Rather than focusing on what you can’t eat, explore the new flavours of a low-sodium diet. You’ll help control your high blood pressure — and enjoy delicious food.
When you think about a diet for someone with high blood pressure, “tasty” may not be the first word that comes to mind. In fact, you might be thinking “bland” and “boring” instead. But before you jump to conclusions about a low-sodium diet, learn how it can be delicious and healthy not only for the patient, but also for caregivers and everyone else in the family.
Where to Start?
The most important aspect of helping to change your loved one’s eating habits will be to limit their salt, or sodium, intake because salt contributes to hypertension. A low-sodium diet will go a long way toward helping to control blood pressure levels.
But you won’t have to invent a new eating plan: You can adopt the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to combat high blood pressure. The DASH plan can be followed at two levels — a plan for sodium intake of 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day and another modified for eating 2,300 mg per day. Talk to the patient’s doctor for advice on which sodium level is most appropriate.
In addition to eating a low-sodium diet, the person with high blood pressure will probably need to reduce his calorie intake and shed some pounds or carefully watch his weight — another factor that contributes to high blood pressure. DASH includes foods high in fiber and protein and rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium — all of the elements needed to help reduce high blood pressure.
Healthy Meal Preparation
If a caregiver gets fresh ingredients but then fries them in grease, it defeats the purpose of buying healthy items in the first place. Ditch the deep fryer and try these simple, healthy steps to prepare food:
- Roast meats and chicken on racks so that fat can drip off.
- Use non-stick cookware and a little cooking spray to sauté foods.
- Stew or braise meats and poultry on the stove or in your oven. Then cool the food so that you can remove any congealed fat before reheating and serving.
- Poach fish and chicken in fat-free liquids.
- Broil or grill just about any meat, poultry, or vegetable and let the fat drip off.
- Steam all kinds of foods over boiling water.
Cooking DOs and DON’Ts
Salt can be a hard habit to quit, but not impossible. Instead of relying on sodium, use the following seasonings to flavor food and avoid contributing to high blood pressure:
- Basil (fresh or dried) can be used with fish, lean meats, and in soups and sauces.
- Thyme gives an earthy taste to sauces and soups.
- Caraway seeds lend a nutty taste to breads, steamed cabbage, and noodles.
- Chives add bite to salads and vegetables.
- Rosemary works well in hearty dishes like meatloaf, potatoes, and beans.
- Cider vinegar provides tang to sauces and vegetables.
- Turmeric is great on rice with a flavor and color similar to saffron.
- Cinnamon is tasty on many fruits.
- Curry powder gives lean meats, particularly lamb, an exotic taste.
- Dill is great in sauces or tossed on just about any vegetable.
- Garlic adds another dimension of flavor to just about any savory food — be sure not to use garlic salt.
- Bay leaves work well with soups and stews.
- Lemon juice enhances the flavor of salads, vegetables, and fish.
- Paprika gives a spicy kick to roasted meats and vegetables.
- Sage can be a savory addition to stews, biscuits, and lean pork.
- Peppermint and other extracts lend extra flavor to fruit and pudding.
If you want to stick with a low-sodium diet:
Salt can be a hard habit to quit, but not impossible. Instead of relying on sodium, use the following seasonings to flavour food and avoid contributing to high blood pressure:
- Don’t eat many packaged and processed foods.
- Don’t use too many pickled, cured, brined, or smoked foods.
- Don’t cook with flavoured pastas, rice, or cereal mixes, because they’re typically loaded with sodium — add your own flavourings to plain pasta and rice instead.
- Don’t choose salted nuts, chips, and crackers.
Rather than focusing on what your loved one can’t eat, explore new options and flavours for a low-sodium diet that helps to get high blood pressure under control.