Salt and fat. Sure, they’re tasty, but many of us eat more than we need without realizing it. Though you can’t – and shouldn’t – eliminate either of these completely from your diet, you can cut back and reap the benefits of eating healthier. As always, moderation is the best policy. You can take steps to reduce your salt and fat intake by making small lifestyle changes, opting for flavorful alternatives, and substituting ingredients. Here’s how it’s done:
Say “So Long” to Salt
According to the American Heart Association, most of us consume almost twice the recommended daily amount of sodium. Why is this a problem? A high-sodium diet increases the chance of cardiovascular issues and diabetes complications, like suffering a heart attack or stroke, by contributing to high blood pressure.
3 Ways to Lose the Salt
Reduce your salt intake with one lifestyle tip, one taste tip, and swap tip:
- LIFE: Get back in the kitchen: Most of the salt we consume (about 75%) comes from processed foods, so if you make an effort to prepare meals at home, you’re already on your way toward lower sodium intake. Using fresh ingredients like fresh meat or fresh vegetables gives you control over how much salty seasoning is in your food.
- TASTE: Use flavor enhancers to add flavor without salt: A small amount of sesame oil or rice vinegar will impart a strong flavor to your foods. Fresh lemon or lime squeezed on foods or added to marinades imparts a salty taste. Onions, garlic, and ginger add a pungent flavor. Chili powder, curry powder, pepper, wasabi, lemongrass, and Chinese-Five Spice will awaken your taste buds. With a little creativity, you have virtually limitless options to give your food flavor – without the salt.
- SWAP: Choose low sodium or reduced sodium versions of your favorite products: Try low sodium tomato sauce, reduced sodium shoyu, and reduced sodium broth. Cooking wines are high in sodium, but can be replaced with dry sherry or dry white wine.
For more tips to reduce salt, consult the American Diabetes Association’s website.
Bid Excess Fat “Farewell!”
Foods high in animal fats like sausage, cheese, butter, luncheon meats, and many desserts may taste good, but they contribute to high cholesterol levels-which can lead to heart disease. By contrast, Most plant-based fats such as nuts, avocados, seeds (such as sunflower seeds), and olive oil are actually good for your health. Even healthy fats are high in calories, so if you are trying to lose weight, don’t eat a whole can of nuts in one sitting.
3 Ways to Cut the Fat
Reduce your fat intake with one lifestyle tip, one taste tip, and one swap tip:
- LIFE: Minimize your meat intake: Ever heard of Meatless Mondays? It’s a trend that’s gaining traction because many studies show that we consume too much meat – especially fatty red meats and fried meats . You can eat vegetarian one or two days a week, or, if you don’t want to cut out meat entirely from a meal, just reduce the amount of meat in your recipe and increase the amount of vegetables. For instance, when you’re making kalua pig and cabbage, use more cabbage and less pork. You’ll still feel full, but the recipe will have fewer calories.
- TASTE: Make use of tasty healthy fats or strongly flavored liquids when cooking: When preparing meat in the oven, keep it moist and tender by basting it with low sodium broth, fruit juice, or wine instead of butter. Use 1-2 Tbsp of olive or peanut oil when stir-frying or sautéing instead of butter. Add 2 Tbsp nuts or seeds to steamed vegetables to liven them up and add some extra crunch.
- SWAP: Substitute lower fat options: For example, replace sour cream in recipes with plain yogurt or light sour cream. This works well with spicy foods such as curries and Mexican dishes. Use light mayonnaise instead of full fat in dips, macaroni salads, and other recipes. Baking? Replace half the butter with plain yogurt (regular or Greek) or prune puree – which works especially well in brownies.
The best ways to cut back on salt and fat are to make small, gradual changes. The most important weapon in your arsenal is awareness: just knowing that these foods aren’t the healthiest can help you to make better choices day-in, day-out. Remember, it’s not about crash dieting or cleanses or going cold turkey: it’s about feeling good using healthy options and enjoying salt and fat in moderation.