Part Two: The Lowdown on Salt Intake & Cooking

Hello, everyone! I hope you're all staying warm this week, especially if you're outside training. With our recent snow storm, winter is officially here!


Last week we started discussing how even the healthiest, fiercest athletes may find themselves having health issues they never thought possible. If you remember, I told you about two of my patients who were both incredibly fit, both of whom wound up in the hospital and required extensive nutrition counseling when their respective family genes caught up with them. I shared five of my tips for cooking without salt, and this week, I'm going to share five more.


Five More Ways to Flavor Food Without Salt

  1. Lemons, limes and/or vinegars- try squeezing a lemon or lime wedge over your food before serving. Many cultures around the world enhance their food this way. Take Greece for example, where nearly every plate comes with a lemon wedge. These items have the same effect as salt on your taste buds and won’t raise your blood pressure! Vinegars like balsamic, apple cider, red wine, red wine with garlic will have the same effect… the flavors are endless and the perfect final touch to any meal.

  2. Spices- utilize that spice rack/cabinet and start using them in dishes when you cook. Try adding a pinch of nutmeg to sautéed greens like spinach. Sprinkle your eggs with paprika. Try pink peppercorns for a zesty addition to pasta and potato salads. Experiment and have fun- the possibilities are endless, and don’t require salt. If you're not sure which spices go with others, try a salt-free spice blend. New York City is packed with shops selling spices from all around the world, and many ship worldwide. 

  3. Quality ingredients- spend a little money on quality meats, cheeses, produce and other ingredients. If you buy the best, freshest ingredients you can afford, they will have better flavor than run-of-the-mill products. Grass-fed beef is packed with flavor; artisan cheeses really "sing" with flavor. Add some fresh, seasonal vegetables and you've got tons of flavor.

  4. Sea salt- While sea salts don't have less sodium than regular salt (a popular myth), they DO have more flavor, and often, more minerals and nutrients than table salt. A tiny pinch of sel gris from France on vegetables or meat goes a long way, especially if you previously doused your food in table salt. There's many varieties and colors of sea salts from all over the world, from places like Hawaii to Nepal to Ireland.

  5. Patience- I know, this isn't actually an ingredient or cooking suggestion but if you're making changes like cooking without salt, your taste buds are going to take time to adjust. Studies show it can take as long as three weeks for your taste buds to actually start tasting spices, herbs, high-quality ingredients and other items. Excessive salt intake actually affects your ability properly taste food, and it takes time to reset your taste buds. You may find your new dishes bland or boring, but over time, you'll start to notice the real flavors of your food, and be much healthier.


    Here are some recipes to give you examples of salt free cooking! They are healthy, packed full of nutrients, and appropriate for every type of athlete. If you're not sure what your portions should look like, this blog will help you build the right plate based on your current training level.

     Lemon Chicken and Greens- this recipe lists "salt and pepper" as ingredients; I have made this several times and use the pepper, but don't find that I need the salt. This is an example of Greek cooking that utilizes onions, herbs, lemons and spices to make a healthy and delicious meal. 

     Baked Cumin Trout with Squash and Pumpkin Seeds- this recipe utilizes seasonal vegetables, heart-healthy trout and spices for an easy, quick dinner. Bonus recipe- a low-salt Wild Rice recipe!

     For more recipes, check out one of my favorite resources (and magazines) Eating Well. Check out their low sodium recipes and menus here. Enjoy!


    Eat Well, Live Well-

    Rebekah Langford, RD, CDN