By Sandrine Olmi, Corporate Nutritionist
Salt Awareness Week is taking place from Monday 29th February to Sunday 6th March.
The amount of salt we eat has a direct effect on our blood pressure. For a nutritionist like myself, helping people reduce their salt intake is a great step towards reducing the risk of health conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke.
The food industry, government bodies and health organisations like CASH have already worked very hard in the last few years to reduce salt in consumer food products. But a lot of products still contain hidden salt. This is the reason why, at SuperWellness, we, as corporate nutritionists, are keen to support this campaign by helping employers spread the message to their staff to improve employee wellbeing.
Besides packaged foods, it is also crucial to educate everyone working in the catering industry and provide support to achieve the recommended levels. Today, I will be sharing some tips on how to season food without using salt. This can be applied in an in-house company restaurant, in a high-street restaurant, or at home.
How much salt should we be consuming?
According to Action On Salt , the average person in the UK is thought to eat around 8.1g salt a day. The guideline daily amount of salt for adults is 6g, which is about a teaspoon. This includes the salt that is contained within ready-made foods as well as the salt added during cooking and at the table.
How to season food without using salt?
Adding salt to dishes enhances the flavour but adding too much can also become a detrimental habit. In fact, a lot of people add salt to their food without tasting the food first. Here are ways to add flavour to your dishes without using salt.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices not only improve the taste of foods, but can also help preserve them for longer periods of time. Herbs and spices have antibacterial and antiviral properties and many are high in B vitamins and trace minerals. Most herbs and spices also contain disease-fighting antioxidants.
Dried herbs and spices can easily be stored in a cupboard and their shelf life is around 1 year if stored in tightly sealed containers kept in dry, dark places.
- Dried basil is great for adding flavour to a pasta sauce. You can also use it to season vegetables, fish, chicken, or lean meats.
- Dried thyme is particularly tasty when used to season fish filets but it also goes well with any meat, poultry, bean, or egg dishes. You can sprinkle it with a little bit of olive oil over vegetables before roasting them in the oven.
- Cumin is a common spice used in many different cuisines. You can use it along with some chilli powder and garlic powder to season chicken, mince meat, or vegetables. It can also be added to chilli dishes, curries and stews.
- Chilli powder will add a kick to any dish. Add to it stews and chilli dishes.
- Dried rosemary is a strong herb that can be sprinkled on fish, chicken, or meats before grilling or roasting. It is also tasty on roasted potatoes.
- Dried oregano is especially good in tomato-based dishes and is common in Italian cuisine. You can use it in soups or sprinkle it over vegetables before cooking.
- Dried bay leaves complement casseroles and soups.
- Black pepper can be used as seasoning instead of salt. Try it on pasta, scrambled eggs, fish and soups.
- Dried seaweed is a great salt alternative and it enhances the flavour of any dish. Seaweed is available in flake format ideal for sprinkling.
If you are able to grow your own fresh herbs, they add another dimension to your dishes.
- Try fresh oregano or basil on pasta dishes.
- Make fresh tomato sauces using ripe flavourful tomatoes, garlic and mixed herbs.
- Add fresh herbs and spices to vegetables. Try garlic, ginger, chilli and lime in stir fries.
- Add fresh parsley, basil, coriander or mint to salads.
Cooking tip: I like to add freshly crushed garlic and chopped fresh parsley 5 minutes before serving a casserole dish or a soup. This method enhances the taste of the dish and it helps preserve the nutritional properties of the fresh herbs.
Citrus fruit juices for added zing!
Citrus fruit juices such as lemon and limes will add a great zesty flavour to fish, chicken and pork – use the grated rind for even more flavour and texture.
Freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice are both delicious in salad dressing.
Cooking tip: add lemon or lime juice just before serving a stir-fry. Serve with extra wedges if anyone wants to perk up their dish even more.
Cooking methods to enhance flavours.
- Try baking or roasting vegetables such as red peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, fennel, parsnips and squash to bring out their flavour.
- Marinating meats before cooking is a simple way to spread the flavours.
- Rub in flavours: Coat uncooked meat with a homemade rub. Making your own herb-and-spice mixture lets you control the salt used.
- Make your own stock and gravy instead of using cubes or granules, or choose reduced-salt products.
What else should you watch out for when looking to reduce salt intake?
- Watch out for ready made cooking sauces and seasonings like soy sauce as some of these are very high in salt.
- Swap salty snacks such as crisps and salted nuts with unsalted nuts, vegetable crisps with no added salt, fruit or vegetables instead.
- Avoid saltier foods such as bacon, cheese, takeaways, ready meals and other processed foods.
- Avoid adding salt at the table.
Besides their health benefits, a little spice or a sprinkle of herbs goes a long way and will transform your favourites dishes. Start exploring these new flavours and help your customers, your colleagues, your family and friends reduce their salt consumption and maintain good health.
Are you an employer looking to improve health in your organisation by raising salt awareness? Or a food company looking to support your customers’ health with a low salt, tasty menu? Get in touch here for a free initial consultation!
Sandrine works with the food and hospitality sectors and provides catering consultancy, to help employees and clients feel great through practical dietary adjustments. In her private practice, she has a special interest in family nutrition and women’s nutrition throughout the life stages. Her passion is to help families reconnect with real food to achieve optimum health. Originally from France, Sandrine enjoys sharing her love for healthy food, helping people reconnect with seasonality and food provenance.
Sandrine is a graduate of the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London . She is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), which is the regulatory body for Nutritional Therapists and she is on the register of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).
 Consensus Action on Salt & Health. (2015) Salt Reduction in the UK Available at: http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/UK%20Salt%20Reduction%20Programme/145617.html#sthash.PkYgUpNj.dpuf Accessed on 13th February 2016