Wednesday, June 29, 2011


If you are what you eat, then I am more than a little bit nuts these days. I wasn't eating tons of nuts until the low sodium diet kicked in and made it very difficult to find neat, portable foods that I can snack on. The vending machine certainly isn't an option now. I'm eating a lot of fruit, but fruits don't always satisfy and they don't travel well. Raw unsalted nuts seems like an easy target, so I've been consuming them daily. In fact, I am eating so many nuts every day I got a little concerned that this was perhaps a bad idea, and started poking around on the internet to see what I could learn.

The good news is that nuts are healthy foods that are OK for daily consumption, especially if you are eating them in place of unhealthy snacks. Even though nuts are high in fat, they are also high in protein, fiber and vitamins. Best of all they help lower cholesterol.

The bad news (and it is only minor bad news) is that some of my favorite nuts are not the best ones for you to eat, although they still convey some of the same health benefits as the better nuts. Cashews are my favorite, and macadamias are a nice treat. Both of these varieties are fattier than almonds, walnuts and peanuts.

The bottom line is that any kind of raw unsalted nut makes a fine snack that doesn't add sodium to your diet. And as long as you are not eating truckloads of them, they are more likely to help you than to harm you. As for me, I plan to continue my nutty snack habit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to Wreck a Recipe Conversion

Maybe my post title is a bit unfair. The stuff we made was in fact edible, and not the worst thing we've ever concocted in the kitchen. But our initial experiences in taking beloved recipes and trying to make them with far less sodium have not exactly been rousing successes. Like most people, we had settled into a culinary routine at home with an occasional adventure with new recipes, but mostly well-honed repertoire of tried and true (and very yummy) dishes that we make quite often. Of course, 99% of those are now off limits due to their sodium content.

Since I am the reason we have to change the way we eat, it was only fair for me to be the first one to attempt to cook a low sodium meal. (My husband does far more of our home cooking on any given day, and he is much better at it than I am.) I chose a spicy shrimp and pasta dish that is simple and makes a great summer meal. My thought was that since it has a lot of strongly flavored ingredients maybe we wouldn't miss the salt so much.

I was wrong.

My two rookie mistakes were adding way too much of the other seasonings and not adding anything to compensate for the missing salt. We had a dish that was about an 11 on the hot-and-spicy scale, yet still managed to taste sort of bland.

Next time I try this, I will use the normal amount of everything, leave out the salt, and add lemon juice to compensate. It still may need work at that point, but I think it will be an improvement. If I ever get this recipe to taste good, I will publish it here. Don't hold your breath!

The next low sodium meal was much better. PDM (that's my husband) grilled some steaks and did everything he would normally do except omit the salt from the seasoning he rubs on prior to grilling. I missed the salt just a little bit, but the steaks were still flavorful and delicious. I cooked some corn on the cob and didn't have to change a thing - I never use salt in the cooking water and fresh corn on the cob is so good you don't even need butter on it. And since corn tastes great all by itself, we'll probably eat a lot more of it this summer. I also cooked a zucchini dish that is normally delicious, but I once again over seasoned it to make up for not using salt and it did not work out very well. Again, I suspect that keeping the other ingredient amounts the same and substituting lemon juice for the salt will be the way to go.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The First Day

The day I got the diagnosis was almost anticlimactic. After my hearing test, which showed low-frequency hearing loss in my left ear, there were two likely possible causes: an acoustic neuroma (which is a benign brain tumor) or something called "Meniere's Disease". When I first started experiencing symptoms and searching for possible causes, I had ruled both of these out because they are rare. Unfortunately for me, all the common causes were ruled out by my doctors after lots of tests. So it turned out to be Meniere's by default - because it wasn't any of that other stuff.

I was pretty bummed out by the news that the primary treatment was a low sodium diet. I'll have to do that forever, and hopefully it will prevent the vertigo attacks and stabilize my hearing loss where it is now. Most importantly, we don't want this spreading to the other ear.

Disappointed, but determined to cheer ourselves up, my husband and I decided to go hear a live band at a bar that evening. I knew it would be a challenge to find something I could eat, but what the hell. I ordered the garden salad with grilled steak and balsamic vinaigrette on the side. I didn't think it would be that salty, which was a nice theory, but when I got the salad it was also covered in cheese (which has lots o' sodium) and black olives (which contain metric craploads of sodium). I felt like a little kid having to pick all that out of the salad before I ate it.

And that was the not-so-awesome start of my new low sodium lifestyle. I'd like to say it gets better from here, but so far this is hard as hell. I feel like there is so little I can actually eat and I am constantly HUNGRY. It is probably way too early to make any sort of prognostications. I'd settle for learning more about what I can and can't eat and having meal choices not be such a damn depressing chore. Time will tell. I hope I get better at this. I also hope that my taste buds adjust and at some point things will not universally taste like they need salt!!!