Salt is a common ingredient in recipes — both savory and sweet. It's also an added ingredient in many processed foods you find at the store. As you get older, your sense of taste might change or diminish, causing you to reach for more salt or sugar to make bland food taste better, but excess sugar and salt can be bad for your health. Adding extra flavor without more sodium is easier than you think with salt-free flavoring options.
Fresh herbs are full of flavor and add color to your dishes. You can find a selection of herbs in the produce section of the grocery store. They also grow well in containers, so you can start a small herb garden in your assisted living apartment to keep fresh herbs on hand all the time. Chop the herbs into small pieces to release the flavors and help them blend well into the dish.
You can experiment with different herbs in various dishes, or you can start with these ideas for herbs and spices:
You can also buy dried versions of your favorite herbs. They last a lot longer than fresh herbs and have a similar flavor to the fresh versions. Dried herbs tend to be cheaper and have a more concentrated flavor than fresh herbs.
You can also find herb and spice blends that combine multiple flavors that go well together. Examples include Tex Mex, Greek and jerk seasoning blends. However, some seasoning blends have salt added to the mix. Check the ingredients label to look for salt, or look on the front of the container to find no-salt disclaimers.
Aromatic foods like garlic and onions have a noticeable flavor that can make up for the lack of salt in your cooking. You can choose from a variety of onions and similar items, such as red onions, green onions and chives. Garlic is delicious fresh or roasted, and you can easily add it to most dishes. Garlic and onion flavors complement most savory dishes well, and you can adjust how much you add based on your taste preferences.
Adding heat to your dishes can make the flavors more noticeable because of the kick it brings. You can use a variety of hot peppers to add heat to your food. Things like cayenne pepper and jalapenos have spice, but they're usually not extremely hot. Test different types of peppers to find a heat level you can stand. You can get fresh hot peppers or try dried or pickled versions. Fresh ginger also adds a zing to your dishes.
When cooking things like rice and risotto, using sodium-free broth instead of water incorporates more flavor without the need for salt. If you can't find sodium-free broth, add a splash of regular broth and use water for the remaining liquid. You can also add sodium-free broth to your mashed potatoes for extra flavor. It also makes a good base for homemade soup recipes.
If you want a sweet or sour touch to your food, fruit and fruit juices can work well. Citrus fruit juice, like lemon and lime juice, adds acidity to your dish, which plays on the natural brightness of the food. You can add it to pasta and grains, make a citrus salad dressing or use it in a marinade for meat and veggies. Plus, fresh citrus fruit is high in vitamin C to boost your intake for the day.
Unsweetened applesauce is an option to add flavor to meat, such as pork. Jams and preserves can also work as a glaze for different meat options, but pay attention to the sugar content if you're watching your sugar intake.
Vinegar is a bold flavor that infuses acidity into your dishes and adds brightness to whatever you're cooking. White and cider vinegar are popular options. You can also try red wine or white wine vinegar or flavored vinegar options to experiment with different flavor combinations. Use a little vinegar in marinades or dressings to jazz up the flavor.
You can find a wide range of sauces at the store to boost the flavor of your dishes. However, many sauces contain high sodium levels. Read the food labels to check the sodium content before choosing a sauce. Some options like soy sauce and fish sauce are naturally high in sodium, but you can often find lower-sodium versions if you like those flavors. You can also make homemade sauces so you can control the salt content.
Nutritional yeast is a powdery ingredient that has a mildly cheesy taste. You can sprinkle it on any dish in place of salt. Try it on your veggies, popcorn or salad for a little extra savory flavor. Some nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12, which may help support the brain and nervous system and help the body form healthy red blood cells.
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