On my first date with my most adorable partner-in-crime, I decided to tell him all about my health situation and dietary restrictions – no butter, no salt, no sauces, and the list went on.
He looked at me, smiled, and said the most comforting thing that he could imagine:
Well, at least you can still eat cheese.
And when I had to break the news that no, in fact, I definitely could not eat cheese, I think a little piece of his foodie soul melted.
But, the conclusion of this story is not completely true. I can eat cheese and so can you. There are some wonderful options of low sodium cheeses that you can order from the world-wide interweb. My favorite is the Heluva Good Low Sodium Chedder with a whopping 5mg of sodium per serving – virtually nothing! By “my favorite” I mean I order eight blocks of this at a time and finish them in approximately four weeks (I tested this over-exaggerated comment during the holidays and trust me, its true). And it is actually Heluva good and works well for any cheese based sauce, dish, or pop-in-your-mouth snack moment.
If you want to pick up something at the store, I suggest Alpine Lace Swiss. You can find the low-sodium product at Safeway and most large markets and it is a mere 30mg per slice! Its great for throwing onto some bread or in a corn tortilla for a quick hiking or picnic snack.
For more wonderful low sodium products (like baking powder, baking soda, sauces, condiments, and deliciously dangerous BBQ chips) check out the Healthy Heart Market. I check regularly – there are new products cropping up everyday and they are becoming more and more prominent in grocery stores.
A wonderful man named Dick Logue started a Low Sodium Cooking website and community board dedicated to living on a low sodium diet. The recipes are a great place to start if you are just beginning to learn how to cook without salt and his newsletters always contain seasonal recipes. I definitely suggest trying the soy sauce and Teriyaki recipes – these can be used as bases for more complicated Asian dishes (like a thick plum sauce for pork lettuce cups…do I have you drooling yet?) and are also delicious on a freshly steamed bowl of rice.
I believe the magnificent Mr. Logue has now moved to charging for a full membership (complete access to recipes v. only recently published ones), but his email and advice remains accessible to all. Also, I suggest looking over the tips section which points you in the direction of lifestyle changes, cooking techniques, and brand name products that really let you to spice up your home creations.
My journey with Lupus began with quite a bang – a 3 month hospital stay, chemotherapy, and too many ups and downs to count. The most lasting effect was renal insufficiency – meaning my kidneys only work at a fraction of the normal capacity. I cannot rid my body of toxins or water retention at a normal rate and this leads to high blood pressure and other functional complications. Amazingly/luckily/unbelievably – my kidneys actually regenerated enough that I no longer needed a kidney transplant (thank you, Dad) and my dialysis tubes could be removed.
Now it was up to me. Sodium got the ax and I embarked down the road of finding an effective and realistic diet that allowed me to rely on as few medications as possible. It has taken me a long time to finally feel like I can navigate my way through the kitchen, grocery stores, and restaurants with success and satisfaction. My compass has not been the advice of doctors and nutritionists (who very much tried their best, but left me with few answers), but the determination of friends and guidance from others like myself. There is nothing I enjoy nothing more than showing people that you can eat delicious, flavorful, mouth-watering food without cooking’s most trustworthy ingredient.
Even if you don’t have the dietary requirements, you may just find that a tender piece of meat, a perfectly ripe red pepper, or delicately sauteed leeks bursts perfectly with their own flavors.