Tonight, in a fit of frustration, I almost crushed a box of crackers…in the grocery store.
Yesterday, I cooked a pot of chili. The recipe I use makes a lot of chili so I can freeze some, eat some tomorrow and take some to Mom. She is recuperating from her heart attack and surgery at the rehab center. Her doctor has stressed the importance of low sodium foods in her diet. The recipe has no added sodium but I decided to reduce some of the saltiness by eliminating it from the ingredients.
Canned beans contain anywhere from 200 to 400 mg of sodium. So I cooked my own kidney beans. Canned tomatoes are salty as well but I decided to search for the lowest in sodium. Fire roasted ones seemed to be the best choice with 240 mg.
Everyone I know adds something to their chili bowl before they eat. In my case, it’s Fritos, shredded cheese, sliced scallions and a couple of dashes of hot sauce. My mother has adopted the same choices but also likes crackers. Since I don’t do saltines, I was looking for the cheapest but also the lowest in sodium. That’s when the craziness started.
There’s the original, wheat, sea salted, unsalted, fat-free….too many choices. Unsalted seemed the way to go. But the food label listed 80 mg of sodium per serving. Which I thought was a lot. But I was wrong. The original actually has twice as much. But wait, there’s more. You would think the fat-free would be a good choice…you would think being fat-free, it would be a healthier alternative. That’s true if you’re watching your fat. But not so true if you’re watching your sodium. The sodium content per serving for the fat free is….180. Which is even more than the original saltines.
It gets worse.
Food experts extol the virtues of whole wheat…it’s better for our diets, it adds fiber…yada, yada, yada. Guess what? It has just as much sodium as the original and fat-free at 160.
The best choice? The hint of salt, seasoned with sea salt. Per serving, there’s only 30 mg of sodium.
The tipping point was when I looked at another brand and saw a “healthier” choice with a whopping 240 mg of sodium. That is 8 times the sea salt version I chose to buy. And that’s when I found myself with the box in both hands and my fingers started to close and form a grip, crushing the cardboard box. There was a lady next to me and I turned and she was looking at me like, “what are you doing?”
I’ve created something I call the Food Label Shuffle. It involves the following three areas on the food label:
What happens is this: if the fat is reduced or eliminated, there’s usually an increase in sodium and/or sugar. If sodium is reduced, there’s usually an increase in fat. And if the sugar is reduced, there’s usually an increase in fat.
The problem is foods with high sugar content are not good for diabetics. Foods high in fat and sodium are not good for individuals with hypertension or heart problems. And as we search for the best foods to meet our health challenges, we discover the food industry is not helping us. We are all so busy so we depend on fast foods and processed foods as we rush to meetings and home to our waiting families.
So what do we do? Well, as of last week, I’ve eliminated sodas completely from my diet. Let’s see what else I can eliminate.
What challenges are you facing with your eating habits and your health?