The Pizza Room series on healthy eating
Easy to say, hard to do. We know that salt is bad and makes us bloated. We know we should remove it. But guys, that’s so hard! I have collected here 18 tricks to help me (and you) cope with the issue.
1. Remove salt from your home
You just need to take the leap of faith and dispose (or donate) all the salt in your house. Dominate your fears and sense of guilt and remember: you are worth more than a tub of salt! Once you’ve done it, there is no going back: for as much as you want to salt your food, you won’t be able to!
Extra tip: Use the salt for a hot bath in the tub!
Can’t possibly hit the bin? Then hide the culprit away as if the eye does not see, the heart does not hurt! Make it really hard to reach the salt dispenser. Put it on the top shelf of the most remote cupboard, in the darkest corner of your deepest cabinet… you will soon realize it is not worth the effort!
3. Cut the condiments
If you were thinking to replace salt with soy sauce, think again. Most of the sauces and ready to use condiments are enhanced in salt. Say adieu to mayonnaise, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mustard. Wave goodbye to chutney and pickles. And don’t forget: stock cube and the lower salt alternatives are still a sodium concentrate: they might contain less salt, but they are NOT LOW in salt!
Extra tip: Remove sauces from your table so younger family members won’t develop the habit of using them. The whole family will be re-trained and lose sauce-dependence.
4. Place reminders around the kitchen.
Write inspirational messages (Like ‘lose the salt!) on a strip of paper and then stick it with clear tape on strategic places like cupboards, fridge, near the hob… to help you remember your ‘no salt’ goal!
5. Leave a sign on the table.
Write an inspirational message in a standing frame and leave it in the middle of the table, to help with your awareness training! IKEA frames work perfectly well with the message ‘resist, no salt today, a kg less tomorrow!’ or anything that touches your chords!
6. Plan your meals in advance.
This one made a huge difference to me. I used to lunch on the first available option, which was usually sugary, salty and greasy. By planning meals, you will be a focus on the goal, ready to respond to hunger with consciously selected meals. Think about pizza, for example, I have carefully planned my best option: schiacciata base (thinner, fewer carbs), marinara sauce (tomato and garlic oil, no cheese), with fresh vegetables. And I will only have half of it, that’s plenty for lunch, taking home the rest! If I hadn’t done this, I’d probably go for a whole double cheese, double pancetta, and mushrooms option. Certainly yummy, but not helping to reach the goal!
Extra tip: Plan your meals every Saturday AFTER lunch, and then go shopping so you’re done for the whole week!
7. Cook your meals at home
No excuses, please. This is definitely possible. Either bunch cook and freeze, or cook one extra portion the night before or wake up earlier, there is always away. Your colleagues are judgemental? Ignore them, they are clearly not worth it. Your boss doesn’t allow food in the office? Take your lunch break outside, go to the library, find a jolly tree, a bench in the park. Live your life!
8. Avoid ready-cooked meals.
Read the labels once to understand that you really don’t want to eat that! Whatever you find on the shop shelves, you can do it too, but better. Not only will you save money, and make you healthier, and help you shed some weight, but it will also boost your self-confidence, your creativity and you will learn new skills!
9. Avoid foods that you cannot tell what they are.
As a rule of thumb, only eat what you can recognise. I am quite picky with my food and if I can’t name it, that’s not for me. Prefer potatoes to mash, steak to the burger, mixed grill to stew. Your chances are that the processed items have a load of salt already. Cook from scratch using lots of fresh vegs, fruit and raw meat and fish. Boil your own rice, pulses, and pasta. Healthier, funnier and cheaper! As a bonus, if you cook from scratch, there is no more label reading and alternatives hunt anymore!
Extra tip: Did you know that tinned vegs are soaked in salt? Rinse before use!
Extra tip: Whatever takes long times to cook (rice, beans, barley…) prepare it in large batches and then freeze. You will make the effort once!
Extra tip: Put the pot on while watching a movie so it won’t take any of your ‘me time’!
10. Find alternatives with less salt
If you have to go for processed food, prefer items that have less salt content. For example, get non-smoked bacon, low salt cheese, reduced-sodium dressing.
11. Reduce portion size.
Less food = less salt. Just be mindful of this! Often the problem is not the size of the plate, but the size of the pan! Cook, less so there are no second helpings, there is no leftover, there is no food waste. Try to cook when you are not hungry. And keep telling yourself: ‘if I am still hungry, I can have some more salad, or crackers, or fruit… or I can cook more if I really have to!’
12. Use spices instead
Use plenty of alternatives to enrich your dishes and you will soon not need salt no more!
– Fresh herbs like garlic, ginger, chilli, coriander, parsley, rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano
– Spices like black pepper, nutmeg, cumin, cilantro, marjoram, tarragon, bay leaf
– Fruit and veg like garlic, onion, lemon, lime, ginger
13. Cooking method to add flavour
– Grill: Everything is tastier when barbecued, so it doesn’t need any extra salt.
– Marinade: Cover your preparation with some lemon juice, Evo oil, thyme, and crushed garlic. It will burst in flavour!
– Braise: Slow cook your meals with a mix of spices, and they will enhance every flavour.
– Roast: Chuck a bunch of veggies in the pre-heat oven, rub with oil and rosemary, add a few garlic cloves and it will make your home thrill!
14. Play the flavours game
Put a new hat every day with our cooking game: Choose a country or a region and discover the local culture by experimenting with a new cuisine! While acquiring a new skill, you will entertain your friends and family, open their minds and have mindful dinners with your dears. Who will guess more ingredients get a treat? Who guess fewer ingredients clears the table? Make it fun!
15. Have a list of snacks handy
Write a list of ‘happy snacks’ and keep it close to you. Whenever you need comfort, screen the list and chose the best option within it. It will help to focus on good food rather than guzzle anything available!
Extra tip: Keep some emergency nuts, rice crackers, and a bowl of apples in your office and at home. They last long and can be good to snack on during rages.
Extra tip: Do not keep your snacks visible, only use them when in need. No matter how healthy they are, a bowl of nuts is easy to mindlessly eat.
16. Dining our tricks
Be clever when you dine out. On top of advise 6 (Plan your meals in advance), make sure to order lower-salt foods. Remember, our goal here is to drop our weight and get fit! Ask the waiter to have your food cooked without salt (chef will have to cook it from scratch so it will be super fresh too!)
Pizza: Go for a vegan pizza, schiacciata base, rich in vegs and garlic oil and share it with a low-salt buddy (or take the other half home). Add some chilly oil for a taste! choose vegetable or chicken toppings instead of pepperoni, bacon or extra cheese.
Salad: Dress the salads yourself, and avoid the salt shaker. Ask the waiter to add basil or other fresh herbs to it.
– Always taste your food before adding salt, and try not adding it at all!
– Send your dish back if it’s too salty, your health is more important and you will help the chef improve his food (ie get fewer complaints and more recurring customers!)
When dining out, ask for sauces and other condiments to be served on the side rather than on the meal.
17. Medicines: “Effervesalted”?
Did you know that effervescent tablets can contain up to 1gr of salt each? Switch to other alternatives if you can!
Extra tip: Do you really need medicine? What is your body telling you? Can you fix the cause instead of curing the consequences? Just food for thought!
18. Resist, it will get better.
My last tip: Just believe. Try it on for a couple of weeks and see for yourself. After just a week your taste buds will be more sensitive to salt and salty foods will start disgust you. In two weeks’ time, it will be no longer an issue. In six weeks it will be a new habit. And from day 1, you will drop kilos and sizes. Be strong.