Attached are some fact sheets on the health benefits of herbs and spices, too.
Use low sodium broths in soups, stews, and even mashed potatoes. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, their low sodium vegetable broth has more flavor than any full sodium broth on the market! I have tried many!
Reduce salt in recipes by half and add extra garlic and/or pepper
Switch to using a pepper grinder to have a stronger flavor so you don’t miss the salt
Don’t use salt substitutes! Real salt is better for you than the chemicals in the substitute!
Use 100% pure maple syrup or honey instead of sugar to sweeten holiday side dishes
Try new fresh herbs to heighten flavor
Use only ¾ of sugar listed in recipe and add an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract
Omit salt if the recipe calls for baking powder or baking soda
Use organic granulated sugar It isn’t bleached like white sugar so you are getting more nutrients
Swap brown sugar for coconut sugar + 1 tablespoon of molasses (both are more rich in vitamins and minerals)
Use 100% pure maple syrup or honey to sweeten
Add cinnamon and ginger to your holiday recipes for festive flavor instead of topping with sugar
Here are 3 holiday recipes of mine. The first is a great soup that you have have as a holiday app or on a cold day, the second a Thanksgiving side dish and the other a nice party snack or treat.