Sometimes, I feel so very proud of myself for making better nutritional decisions for my children. As we picnic in the park, watching others washing down GMO’s, refined sugar and assorted chemicals and pesticides, with more of the same, I gaze at the organic blueberry stained smiles of my children and sigh. Here, I delicately laugh, let me wipe your faces with this organic linen napkin, as I pass you the organic watermelon and cucumber juice that mama made you with her own two hands, (and a BPA-free blender), this very ‘morn.
As all blissful mum moments, this one is fleeting.
Like many of you, I limit the soy intake in my boys lives, as I am confused by the research. However, treasonous as it may be in Chicago, we only allow the boys soy or tempeh hot dogs. (Information we tend not to share.) These organic soy dogs are placed on organic buns, with organic condiments, with a side of organic plantain chips. Healthy, right?
Not. So. Fast.
As I asked my boyfriend to pass me a virgin mojito, feeling thirsty after eating a few plantain chips and homemade hummus – it struck me: I’m thirsty. I’m thirsty because this was salty. It was salty because there is sodium. How much sodium? I’ve never really thought of it. In what seemed to be slow-mo, I looked over at my laughing boys, as they gleefully ate their hot dogs. I could almost smell the salt. Sweet Virgen de la Caridad! How much sodium had I actually packed? What was the daily recommended allowance? Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Why had I just mentally pushed sodium into the it’s “Only in Processed Foods category”, that I had sheltered us from? HERE! DRINK!!!! STOP EATING!!! I wanted to scream. Everyone enjoyed that rare sunny and breezy Chicago day. Everyone. But mama.
We returned home, where I desperately rummaged through the picnic hamper to calculate EXACTLY what we had eaten and imbibed. By now, I had determined that the recommended daily allowance of Sodium for my age children was 1,500 mg.
I shall exclude all fruit and vegetables from my calculus. (Obviously, our entire picnic was organic.)
So. This is the amount of sodium that EACH boy ate, give or take 100mg’s. Brace yourselves.
1 Naan bread: 420 mg
Hummus (enough to eat an entire piece of Naan): 140 mg
4 oz of Plantain chips: 50 mg
8 oz Coconut Water x 3: 210 mg
1 vegan dog: 390 mg
1 Hot Dog bun: 250 mg
1 tsp Catsup: 190 mg
1 tsp Mustard: 50 mg
Equals = 1,450 mg SODIUM!!!
This was just ONE “healthy” meal!!!
(My apologies for the “!”’s. I’m Cuban, and if we were together, I would be able to raise my voice for the intended emphasis.)
I was gobsmacked.
So. Trying very hard not to factor in their morning frittata, and wondering how I might sort a fruitarian dinner, I vowed, then and there, that I would be far more careful in the future, and find a way to reduce our extra family sodium intake, understanding that sodium is a mineral that is naturally present in most of our whole foods.
No. This does not involve a calculator.
It was actually one of my Tias who gave me the solution that she had used for lowering her husbands sodium intake following his heart attack.
Fill a personal sized salt shaker per person. (Though they vary in size, I found that mine are filled by 2 teaspoons.) Use ONLY these two shakers per week to prepare meals. Shockingly, this will still provide approximately 600 mg of sodium a day, per child. (Keep in mind, any meals consumed outside of the home, in addition to the sodium in drinks or snacks, will quickly add up.)
No. You won’t compromise on flavor. By being more creative with your spices, when salt is called for, you will reduce your, and your children’s life long risk of heart disease. By restricting yourself to a finite and visual representation of the salt that you will use, you’ll find that you do more “tastings” and become more creative with your cooking. Lemon, pepper, dill, garlic, ginger, cumin, dried kelp, as well as iron rich Dulce flakes are all wonderful “non-spicy” substitutes for salt. The latter two are personal favorites.
(Editor’s Note: Not all salt is created equal. Just like whole foods, whole salt contains more minerals and is less processed. Try a non-processed sea salt. I recommend this fairly traded, naturally dried, deep aquifer sea salt with added kelp for a natural source of iodine.)
If you’re Cuban, Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar is a wonderful lechon tenderizer and addition to a low/no sodium stock. Well. That’s true even if you aren’t Cuban, actually.
So. As I was told to never complain, without offering a solution, here is a (low sodium) Cuban one, for pork:
Low Sodium Roast Pork Marinade (2 pound(ish) Pork Loin)
1 Cup Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar 0 mg
1Tsp Dulce Flakes 15 mg
1 Tbsp Cumin 10 mg
1 Tbsp Onion Powder 5 mg
1 Tsp Black Pepper 1 mg
1 Tsp Dried Oregano 0 mg
1 Tbsp Turmeric 3 mg
Equals: Sodium: 34 mg! That’s less than 10 mg of sodium per person for a family of four!
With naturally low sodium rice and black beans, drenched in a reduction of the marinade above, you will have a healthy meal that won’t give you heart failure.