Thursday, March 24, 2011

I was really dreading this part of the nutritional challenge

Au revoir my tasty French fleur de sel!

The USDA recently changed their sodium recommendations, reducing it from 2300 mg to 1500 mg. So, we're working on sodium intake for this week...and after everything, this is the one that I struggle with on so many levels. I like salty foods! I like bacon with my breakfast. I like roasted, salted nuts. I went a little crazy with the Trader Joe's uncured corned beef for St. Patrick's Day. I like a snack of hard-cooked eggs with a little salt. I like fancy salts. The gray sea salt from France that's so expensive (and I don't care). Hot dogs. Homemade oven fries with salt and lemon. (Oh yeah, you really need to try some lemon on your fries!) Pickles. Salted butter. A bowl of ground up toasted sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, black pepper, garlic and salt...and then you take a hunk of whole wheat sourdough baguette and dip it in good strong extra virgin Spanish olive oil, and then into the sesame seed mix...really, I should get a room!

It's so easy to go over the recommended salt intake if you're not watching. I just had breakfast, under 400 calories, carbs at 46g, fiber at 23g, sugar at 2g, protein at 31g, fat at 13g...and sodium at 704mg! What had sodium in it? The poached eggs, the bread and the spinach! I didn't even salt my food! For lunch I was planning to have the Vital Choice sardines packed in olive oil and a couple cups of beet tops and three Organics Everything crackers - that's 676 mg of sodium right there!

My point is that many unprocessed or minimally processed foods already have sodium in them, naturally occurring. I am not someone who eats a lot of processed foods, mostly because a lot have soy in them, and I have a sensitivity to that. It's not difficult to get to the 1500 mg limit in a day. In fact, you really have to try to keep it below that level. Perhaps based on what I've had for breakfast and what I'm planning for lunch, dinner will be limited to boneless/skinless chicken and a big salad with 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, an avocado, cherry tomatoes and a cucumber. Wait...even without dressing, that puts sodium at 1796 mg for the day! Calories only at 1547!

If there's a week when I'll be dropping weight, this will be the one! This is going to be an educational week for me!

Humans do need salt, but perhaps only about 500 mg. The average American eats 4,000+ mg a day. And that mostly comes from processed foods or eating out. Sodium is necessary, to keep our electrical systems running, to take in certain nutrients, and for fluid balance. Too much causes the cells to retain fluid and can result in high blood pressure. Not everyone is sensitive to sodium intake. Recent research shows that only about a third of the population is sodium sensitive. The rest of us can probably manage the amount of salt we get by drinking more water...but then again, most of us don't drink enough water.

In recent weeks, anticipating this particular nutritional challenge, I cut back on adding salt to foods while cooking them. I used to add salt to the water in which I was boiling my pasta, greens and poached eggs. I am only using salt at the table now, and I'm thinking that I'm going to pre-measure a quarter teaspoon of salt per day for myself. I can just take a pinch of that to add to my food, as needed. 1/4 tsp salt is 300 mg. Maybe I'll go with 1/8 tsp for today. Perhaps I should just skip it altogether. After a week of seriously reduced sodium, my taste buds will adjust and I'll be okay, and the occasional piece of feta will seem so salty that I'll have to rinse it down to get the salt out of it. (Didn't know you could do that, right? Put a piece of feta cheese in a small container and cover it with plain water. The excess salt will leech out and you'll still have a tasty piece of cheese.)

I'm going to miss my breakfast bacon this week...even the Trader Joe's uncured turkey bacon that's practically holy has 180 mg of sodium in it!

(By the way, I weighed in at 313 lb this morning. First time I broke below 315 lb in quite some time...hoping it's a permanent breakthrough!) 

Some time later in the day... 

I am not happy with my decision to throw caution to the wind and eat something salty. It was the last piece of corned beef. I thought it was all gone, but there was one more slice. And eating it totally blew my chances of getting a star for today! 1290 mg of sodium!!!

I have no calories left for the remainder of the day. Because I was hungry and I also ate a banana and a handful of roasted unsalted macadamia nuts. I cooked chicken and broccoli for the boys. I'll just have the beet greens, I guess. If I want more food, I have to spend time on the treadmill first!

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