We LOVE pizza at our house – especially as Super Bowl season draws near! Unfortunately, our Seahawks didn’t make the playoffs this year, but we can still enjoy the spirit of the game with a few slices of pizza pie. Store-bought pizza sauces can sometimes contain added sugar or, more often, high levels of sodium. Not to mention the sodium in everything else that goes on your favorite pizza!
If you’re looking to eat less sodium or simply cook more from scratch, this pizza sauce recipe is a great option! It’s very easy and fast to make – just stir it up in 5 minutes and spread it on your favorite pizza! The tomatoes, herbs, and spices add an antioxidant punch to any pizza-flavored dish.
If you're looking to cut sodium or simply cook more from scratch, this pizza sauce recipe is a great option! It's very easy and fast to make - just stir it up in 5 minutes and spread it on your favorite pizza! The tomatoes, herbs, and spices add an antioxidant punch to any pizza-flavored dish.
15oz.canned tomato sauce(no salt added)
1/8tspground red pepper
Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Contains 4 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 0 g fat, 63 mg sodium per 1/8 cup serving.
I love pumpkin in the fall. Love it. Stereotypes be darned, I do not care. This scrumptious squash finds its way into curries, soups, muffins, cookies, pancakes, and steamers around my house as soon as the leaves start to turn.
Pumpkin takes a front seat in this seasonal smoothie that is filling, nutritious, and delectable. I started with the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie recipe here and modified it to boost the protein, control the carbs, and add some greens, because if you’re making a shake, why not add greens? You can’t taste them and it’s an easy-as-pie (…see what I did there?) way to get an extra serving of veggies.
Try it for a tasty breakfast that is (bonus!) carb-controlled, heart healthy, and contains servings from 4 different food groups.
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (you can definitely use dairy milk but carb-counters be aware it will add about 12 grams of carbohydrate)
1 handful spinach or kale
½ cup pureed pumpkin
¼ cup light vanilla Greek yogurt
1/8 cup plain whey protein (I love the bulk whey protein from Winco!)
½ medium banana
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp honey (or your sweetener of choice)
Add almond milk and greens to blender. Blend for 30-60 seconds or until leaves have been completely blended and the mixture looks like green, frothy milk.
Add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Makes 1 16-oz serving. Contains 303 calories, 35.1 g carbohydrate, 14.6 g protein, 2.9 g fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, and 251 mg sodium. Includes 1 serving dairy, 1 serving fruit, 1 serving vegetables, and 1.5 oz protein.
Limiting sodium can be a bit tricky at first. Most of the flavor we enjoy in food comes from one of three things: sugar, fat, or salt. Our palates just love the tasty stuff. And the more of it we eat, the more we need in order to experience the same pleasurable taste sensation. Sound kind of like addiction to you? Ehhhhh-xactly.
Besides flavor, sodium is also used as a preservative in many foods and often foods that don’t even taste salty, which can be confusing for some people just learning about limiting sodium.
Anyway, it is possible to decrease sodium intake without eating tasteless cardboard. I promise! There are several ways to increase flavor and leave the sodium out:
Herbs and spices: These are the best! Natural, delicious, and many are anti-inflammatory. Find a bulk section (like Winco) or grow your own for the best value. Check out the chart below from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for tips on matching herbs and spices to the food you’re making tonight:
Pre-made spice mixes: If you aren’t big on growing or buying herbs yourself, you can get a little help from sodium-free spice mix products like Mrs. Dash. The Mrs. Dash line has several pre-made spice mixes like Caribbean Citrus, Italian Medley, or Steak Grilling seasonings, all made without salt. I personally have only tried the original and I like it, especially on fish. I have several patients who have tried other flavors with success!
Lite salt/salt substitutes: These are usually made with potassium chloride as opposed to sodium chloride (table salt) to decrease intakes of sodium. I use it at home and in recipes and the taste is similar enough I don’t notice it. Be aware: people with kidney disease or who are on certain diuretic blood pressure medications should not use salt substitutes because their bodies can not clear potassium as well as others. Ask your doctor before switching to salt substitute if you have any of these concerns.
Lastly, be patient! Your tastes will adjust to the point where they will enjoy the flavors of food with less salt, but it does take time. Most of my patients say that after 4-6 weeks of limiting sodium, the high-sodium foods they used to eat taste way too salty for them! You can do it!
Recipe feature time! My awesome husband made these amazing pork chops and they were probably the most delicious pork chops I have ever had. Smothered in mushrooms and surprisingly flavorful sauce (I had to ask him three times if he added extra salt to the sauce), these pork chops leftovers barely lasted 2 days. I would eat these almost every week if I could!
Today was my last day on the heart healthy diet. I learned a lot nutritionally and psychologically in the last few weeks. I’ve summarized my take-aways into 4 main points:
Limiting sodium was (mostly) easier than I expected. At first, things are a little bland and it seems like there are a lot of things you “can’t have,” but over time I saw that I had several days well under 2,400 mg so I started adding a sprinkle of salt to bland food and found I did have a little room to add some sodium. You do also get used to needing less salt for flavor. I learned some tricks for adding flavor without salt, too. Be careful, though, because certain foods can blow almost your entire sodium budget in one fell swoop…*cough* seafood fettuccini *cough*.
