Winter is not the only time of year that traditional comfort foods can be high-fat, high-sodium and high-calorie. Those hot dogs, mayonnaise salads and ice cream desserts can affect waistlines, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. We have a tendency to pay attention to fat and calories, but it is even more important to look at the sodium content of foods.
More than 50% of Americans have high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. It is very important to read food labels and keep our sodium intake under 2,300 mg per day. Those brats at 800 mg sodium each don't look so tasty if you are struggling with high blood pressure. If you're watching your salt intake for a low-salt or renal diet, or if you're just looking to improve heart health, check out these tips for lower-sodium recipes for cookouts.
Kidney-Friendly Food Swaps
For good health, a variety of foods is important, but if you have kidney disease (there are 5 stages), you may need to be more thoughtful of key nutrients – sodium, potassium and phosphorus. Watching your sodium, potassium and phosphorus doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor. You and your family will love these kidney-friendly food swaps at your next cookout:
Hot dogs, sausages or brats (high sodium)
Grilled hamburgers, steaks, pork chops
Processed lunch meats or cheeses (high sodium)
Sliced grilled or baked chicken, roast beef or turkey
Meats smothered in barbecue sauces
Barbecue sauce on the side
Potato or macaroni salad (high sodium)
Spinach and tomato salad (high potassium)
Toss greens with oil and vinegar
Baked or butter beans (high potassium & phosphorus)
Green beans or cole slaw
Nectarines, honeydew or large portions of watermelon (high potassium)
Chilled grapes, small fresh peach, pear or pineapple, fruit-flavored popsicles
Fire Up The Grill
Summer is the time to fire up the grill, but don't stop with the main dish. Shop at farmer markets for local produce for grilled side dishes and enjoy grilled fruits for dessert. Often grilled dishes have less added fat and salt than other ways of preparation.
For any healthy diet – not just a low-salt one – your first thought should be vegetables. Cooking a variety of vegetables either grilled on a skewer or foil or roasted in the oven blends flavors. Season your vegetables a little olive oil with herbs and spices, such as:
Avoid seasoned salts, garlic or onion salts, and butter.
For an added treat grill peaches, mangoes, pineapples on a skewer.
Once your plate is 1/2 full of vegetables, think about your protein.
Healthy Options For Grilled Main Dishes
Select lean proteins such as pork loin, chicken, fish, shrimp or turkey burgers.
Another entrée idea is grilled Portobello mushrooms. Marinate the Portobello mushrooms in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, whole-ground mustard and fresh herbs 30 minutes at room temperature. Grill for 5 minutes each side. Pair with your choice of sliced tomatoes (if your diet allows), onion, lettuce on a whole-grain bun or without.
Simple Low-Salt Sides
Summer is a great time to move toward heart-healthy whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. A simple summer salad using canned chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings keeps fiber and nutrients center stage.
Select whole-grain buns, quinoa, couscous, whole-grain pasta salads seasoned with vinegars, lemon or lime juice, spices and add more vegetables, nuts and chickpeas, black or kidney beans for protein, texture and fiber.
If looking for a mayonnaise substitute try using mashed avocado, plain yogurt, low-fat sour cream and 1/3 of the mayonnaise.
Topping It Off
Nothing says summer like cut-up watermelon, melons and berries. Berry shortcakes with angel food cake, low-fat whipped topping and a squirt of chocolate syrup is easy and yummy.
Summer is a time to explore new places, try new activities, try new foods and improve our health. For healthy recipes visit heart.org, eatright.org and diabetesfoodhub.org to help keep your sodium, fat and sugar intake reasonable.
By Kathleen Cowden, RD, CD
Clinical Dietitian, Franciscan Health Indianapolis