7 Ways to Cut Salt from Holiday Meals
HealthCentral Editorial Team Nov 5, 2012 (updated Oct 16, 2013)
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You do all you can to control your salt intake, avoiding the shaker and foods you know to be high in sodium content whenever you can. But the holidays are filled with great foods and large meals, many of which contain hidden salt. Here are tips for reducing the sodium content of some of your holiday favorites.
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Raw turkey is naturally low in sodium, but many companies "plump" their turkeys by injecting salt water into the meat before the birds are shipped to the store. You can find this out by reading the fine print on the label. Try buying a fresh turkey directly from a farm or butcher so you're certain of what's in your holiday's main dish.
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If you make your own gravy, make sure to use low-salt broth or soup as the base. Some companies have begun making low-salt varieties of their gravy, as well!
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Salt is often a key ingredient of many combination spices, including the "poultry seasoning" cooks use to dress up their holiday bird. Check the labels carefully before using these products to see how much salt they're adding. You can also substitute onion, garlic, and other herbs for salt in recipes.
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Ensure you're getting the least amount of salt in your vegetable dishes by making them yourself. If you do choose to purchase pre-cut vegetables, avoid canned and choose frozen instead, since these will have little or no salt. Avoid any frozen vegetables that come in a sauce though, since these sauces can be full of salt.
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All bread contains sodium, so all stuffing is going to have some. But if you start with your own homemade cornbread to use for your stuffing, you'll have much more control over the amount of salt this popular side dish is adding to the meal.
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Potatoes aren't high in salt themselves, but the way they're prepared for most holiday meals can make them so. People often dress them with salted butter, and then salt them even more to taste. Make them yourself or try sweet potatoes, which contain very little sodium and are a "sweet" alternative.
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Ham is a delicious, but it packs a wallop in terms of sodium content. One way to reduce salt in ham is to buy or cut pre-cooked ham into slices, rinse and squeeze dry the slices, and then simmer them for 15-20 minutes. Pan-fry or rebake the slices in your own low-salt seasonings.