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Best Low Sodium Meals For Seniors

Written by Michele Houck
November 25, 2022
Best Low Sodium Meals For Seniors
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Low-sodium meals are an integral part of a good, healthy diet. When updating your diet to have less sodium for whatever reason, it is good to make a plan. If you’re like most people in the U.S., you get more sodium than is recommended or needed.

Here at CircleOf, we researched some of what low-sodium meals for seniors really can mean.

First, Sodium or Salt: What is the Difference?

All salt contains sodium. Sodium is a combination of sodium and chloride. But not all sodium has salt.

Sodium is a naturally occurring mineral found in foods. Our bodies need a bit of sodium to maintain healthy functions.

Image of a tablespoon of salt. All salt contains sodium — a combination of sodium and chloride, but not all sodium contains salt.   Sodium is a natural mineral found in foods. Unlike salt, sodium occurs naturally.

How to Start a Low-Sodium Diet

Start by understanding how much salt you eat daily and where sodium is hidden in your food.

Do you know how much sodium you consume per day? We didn’t, so we kept a journal and did some research. Here’s an essential visual: one teaspoon of table salt, sodium + chloride, has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Generally speaking, an average adult ideally consumes below 2,300 mg per day.

AS stated earlier, some foods naturally contain sodium. Vegetables, dairy products, meat, and shellfish naturally have sodium. While these foods don’t have a lot of sodium, eating them will add up your daily intake levels. We found a handy list about sodium in vegetables to help out.

As much as 70% of the sodium we eat comes from food processed or packaged foods, and only about 5 % comes from that additional shake of table salt. Why? Because salt is used as a preservative as well as a flavor pop.

Suffice it to say that we are a salt-loving bunch, and our sodium intake increases throughout the day. The average American eats close to 3,400 mg of sodium a day. That amount is way above the U.S. recommended Dietary Guidelines.

How Much Sodium Per Day for Seniors

We talked about the average adult above, but now let’s look at how that is for Seniors. Here seniors are defined as 50 years or older.

Experts say it is best to remain near 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day as a guideline. This average daily amount ensures you get the amount of sodium your body can manage. If you constantly push to 2,300 mg or higher per day, you increase the likelihood that you may develop health issues.

Why is Sodium Harmful to our Hearts?

Sodium affects our kidneys and heart. Our kidneys balance sodium in the body. When sodium is low, the kidneys hold onto it. When sodium is high, the kidneys release some in urine.

If the kidneys can’t eliminate enough sodium, it builds up in your blood. Sodium attracts and holds water, so the blood volume increases.

Isn’t blood volume good? Not necessarily.

The heart has to work harder to pump blood, increasing pressure in the arteries (i.e., blood pressure). In plain words, sodium buildup equates to high blood pressure, which puts older adults at risk of heart disease and stroke. Over time this increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Heart Issues Can Improve With a Low Sodium Diet

How do you lower your blood pressure? A low sodium diet. OK, that wasn’t funny; stay with us.

A person with any heart issue should not consume too much sodium in their diet, and your doctor will send you home with those instructions.

We found some tasty recipes online that can be simple and lip-smackin’. I particularly liked the Blueberry Pancakes from Kim at Insanely Good Recipes. For savory snacks and meals, we appreciate Jenny from Happy Muncher.

Drugs Can Affect Sodium Levels

IMPORTANT for Caregivers!

We need to watch the water or what we eat, but we also need to know how medication may affect sodium levels. Diuretics, corticosteroids, sodium chloride, anabolic steroids, estrogens, and sodium bicarbonate all impact sodium retention.

Some medicines have sodium in them in the form of sodium bicarbonate to make them fizz. Paying attention or keeping a journal of what is consumed is the only way to ensure the sodium levels do not increase to dangerous levels.

Woman and Man preparing a healthy meal for older adults in their happy colorful kitchen.  Say thanks 🙌 Give a shoutout to Jason Briscoe on social or copy the text below to attribute.  Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Low Sodium Shopping Advice

The best way to go shopping for low-sodium foods is to look for natural options. This includes vegetables, fruits, and other options that will not add sodium.

  • Read labels
  • Eat fresh foods
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats (not injected with a sodium-containing solution)
  • Choose low-sodium products, if you buy processed foods
  • Go for whole-grain rice and pasta and skip seasoning packets
  • Eat at home
  • Remove salt from recipes
  • Grab a cookbook for high blood pressure or heart disease
  • Replace salt with herbs, spices, and other tasty flavorings

Tip: Choose Low Sodium Foods When Eating Out

When you are dining out, look for healthier food options.

Eat whole grains plus food with fruits and vegetables in them. Treat yourself and your future self to something better than a hamburger from the local fast food joint.

Lower Sodium and You

You'll be able to do it. You do all kinds of things you consider problematic.

Information is the first step. If you are a caregiver or someone who needs to lower their sodium for health reasons, you got this.

There are lots of avenues to crafting good low-sodium meals for seniors. It will take time to pinpoint what works well and is ideal for you and your loved ones' taste buds.

The CircleOf Caregiver app can help you plan, shop for and stay on top of your loved one’s new and improved diet. A lower sodium diet will help you improve your health. Food is life. A low-sodium meal for seniors, or anyone, makes heart sense.

* U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov

Partners in this Article

Low-Salt Diets: Eating Out Tips

Restaurant foods are usually high in sodium. But most restaurants are willing to prepare your food with less or no sodium, if you ask.

  • Choose restaurants where the food is made to order, instead of choosing fast-food or buffet-style restaurants
  • Fast-food restaurants have nutrition information available, like sodium content. When you eat at a fast-food restaurant, ask for nutrition information.
  • Ethnic foods, think Asian with soy sauces or Mexican salted chips, are high in sodium.

AVOID

CHOOSE Healthy, low sodium option

  • Smoked, cured, salted meat, fish, and poultry
  • Fresh, grilled, baked, poached, or broiled meat, fish, or poultry
  • Ham, bacon, hot dogs, luncheon meats, and cheese
  • Fresh roasted pork, turkey, or chicken
  • Not beef
  • Canned vegetables
  • Fresh steamed vegetables, no added salt
  • Condiments, such as pickles, olives, tartar sauce, and ketchup
  • Sliced cucumbers, malt vinegar, or low-sodium ketchup and mustard
  • Sauces, like soy sauce, tomato sauce
  • au jus or gravy
  • Low-sodium tomato sauce, olive oil
    • food prepared without sauces
    • sauce on the side
  • Fried or seasoned rice
  • Steamed plain rice
    • Asian restaurants often add salt to steamed rice.
  • Salads without croutons, bacon, cheese, or olives
  • Oil and vinegar, lemon juice, or low-sodium dressing or dressing on the side

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