Limiting saturated fat was quite a bit harder than I expected. Those saturated fat grams are sneaky little suckers! I went into the heart healthy diet assuming sodium would be my biggest challenge and I quickly learned that saturated fat was much more difficult to keep within my 12 gram per day limit. Saturated fat is primarily from animal sources like butter, lard, dairy fat, and meat fat. The way I generally teach people to limit saturated fat is to eat oil-based spreads (instead of butter), low-fat or nonfat dairy, and lean meats and fish. I figured since I mostly eat that way I wouldn’t have to worry much about saturated fat on this diet. I was wrong! More often than not, halfway through the day I would check my saturated fat consumption and find it well over halfway through the budget. I now know that if patients are committed to limiting their saturated fat within recommendations, they probably need more specific guidelines and tips to keep that in check.
Having dietary “restrictions” is a nasty mind game. It makes your inner petulant toddler come out: What do you mean I can’t have it? I want it! Suddenly I want lots of it! It’s a tricky thing to navigate when educating people about how to properly care for their bodies and live a life worth living.
Fish is expensive. Very expensive. And I rarely get 2-3 servings per week. Unless you’re eating tuna all the time, getting in 2-3 servings per week racks up the grocery budget awfully quick-like.
Overall, I pretty much broke even on every outcome I was measuring, which didn’t really surprise me because I wasn’t eating in a drastically different way from how I normally eat. I did much better this week on my own than I did last because I made a more concerted effort to keep my saturated fat down.
Heart Healthy Goal
# of days nutrition recommendations met
Average calorie intake
Average sodium intake
Average saturated fat intake
11.4 g (I left out the outlier of date day)
Blood pressure change
Grocery Budget Change
So that about wraps up my experience on the heart healthy diet. What diet will I be doing next?
So I gotta be honest – I’m about 2 and 1/2 weeks into the Heart Healthy diet, and it’s getting to that mental point where I kinda just want to eat something REALLY salty. Because I LOVE salt, and there is that mental game we play where anything we are limiting suddenly becomes highly desirable. This is where things get tough. Yesterday, the rubber met the road.
One weekend a month, the kids go to grandma’s and my husband and I have date weekend. This particular weekend is date weekend and yesterday, Charlie and I went a-wandering. We started out at one of our favorite breakfast places and I wanted something delicious and I also tried to get something that would be mostly heart healthy: huevos rancheros. They make these with a crunchy taco shell, black beans, poached eggs, cheese, and avocado. Mostly low in sodium and pretty darn low in saturated fat. I ate half the plate and took the rest home. So far, so good.
Mid-morning we walked around a park and got a tad chilly in the fall air, so we went to a local coffee shop and I wanted a pumpkin steamer. To be true to my heart healthy diet, I elected to have it made with soy milk (though fat free milk would have been fine) to avoid saturated fat. So far, still good.
Then it got tough. We drove up to Tacoma to check out some stores and about mid-day hunger set in. I had a craving for some super-not-heart-healthy tortilla chips with nacho cheese. Cheap, not-even-food, concession-stand machine, plasticky pasteurized processed cheese product straight from 7-11. Definitely not conducive to meeting my nutritional goals for the day, particularly since I knew we had plans to go to another restaurant for dinner and I needed to save sodium and saturated fat for that. But I was started to listen to the devil on the shoulder: “You’re sick of watching your sodium. Come ooooonn…you’ve been so good for 2 and 1/2 weeks! Just don’t worry about it.” He was right – I was sick of limiting my sodium! So there! I’m going to eat it and I don’t even care!
So I ate it. And it was just as satisfying as I anticipated it would be. Alright, worth it. Maybe for dinner I’ll try to pick something more carefully.
We went to a nice restaurant for dinner and I thought I might to try getting a lean meat with some steamed veggies and maybe a roll or something. Then I got my menu and there it was – my favorite food. Seafood fettuccine. Ooooohhhhh boy.
I got it. I had to. It was amazing. In the whole day I overdid my calories by 300, exceeded my sodium goal by over 900 mg (I had 138% of my daily goal!) and blew my saturated fat out of the water by more than quadruple with that cheesy nacho goodness and creamy white wine butter sauce.
If I had high blood pressure or high cholesterol, this one day probably wouldn’t have been too big of a deal as long as it didn’t happen super often. If I had congestive heart failure, my sodium binge could have hospitalized me. Here enlies the mental game of a “diet,” which also tends to be one of my least favorite things about the idea of dieting. Diets are likely to promote this pendulum swing from restriction to bingeing. For me, it’s much more desirable to focus on including lots of the things that are really good for me than focus on restricting things that aren’t as good and overall promoting healthful moderation, for this very reason. But it’s super tricky if not restricting something could land you in a hospital bed or worse.
Things are back to normal now that I got my crazy day out of my system, but anyway, I wanted to make sure I kept myself honest and took note of this mental game – even dietitians are not immune to the psychology of “dieting!”
Well, folks…week 2 is done! And unfortunately, I have become an incubus of the common cold as of yesterday. Goodie. In light of my crummy cough and angry sore throat I have resorted primarily to applesauce, soup, and nonfat frozen yogurt as my primary sustenance for the time being, but I still stayed within my nutrition goals while sick.
I was surprised to notice that I had a hard time meeting my saturated fat goal while on my own this week – I never went over on my sodium, believe it or not – but I was over on my saturated fat 3 out of 7 days. I’ll have to make a more concerted effort to watch that this week.